Lynette Wilson held her husband's hand Thursday while they waited with a binder carefully organized with credit card statements, $1,000 monthly rental payment receipts and utility bills to prove they were ready to make their dream of owning a home come true.
Along with hundreds of others, the West Baltimore couple crowded into the ballroom of the Radisson Hotel on Fayette Street for a chance to see an underwriter from a national nonprofit for a mortgage loan that comes with a fixed rate of about 4.3 percent, no down payment and no closing costs.
Wilson said they've been working for a year on a checklist from a counselor with the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, known as NACA. They focused on making all of their payments on time and building savings, and were anxiously waiting for the chance to go shopping in Gwynn Oak for a house where they can raise their two children.
"We're finally at the point where we have everything and we're ready to take that next step," said Wilson, a 26-year-old nursing assistant, who would be the first generation in her family to buy a home. "We're doing things that our family didn't."
NACA is expecting more than 2,000 people to visit its "Achieve the Dream" event in Baltimore between Thursday and Monday, where prospective homebuyers take a four-hour workshop, scan their pay stubs, tax documents, bank and credit card statements and meet with underwriters for on-the-spot loan pre-approvals. The nonprofit offers nontraditional lending for low- and moderate-income families — including Housing Choice, or Section 8, voucher recipients — that is based on a person's payment history, not their credit score.
The event runs from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day. No appointments are necessary.
Sade Diaz, a 29-year-old therapist from Silver Spring, left the event with tears in her eyes and an approval to buy a $319,000 house in Brandywine with three bedrooms and a two-car garage.
"It can be done," she said.
NACA, a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-approved housing counselor, has $13 billion in commitments from Bank of America and CitiMortgage to approve the loans. Baltimore is one stop on its multi-city tour.
"It's a great first day," said Bruce Marks, who runs the Boston-based, 30-year-old nonprofit. "People are here because they hear this is a unique and unprecedented opportunity to be a homeowner. We've opened up the floodgates for people who have been locked out of affordable homeownership."