You Can Afford a Home in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006!

If you are considering buying a home in 2006, listen up. Your first question to any real estate agent might not be their neighborhood knowledge or years in business, but whether they belong to the Bay East Association of Realtors.

As a group of realtors, one would expect organization members to know about housing. But beginning in 2005, and continuing into 2006, the organization has also focused on making housing affordable and accessible for as many people in the East Bay as possible, with a special emphasis on helping their members’ direct clients.

Anyone who has ever tried to navigate the plethora of affordable housing grants and loans, at the state, local, and federal levels, will welcome such news with a sense of relief.

William Aboumrad, a Fremont real estate agent and leader of the Bay East Affordable Housing forum, explains that while many affordable housing programs exist, Bay East works hard to provide member-realtors the tools they need to bring that information to the clients who need it most. “We’re creating liaisons between our association and various cities to stay informed regarding housing assistance,” he explains.

In addition to this outreach, the organization’s housing-focused web site, www.forhousing.com, now features increased information about affordable housing programs and overall housing affordability. The information is geared toward both realtors and consumers.

Having gathered this information and made such connections, the organization is now focused on making sure realtors know all that they need to best serve their clients. “We’ve been doing more outreach to realtors, because they’re often the first point of contact for the homebuyer,” Aboumrad adds.

In 2006, he notes that the organization is working on a Housing Specialist certification program, to make formal recognition of those real estate agents who have specialized in helping homebuyers who otherwise may not be able to afford a home.

David Stark, Bay East’s Public Affairs Director, adds, “Often, these [city] programs are put together, and cities often need to learn how to market these programs effectively. Cities can rely on our realtors spreading the word.”

Bay East president Michael Tessaro also sees the realtor’s role in the affordable housing arena as a crucial one.

“Certification is key,” he notes, “because then, the cities will know who to refer people to.” And for homebuyers, Tessaro says, the realtor’s specialization will be welcome. “Some people have four or five loans put together to make a home purchase happen,” he explains. “The realtor can act as a central point of contact in that.”

In addition to the expanded forhousing.com web site and development of the housing certification specialist program, Bay East also held three housing assistance forums in 2005 to educate realtors about the various homebuyer programs offered by cities throughout the East Bay. “Most venues were standing room only,” Aboumrad notes. “There was a real need this past year to do this.”

The organization also provided more direct assistance to affordable housing in 2005, by both raising $150,000 for their own Housing Affordability Fund, and by helping Habitat for Humanity by providing donations of both labor and financial support.

In addition to these efforts, the organization is also staying abreast of new developments in affordable housing, such as the recent change in Section 8. “A lot of people equate Section 8 with rentals, but they now have a Homebuyer Assistance Program. They can now assist in purchasing a home, not just renting a home,” Tessaro points out.

It is this kind of information Bay East hopes to put into more potential homebuyers’ hands in 2006. And if you are thinking of buying a home this year, contacting a Bay East member might be the best way to help them keep their New Year’s resolution while you also work on your own.

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