When a House Becomes a Home

Summer is the season for baseball, picnics, and backyard barbecues. It’s also peak season for home sales. In fact, June is the NAHB’s National Home Ownership Month, and for that reason, the Iowa Finance Authority (IFA) and the Iowa Association of REALTORS have chosen to sponsor their When a House Becomes a Home contest in June.

“This is our third year doing the contest,” says Ashley Jared, communications director at the IFA, “and the first year that Iowans can enter independently, without having their lender or Realtor submit an application for them.”

The contest, which is open to Iowans 18 and older, is a social media event in which participants are asked to write their home story in 140 words or less. The entries can include photos or video and should demonstrate how buying a house—creating a home—can make dreams come true.

Jared explains, “The goal for the contest is two-fold. First, we are using the contest as a way to spread the word about home ownership opportunities in Iowa. For instance, some Iowans may not know the IFA offers affordable mortgage and down payment assistance programs through lenders right in their backyard. We would love to help even more home buyers realize their dreams of owning a home. The second goal of the contest is the fun one—to energize Iowans about home buying season!”

A panel of judges will narrow the entries to the top 10 stories, and those 10 will be voted on by the public during the week of July 7. The winner receives a $5,000 gift card to Lowe’s Home Improvement.

The IFA, which was established in 1975, offers a variety of programs to help Iowans attain housing. Though it does not lend directly to home buyers, the IFA works with lending partners to provide affordable fixed-rate mortgages and entry-cost assistance to qualified buyers.

“Buyers have to meet some basic criteria, which vary by county, and there is a limit on the purchase price for the home,” Jared says. “But our mission is to advance and preserve affordable housing throughout the state.” The IFA doesn’t limit its assistance to just the lowest income levels or to first-time home buyers. Eligibility information is available at IowaFinanceAuthority.gov.

“We also administer a Military Homeownership Assistance Program in partnership with the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs,” Jared adds. “This program provides eligible veterans with a $5,000 grant toward entry costs.”

Events like the When a House Becomes a Home social media contest help inform the public of the IFA’s existence and the programs it offers to buyers. But it is also a rich resource for those in the housing industry, from builders and developers to lenders and Realtors.

“The IFA issues tax-exempt bonds to businesses and organizations for a wide range of projects,” according to its website. “These have included expanding and improving health care services, industrial development, and housing.” By 2012 the IFA had issued more than $7.5 billion in bonds to help businesses build or expand in Iowa.

Though the organization has been around for nearly 40 years, many Iowans, including those in the home building industry, are unaware of the IFA and the valuable resources it provides. With a board of directors representing areas throughout the state, the IFA offers a wealth of information about everything from economic and community development to resources for improving drinking water and managing waste water. It also provides title guaranty, assisting with title coverage to help ensure the integrity of the land-title system and to facilitate lenders’ participation in the housing market.

Programs like these encourage community development and enable growth all over the state, not just in the quickest-growing cities.

As the contest materials say, “Owning a home is one of the most effective tools for stability for Iowans and their families. It translates into safe homes, creation of jobs, strong neighborhoods, vibrant communities, and overall thriving economy.”

With results like that, the Iowa Finance Authority is the perfect partner for anyone involved with the home construction industry.

For more information about the IFA and its programs, visit IowaFinanceAuthority.gov.
To enter the home ownership contest—or to encourage your clients to enter—go to IowaFinanceAuthority.gov/Contest.