COVINGTON -- Newton County residents interested in purchasing a home in Walker's Bend or just in need of financial counseling have an opportunity to get free assistance.
The Covington Redevelopment Authority and Covington Housing Authority are funding a 16-week finance course slated to begin Tuesday, Feb. 15. Participants could qualify for a grant of up to $15,000 to apply toward a home purchase in Walker's Bend, the site of the city's Neighborhood Stabilization Program. The grant will only apply to home purchases in Walker's Bend but anyone who wants to learn how to better manage their finances can attend free of charge, said Shamica Williams, financial coach and director of Energema, a financial consulting service. Williams is a former mortgage broker and tax preparer who has been a financial coach for 15 years.
The 22-hour course will focus on finance basics, including budgeting, taxes, purchasing decisions and banking, and more complicated issues such as contracts and mortgages.
"Money is something everybody has and everybody uses but nobody talks about. You may know everything about your best friend, but you don't know how much money she makes," Williams said. "Everybody makes money mistakes but because nobody talks about it, people feel like everybody else knows more than they do. People feel uncomfortable when they have questions."
Williams said the same basic financial principles apply to good money management, regardless of income level.
"I've had clients on both ends of the spectrum with the same problems," she said.
When it comes to buying a home, preparation and information is key.
"People look at a house purchase as an emotional thing and it is but it's also a business investment," she said, noting that often homebuyers are too intimidated at a closing to ask questions.
"The last thing I like to see is somebody getting to the table and not understanding. You're signing 50 documents. You need to know what you're signing," she said. Real estate brokers, appraisers, bankers and other professionals will attend some of the courses to answer questions.
Courses are scheduled to be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday evenings at Covington Fire Station No. 2 on Alcovy Road. The tentative start date is Feb. 15, but that could be pushed back if too few participants have registered at that time. For more information, call Hometown Realty Consultants Inc. at 770-786-7979. The course is required for anyone who buys a new home built in Walker's Bend.
"This has been a central component of the whole Walker's Bend program. The Redevelopment Authority has seen its importance in that they don't want to create another problem for either the community or these homebuyers by getting them into something that will put them underwater," said Covington Senior Planner Randy Vinson. "Counseling and training is critical in that we want to make sure we're selling to folks that are well-prepared."
Homes will not be constructed until qualified homebuyers are identified. Homebuyers must have good credit and meet certain income criteria.
Williams said even those who are not planning on buying homes in Walker's Bend can benefit, and the community benefits as a whole.
Good finance management "creates better future residents. When parents know better, by example or by actual teaching it makes the children know better. It will allow us to better market what we have and bankruptcies and foreclosures will decrease," Williams said.
The cost for the program is $40,000, with $25,000 funded by the Redevelopment Authority and $15,000 funded by the Housing Authority. The Covington City Council allocated $1 million to the Redevelopment Authority for the city's housing initiative. Initially, all the money was allocated to purchase lots but when those were obtained at a cheaper than expected cost, the council agreed for the leftover funds to be used for the financial training program.