With a mortgage application in hand, Tamara Reboul walks a half-dozen people sitting at the conference table through each step. Reboul’s voice is reassuring as she explains each question.

Still, conquering the multiple pages of forms is a daunting task for anyone, especially a first-time homebuyer.

Kimberly Washington, hanging on every word, was more than apprehensive – at first.

“It’s the next big step for me,” said the 34-year-old hospital tech. “And I’m a little nervous. But, after today, I’m starting to feel a lot better.”

A single mother, Washington is ready to make the move for her two sons. Location is paramount. She wants a home in a good neighborhood and within a great school district.

She’s already well on her way to pre-qualifying for a mortgage loan. In fact, when she inquired about applying for a USDA loan, backed by the government, she was referred to this homeownership workshop for first-time applicants.

“I’ve got to admit, this is all very stressful,” Washington added. “But I’ve learned a lot.”

Kimberly Washington

“It’s the next big step for me,” said Kimberly Washington, who is now better prepared to purchase her first home.

That’s music to YaShika Ray’s ears. Ray is a program supervisor for CAPHMLC (Community Action Partnership Huntsville/Madison and Limestone Counties, Inc.). CAPHMLC was founded in North Alabama’s largest city, Huntsville, in 1965 and works with low- or moderate-income families and individuals to help them prepare for homeownership.

“We try to get everyone interested in homeownership educated about the process so that they have the tools they need when they are ready to take this major step,” Ray said.

Participants come from across Limestone and Madison Counties, thanks to referrals from 60 partner organizations that work with CAPHMLC. Educational sessions for first-time buyers are held regularly.

This particular day’s session is held at the downtown Regions Bank branch in Athens, about a half hour west of Huntsville.

“Regions came to us about providing homeownership education to the community, and the curriculum was a perfect fit,” Ray said. “So, we are collaborating.”

Reboul, a mortgage loan originator with 13 years of banking experience, provides step-by-step explanations of the application forms. She explains what the lender is looking for in the application – for example, a borrower’s recent residential and employment history. She explains credit scores, the estimate sheet and closing costs.

And she provides common-sense advice: “This can be overwhelming,” she said. “The best advice I can give you is to have a conversation with a lender before you embark on this journey.”

Topics covered the spectrum: from pros and cons of homeownership, to how to apply for a mortgage, to different steps in the buying process, to budgeting and credit basics. Other topics included fraud prevention and protecting the investment through inspections and energy savings.

The workshop was the start of a series for first-time homebuyers, thanks to the collaboration that began with Reboul and Ray. Reboul brought in Georgia Hendricks, a financial relationship manager for Regions Bank in Huntsville.

“Regions is now the bank working with community action (agencies) in North Alabama, and we’ll be doing many more of these,” Hendricks said. “Our goal is not only to help educate clients on the buying process, but to work with them in getting loans for their first home.”

Future North Alabama workshops are scheduled for Decatur and Athens, with a Huntsville workshop slated for early 2020. Potential Madison and Limestone County homebuyers interested in learning more can contact CAPHLMC at 256-851-9800 (ext. 650).