Valley loan officer says time in prison can make buying a home easier
PHOENIX — Finding a safe and affordable place to live can be difficult for anyone but with a prison record, it’s nearly impossible.
“One hundred percent of all rental applications, whether it’s an apartment complex or a private landlord, the question’s going to come up, ‘Do you have a prison record? Do you have a felony,” explained Ron Kuhn, senior loan officer and branch manager with Summit Funding in Tempe. “The minute that box is checked ‘yes’ to felony or major criminal offense they’re almost 100% excluded from housing.
“They end up in halfway houses, living on someone else’s couch, in less than desirable situations or maybe environments that are way more conducive to what got them into trouble in the first place.”
That’s where buying a home comes into play.
Over the past three years, Kuhn has helped about a dozen former inmates apply for home loans.
He said that the time in prison gives these men and women a blank slate.
“When you get out of prison, I think your self-esteem is at an all-time low and I don’t think they have any idea they’re capable of home ownership and only because of having been in prison all of the bad stuff that happened to them in the past is almost gone,” he said.
“It’s expired, it’s moved off of credit reports and moved off of anything that we’d have access to in our world so it makes them a perfect candidate for home ownership.”
Kuhn explained that their first step towards home ownership is establishing a credit score, which he said only takes about six months.
“Now they qualify for the best of the interest rates, the down payment assistance and it’s just wonderful,” Kuhn said.
He said it becomes exceptionally easy for those who have had a previous work history.
“As long as I can identify that you’ve had a solid two year work history in the past, not even with the same employer, just you’ve worked for two years in your adult life,” Kuhn said. “When you’ve had a gap of employment six months or greater you just need to be back on the job for six months or more.”
As for the down payment, Kuhn said each of Arizona’s 15 counties offer first-time buyer programs that help to cover most — if not all — of the down payment in exchange for higher interest rates.
However, because their credit scores are nearly perfect, they already qualify for exceptionally lower rates.
Kuhn said while this may seem good for former inmates, it actually saves tax payers big money on recidivism rates.
“Of everybody that we’ve done loans for, that have come through this channel of business, 100% of them have never returned to prison,” he said. “They have a piece of society, a piece of the rock, they have equity, they have responsibility, they have the American Dream.”