What is Sweat


As a Habitat supporter you have probably heard the phrase Sweat Equity often, but what is sweat equity really?

As defined by the Oxford dictionary, sweat equity is “an interest or increased value in a property earned from labor toward upkeep or restoration.” For our future homeowners, it is a lot more than that! It is the time they proudly sign up to help build their own homes, as well as the homes of other future homeowners. It is a central principle in our mission of building community and partnering with local deserving families to provide a HAND UP, not a handout!    

Future Salisbury Homeowner Jessica, working off her Sweat Equity at the ReStore in Lawrence.

The work is an investment in their home and in their future. It is an investment that is as real as money, land or assets. It’s not a form of payment, but an opportunity to work alongside volunteers who give their time to bring to life a family’s dream of owning a home.

Working together, we build strength, stability, self-reliance, and community through shelter!

“Habitat affiliates require only a small down payment because few low-income families can afford more than that. Instead, partner families are required to contribute sweat equity.” — David Rubel, If I Had A Hammer: Building Homes and Hope with Habitat for Humanity (2009)

According to Investopedia, an online financial resource, sweat equity is the “contribution to a project or enterprise in the form of effort and toil. Sweat equity is the ownership interest or increase in value, that is created as a direct result of hard work by the owner(s). It is the preferred mode of building equity for cash-strapped entrepreneurs in their start-up ventures, since they may be unable to contribute much financial capital to their enterprise.”

To strengthen a community…start with one family!

Essex County Habitat for Humanity families are required to contribute 240 hours per single-parent household or 360 hours of sweat equity for a 2-parent household. Whether you join us at one of our build sites or visit the ReStore, you are almost guaranteed to see one of our future homeowners in action, paying off their sweat equity.  Sweat equity can take many forms for partner families working with Habitat. It can mean construction work on their home or on a home for another family, cleaning up the building site, working in a Habitat ReStore, assisting in administrative duties, or countless other ways of helping out.

The idea behind sweat equity, families working side by side with volunteers to build their homes, goes back to even before Habitat for Humanity began in 1976. Clarence Jordan — the founder of Koinonia Farm, where Habitat for Humanity began — wrote in a 1968 letter, “What the poor need is not charity but capital, not caseworkers but co-workers.”

Future Andover homeowner David working off his Sweat Equity building his own home.

That co-worker approach informs Habitat’s emphasis on sweat equity: all of us working together so that homeowners can achieve the strength, stability, and independence they need to build a better life for themselves and for their families.