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Changing the Way People Buy Homes: Using the 203k Program to Purchase ‘Dream Homes’

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By Stephanie Andre

87543760RISMEDIA, December 9, 2009—Driving to work one morning earlier this summer, home buyer Lori Kramer was thinking about the homes she and her husband had looked at the day before. Then, she had a thought that would eventually change the direction of her home search completely.

“My home at the time was listed for less than what we were approved for and it needed some work. So I wondered if we could use that remaining money to upgrade a home we were considering and make it our own,” says Kramer of Jacksonville, Florida.

From there, Kramer called her Wells Fargo mortgage consultant, Diana Diallo, who told her about the 203k program. The FHA Section 203k program is specifically designed to rehabilitate and repair single-family homes. The 203k is a single mortgage loan that provides funds to purchase a home and make repairs and improvements.

“As the market turned and we began to see more and more distressed properties, Wells Fargo, as a company, has focused its efforts on developing a more streamlined version of the typical 203k loan,” explains Diallo.

After Kramer received preapproval from Wells Fargo, she consulted with her Realtor, Shawn Norton of Keller Williams Realty, about revisiting a home she and her husband had considered earlier; it needed a lot of work, but Kramer saw the home’s possibilities and later bought it. From there, Diallo worked with Kramer on choosing a home improvement vendor. She selected Lowe’s, a decision Kramer calls “one of the best decisions we made.”

“After comparing service and cost, Lowe’s out-delivered the other vendors,” explains Diallo. “Thus, Lori chose Lowe’s to complete her remodel repairs.” And the renovations were quite extensive.

With their 203k approval, the Kramers completely renovated the kitchen, replacing all cabinets and countertops. They also revamped two bathrooms and added new carpet and fencing to the home.

“Lowe’s was fantastic and they truly deserve some spotlight for their service,” lauds Kramer. “The Lowe’s team and their contractors helped with design, offered us some great tips and helped us with materials and product selection; they did all of this and offered us the selection we wanted for an affordable price—and within 45 days from closing.” The Kramers closed on their home on August 18 and the work was completed by October 1.

“We are extremely happy,” says Kramer. “This program changed the way we looked at buying a home. Thanks to Lowe’s, our home has turned out amazing. The before and after is unreal. My kitchen is particularly amazing.

“In this market, where so many homes have been vacant for so long or gutted in some cases, this program could really change the way people are buying real estate,” adds Kramer. “I would definitely do this again—and would work with Lowe’s to do it.”

Norton agrees.

“I learned so much from working on this with Lori and Diana,” says Norton. “This really opened all of our eyes to see that you can fix something if the structure’s good and you have the right people in place to do the work.”

In many cases, homes that would qualify for the 203k loan are in nice areas but have aesthetic problems. This program—because the home improvements are built into the loan—opens the whole market to the average home buyer. “I never would have bought this home without the program—and I could not be happier,” says Kramer.

“Lowe’s was just awesome,” she adds. “From the program manager and other managers to the contractors, everyone was just outstanding. Our cabinet installer was the best—he was on point and professional. All of our contractors were so good with us. Lowe’s was great to work with, and I would love for other people to experience working with them as well.”

For more information on the 203k loan program, visit www.hud.gov or www.re-buildusa.com.

Lowe’s contractors and installers are licensed where required. For more information, please visit www.lowes.com.

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