Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to Common Questions

Below you’ll find some of the most frequently asked questions future homeowners have. If you do not find answers to your questions below, please contact our Homeowner Services department or call 253-627-5626.

Questions about Habitat Homeownership

How does it work?

Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity has a restricted resale homeownership model. This means that homeowners purchase only the house and the land is leased by the homeowner in a long-term (99 year), inheritable lease. In doing so, homeowners also agree to resell their home to another income-qualified buyer—keeping the home affordable for generations to come.

Can I choose where I want to live?

Habitat for Humanity will match your family to a development and home based on the information you provide and the locations in which we are building.

Often a house match is dependent on the price of the home in a given neighborhood, your ability to pay the mortgage that is required for that property, the amount of down payment assistance available, your location preference/house availability, and your household’s gross annual income.

Please note that Habitat is not a custom builder. However, accommodations can be made to home plans for disability or medical considerations.

How long will it take me to move into my new home?

After your application is processed and accepted, it can take up to 2 years before you move in.

The construction process is complex with many variables including funding sources, the construction schedule, and building requirements. Move-in dates are also determined by the loan and sale process, which involves steps for you, your lender, down payment assistance jurisdiction, title and escrow, and Habitat for Humanity staff to complete.

How can I sign up for the First Time Homebuyer Class?

Attending a Washington State Housing Finance Commission First Time Homebuyer’s Class is a required step in the Habitat Homeowner Program. This free 5-hour class will cover everything you need to know what you can expect as you apply and receive a home loan (mortgage). The class will help you understand concepts around debt, credit, the lending process, and homeownership.

To schedule your class, visit their website.

How are applicants selected?

Applications, including credit and background checks, are reviewed thoroughly by the Homeowner Services team.

Eligible applications are reviewed and approved for anonymous submission to the Board of Directors who provide a final decision on application acceptance.

For those not quite buyer-ready, a referral to our Housing Counseling team may be offered in order to work toward homeownership goals.

Who can be a part of my household? How is household size determined?

All individuals who will be living in the household must be considered for determining household size and the number of bedrooms the applicant qualifies for.

A child is only considered in regards to household size if the applicant has at least 50% custody of that child. With reasonable explanation, Habitat can make exceptions when appropriate and want to make sure that household members are not discounted.

It is important to note that any falsification of an application, including omitting eligible members, can lead to deselection from Habitat’s homeownership program.

What is sweat equity?

A major component of the Habitat homeownership program is the buyer’s sweat equity investment of at least 100 hours spent volunteering with Habitat on the construction site and/or in the Habitat Stores.

Following approval into the program, the applicant must complete 100-500 hours of sweat equity hours—dependent on household size. Future homebuyers will attend a sweat equity orientation and then will be able to register for volunteer shifts according to their own schedules.

How much will my Habitat home cost?

Habitat sells houses at affordable prices and is committed to keeping housing payments manageable, set at no more than 30% of the household income.

Will I receive down payment assistance?

One way we are able to serve moderate and lower income families is through private, government-funded Down Payment Assistance (DPA) programs. DPA can help with closing costs and lower the amount owed on your first mortgage.

When purchasing a home, the first mortgage (your FHA or conventional loan) is the primary lien and the DPA takes second position in regards to the interest and repayment of the debt.

DPA may allow you to secure lower monthly mortgage payments. The amount of DPA available is home-specific and can range from $15,000 – $75,000 depending on the location of your future home.

Do you have emergency housing and shelter services?

No. Habitat for Humanity’s mission is centered on homeownership. However, Pierce County has many resources available, including United Way’s 2-1-1 hotline and Associated Ministries Coordinated Entry program.

Questions about Credit

What is a credit score and why is it important?

Your credit score is a number between 350-850, based on your likelihood of repaying a creditor on time. Your credit score is used by lenders to determine the interest rate for your home loan.

From the submission of an application through the finalization of the home purchase, income is reviewed every 3 months and credit is reviewed every 6 months. Any changes in either report could impact program eligibility, and the ability to secure a home loan.

How can I learn about my credit history?

Each of the national credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – is required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months, but you must request it. To order yours, visit or call 1-877-322-8228.

Please note that this request only provides your credit report – not your credit score (number).

How can I find out my credit score?

Banks, as well as many major credit card issuers, offer free FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) credit score numbers to cardholders. Some websites claim to provide credit scores for free, but the number they provide is not always accurate.

For a fee, you can learn your credit score from one of the national reporting agencies. For more information, visit

What should I do with my credit report?

When you get your credit report, check it carefully and make sure it is accurate. Look for signs of fraud, such as accounts you didn’t open, charges you didn’t make and delinquencies you didn’t cause.

If you see an error or evidence of fraud, call the credit reporting companies immediately and explain the situation; write a dispute letter to the credit bureau and ask that a “fraud alert” be placed in your file. Then, report the fraud to the police.

If you see other problems on your report, such as an unpaid bill you might have forgotten to pay, handle the problem immediately. Then, ask the business you owed the money to send a letter to the credit companies saying the debt has been resolved.

Learn more at the Consumer Financial Protection Board.

Who can help me with my credit questions?

Reputable credit counseling organizations can advise you on managing your money and debts, help you develop a budget, and offer free educational materials and workshops. Counselors discuss your entire financial situation with you, and help you develop a personalized plan to solve your money problems. If possible, find an organization that offers in-person counseling.

Learn more at the Consumer Financial Protection Board

What do I do if I have a late payment?

Late payments can impact your ability to secure a mortgage. Please refer to the Consumer Financial Protection Board links below for various late payment topics:

What counts as income on my application?

Income includes any money coming into the household that is reportable to the IRS –  from any source, whether or not it can be taxed.


  • wages
  • self employment/freelance income
  • SSI / SSDI
  • VA/Disability
  • retirement
  • investment earnings
  • child support or alimony

From the submission of an application through the finalization of the home purchase, income is reviewed every 3 months and credit is reviewed every 6 months. Any changes in either report could impact program eligibility.

Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity is pledged to the letter and spirit of the U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity and lending throughout the nation. We encourage and support an affirmative advertising and marketing program in which there are no barriers to obtaining housing because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, familial status, or national origin.

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