VOL. 126 | NO. 247 | Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Vintage Homes Helps Buyers Build Credit
By Sarah Baker
Vintage Homes LLC created its Home Buyers Connection program two years ago, and the company is forecasting 2012 to be its most successful year yet.
In the HBC plan, homebuyers sign a credit repair plan and an Intent to Purchase agreement before being enrolled in the credit-repair workshop. Today, about 50 percent of Vintage’s business is through the free program.
“When a person doesn’t have that 640 (credit score) magic number or they’ve got some collections they need to get worked out, we’re helping them help themselves get all of the dings off their credit to where they’re credit-worthy again,” said Vintage Homes President Charles Morgan. “It’s not because the people don’t want the homes. It’s because there are so many more hurdles you’ve got to jump through to get a loan now.”
Including overhead, Vintage spends about $1,200 per customer that completes the HBC. But it’s worth the investment up front to see homebuyers through the closing process, Morgan said.
“For the longest, it was about 30 percent, maybe 50 percent of our total backlog,” Morgan said. “Today, more than 90 percent of our customers are credit-challenged.”
HBC comprises only two full-time employees. And just like marketing, purchasing and sales are each their own departments, HBC is in-house within Vintage Homes, said Craig Cline, HBC director.
“A lot of builders use credit repair but they outsource it, and Charles brought it all in-house,” Cline said. “Somebody calls in, wants to purchase a home, they fill out an application, it goes to the lender, the lender pulls credit, credit’s not quite there, there’s issues, then it automatically comes to me.”
HBC also has the help of four “elite service providers,” or independent contracted loan officers that facilitate buyers to the closing table. They are not compensated by Vintage, but instead by a lender when a mortgage is closed on its behalf.
After taking a customer’s credit and “breaking it down,” Cline has to first decide if he can help, and if he can, to what extent and within what timeframe. The program’s success is in its strong emphasis on education that only works when a homebuyer is willing to do his part, Cline said.
“Here’s what you’re going to have to do, here’s what I’m going to do,” Cline said. “There’s nothing I can’t do inside of 12 months as long as the customer is willing to do their part.”
But because Vintage isn’t interested in foreclosures in its communities, HBC has to be somewhat selective, Cline said, especially when analyzing those clients who have been through recent unemployment or bankruptcy.
“We don’t put everybody that doesn’t qualify into one of our homes because that kills our own values,” Cline said. “Out of all of the credit reports I get, it works out to about 60 to 65 percent I can help within six to eight months, and they’re people that I want to put in a house that I know are going to pay.”
Cline has been working with credit repair off and on for the last 14 years and fulltime for the last five. He came onboard with Vintage in February, and has put 49 families in homes to date.
“Before I came to Charles, I serviced 52 different mortgage companies and banks and several builders, and I don’t know of one single foreclosure that’s come out of our program, so I’m pretty proud of that,” Cline said.
Next year, between the HBC and its outside sales team, Vintage expects 110 home closings to come from the credit repair program. Cline is bullish that HBC will accomplish that and more, thanks to the recent increase in manpower that allows more leads to be pursued than previously.
“Before, we got 100 leads and we only actually called 25 of them,” Cline said. “Now, we’re getting to where we can call all 100 because I’ve got help following up. So that in and of itself is going to generate more business for my program.”
HBC classes are open to the public on the second Saturday of the month at the Germantown Athletic Club’s Great Hall from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. A separate class follows for those working toward down-payment assistance certification.
“It’s one of those things that people come to my class with their heads down and it’s that whole ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.’ They’re very doubtful, skeptical, there’s no way I can buy a house,” Cline said. “When they leave my class, their head’s up, they feel empowered, they’re motivated and we put them in a house. Success story after success story. It’s awesome.”