How Does Habitat Work?

Bennington County Habitat for Humanity repairs and builds houses in partnership with qualifying homebuyers, using as much donated materials and volunteer labor as possible.

How Much Does a Habitat Home Cost?

The cost of the house we build in partnership with qualified homebuyers is based on the total cost of development (cost of lot and cost to build house, including any infrastructure work). The monthly mortgage payment often is less than what qualified homebuyer applicants have paid in rent. We apply for grants that sometimes reduce the amount of the mortgage for our homebuyers. Most houses are sold with 30-year mortgages. Monthly payments include mortgage principal and escrow for homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, Homeowner Association Fees (where applicable), and interest payments if the loan is originated by a third-party lender. Monthly payments are set so that they are no greater than 30% of the household’s monthly income. If selected you will be required to have money for down payment and closing costs.

Who Qualifies for a Habitat Home?

Housing Need

Homebuyer’s current housing must fit Habitat’s description of inadequate or substandard. For example, the structure is unsound, in need of basic repairs that the landlord will not make, located in an unsafe neighborhood, overcrowded, or unable to fit a family’s needs for handicapped accessibility. 

Ability to Pay

Habitat works with people interested in homeownership who do not qualify for a traditional mortgage from a bank or credit union. Homebuyer(s) must have a stable financial status and sufficient income from reliable sources to make regular monthly mortgage payments to the mortgage lender for the life of a 30 year mortgage. These monthly payments include the mortgage principal, property taxes, property insurance, Homeowner Association Fees (where applicable), and interest payments if the loan is originated by a third-party lender. 

Habitat sets specific minimum and maximum income requirements based on the size of the household. Household income cannot total more than 80% of the area’s median income (as determined by HUD- see chart, included in this packet) for the size of the family. When we select a homebuyer partner, we are pre-approving the applicant for a mortgage, which will be conveyed only after the home is finished and the homebuyer has completed all requirements including sweat equity.

Please review the HUD Income Limits on the application request page to see if you might be a good fit for our Habitat homeownership program. 

Other financial factors besides income are carefully reviewed by the Selection Committee. A homebuyer’s credit rating, debt, and ratio of debt to income are all considered. We will perform a credit check to determine if applicants have a good history of meeting their financial obligations. Everyone is entitled to check his or her credit report at no charge at each of the three agencies every year – go to this site:

Applicants need to be able to show that their expenses do not exceed their income and that they are able to set aside a reasonable amount of their monthly income as savings. Monthly payments for long-term debt and housing costs should not be higher than 43% of gross monthly income.

Even if it appears that you do not meet all of the financial qualifications we encourage you to request, complete, and return the application. We will work with anyone who is willing to take the necessary steps to meet our financial requirements.


Homebuyer(s) must have lived or worked within Bennington County for at least one full year immediately prior to completing the application.

Willingness to Partner

Homebuyer(s) must be willing to work side by side with Habitat volunteers to complete the house. Each member of the household 18 or older must complete a minimum of 200 hours of sweat equity. A significant amount of the required hours should be completed at the construction site; no fewer than 100 hours per adult. Designated extended family and friends may contribute up to 50 hours (or ¼) of the required hours. We require each household to develop a personal plan that includes measurable, meaningful, and realistic means for fulfilling the sweat equity requirement. This plan must be submitted to the Home Buyer Support Committee for approval, prior to the start of construction. Once approved, it serves as the formal sweat equity agreement that must be fulfilled in a satisfactory manner before a home buyer can move into the completed home. In the past, some of our partner home buyers have completed up to 500 hours of sweat equity. 

Homebuyers must be willing to work cooperatively with Habitat from the time of selection until the mortgage is paid off. They must attend meetings with Habitat representatives to prepare for successful homeownership. Attendance at meetings and workshops involving homebuyer education is also a mandatory part of the sweat equity requirement. They must be able to maintain the home with support and guidance provided as needed by Habitat, and be willing to participate in a partnering program, which may include required financial counseling and household management education.


Before entering into a partnership with a prospective homebuyer, Bennington County Habitat will conduct a criminal record, sex offender, “Specially Designated Nationals” and credit check, contact employers and landlords, and evaluate all financial information, as required by Habitat International. A negative result on any of the above may be grounds for termination of application.

Prior to closing, Bennington Habitat will again conduct a criminal record, sex offender and credit check. It is essential that between the time of acceptance and the purchase of the house homebuyers maintain a satisfactory status in these areas. An unsatisfactory result on any of these may result in termination of the partnership.

Bennington County Habitat for Humanity will not discriminate in its selection process, based on race, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin.

What are a Homebuyer's Responsibilities to Habitat?

  • Selected homebuyers need to work cooperatively with Habitat representatives to help make the journey to home ownership a smooth one. Working closely with the designated homebuyer support partner is essential and will involve required meetings (one per month from the time of selection through at least the end of the first year of living in the home) to review essential elements of successful homeownership.
  • Homebuyers must complete their sweat equity hours and all required homebuyer education sessions before moving into the house.
  • After moving in, homebuyers are expected to maintain good communication with Habitat representatives, to make monthly payments on time, and to keep their home and yard well-maintained.
  • Habitat homebuyer partners represent Habitat to their neighbors and others, so they are expected to do their best to be positive community members.
  • Bennington County Habitat raises much of its funds in the community. Thus, Habitat homebuyer partners will occasionally be asked to participate in events that will help to publicize the work of Bennington County Habitat. Such events might include fund-raisers, newspaper or TV coverage, and photographs. This participation is necessary to maintain community involvement, but every effort is made to make the experience comfortable for the homebuyer partners.
Habitat Home

What Else Should You Know?

  • Habitat homeowners may not put liens on the property.
  • If a Habitat partner needs to sell his/her house, Bennington County Habitat gets the first opportunity to buy it. There may be restrictions on the sale price of the house depending on whether any grants have helped reduce the amount of the homeowner’s first mortgage. The prospective buyer on a resale may need to qualify as needing affordable housing, according to Habitat’s criteria and grant-related requirements tied in perpetuity to the property. 
  • Habitat determines the size and location of the house. When applicable, applicant will choose the town.
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