Qualifying for Homeownership

To be eligible to apply for Essex County Habitat for Humanity homeownership, the following must be true: 

  • You have two years of taxable income reported which falls between 40% and 60% of the area median income.
  • You are first-time homeowners (at least one potential co-applicant has not owned a home for at least three years).

If you meet these eligibility requirements, you qualify to apply for homeownership. 

Your application will be evaluated on the following criteria.


Three Main Selection Criteria

Critera 1: Need for Adequate Shelter

Applicants must demonstrate a lack of adequate shelter.  Consideration is given to the following circumstances and conditions:

  • Substandard housing – if there are problems with the heating system, water supply, electricity, bathrooms, kitchen, structure, etc. of your current home.
  • Cost burdened – if the applicant pays more than 40% of their income on rent.
  • Overcrowding – if the number of bedrooms is inadequate as determined by the number, ages, and sex of household members.
  • Economic disadvantage – if the family is unable to obtain a conventional or government-assisted mortgage loan to purchase a home.
Criteria 2: Income and Ability to Pay

The family income must be adequate to cover monthly housing costs of approximately $1,200 – $1,800 (amounts subject to change):

  • Up to $240,000 affordable 30 year mortgage.
  • Total monthly housing payment is approximately $1,200 – $1,800 (mortgage and escrow, which includes taxes, insurance, and HOA fees for short and long-term maintenance costs for common areas.) 
  • Homeowner pays utilities, water, and sewer.
  • An applicant’s total annual family income must fall between 40% – 60% of the area median income. (see chart below)
  • If applicants have declared bankruptcy, they must wait five years after being discharged and also must re-establish good credit to apply for a Habitat home. 
  • Eligible households shall have total gross assets of no more than $75,000.
Criteria 3: Willingness to Partner

The family must demonstrate a willingness to participate as a partner with Habitat.  Prospective homeowners must demonstrate a commitment to their home and community, as well as to Habitat. These criteria will be determined by interviewing the applicant families and their references. If selected as a Habitat homeowner, you will be required to:

  • Commit yourself and all adult family members, in writing, to work between 240 and 360 hours (in total) with Habitat for Humanity while your home is under construction;
  • Pay your mortgage on time so that more homes can be built (this will be determined by obtaining your credit report);
  • Maintain your home inside and out, including doing the necessary landscaping and cleaning of common areas.

To download a printable PDF of the Family Selection Criteria, click below:

Qualifying for a Habitat for Humanity House
Future Habitat Homeowner Amarilys and Her Twin Boys.

Towns listed above are in Essex County Massachusetts

Once selected, homeowners are required to:

  • Participate in all Habitat first-time homebuyer educational workshops.
  • Contribute between 240 and 360 “sweat equity” hours to help build their home.
  • Pay 3% down payment estimated at $5,000.
  • Participate in the management of a condominium association where applicable.
  • Participate in and support Essex County Habitat events and programs.

Homeowner applicants must be willing to live where Essex County Habitat has land on which to build or where Habitat is rehabilitating a home that Habitat owns.

  • Essex County Habitat typically builds 2 story, 2- and 3-bedrooms homes. However, the size of your family will determine the size of the home you qualify for.
  • Essex County Habitat DOES NOT build houses on land owned by an applicant.
  • Essex County Habitat DOES NOT modify house plans at the request of the applicant, or accepted homeowner families, except in the case of certain documented medical conditions and as determined on a case-by-case basis.

In accordance with the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and the Fair Housing Act, Essex County Habitat for Humanity does not discriminate with regards to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, handicap, family status, marital status, receipt of public assistant income, or age (provided that the applicant has the capacity to enter into a binding contract).