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HOME (Inc.) away from home

            Hello! My name is Amanda Smith and I am a member of the Engaged Citizen Corps currently interning at HOME, Inc. aka Home Opportunities Made Easy, Incorporated. Moving my life from Denver, Colorado to Des Moines, Iowa was definitely a drastic change. I didn’t exactly know how drastic it was until I officially moved here but I wouldn’t change a thing. Being an Engaged Citizen Corps member has truly been one of the greatest experiences that I will forever cherish. I am so lucky to have been able to work with HOME, Inc. From managing and creating content for social media to recruiting volunteers, this experience has given me a leadership position that can end up being very useful in future possible careers. Being a Magazine Media and Graphic Design major, HOME, Inc. and I were a perfect match. I’ve been able to create so many new things and cultivate more efficient ways of doing things—I even created a possible new tradition! Having the creativity trait has been very helpful to the organization which is something I thoroughly enjoy!

            Creating content also meant educating myself on affordable housing. I have gained a lot of knowledge on eviction issues with renting, landlords, and even just buying homes in general. Housing stability is a very complex issue but it’s also where simple education and action could turn an entire situation around. It’s always so awesome to write success stories for blogs—hearing about how a family successfully bought their first home or how someone avoided eviction. It’s because of HOME, Inc.’s counseling and education services that people are able to move from a scary spot. Social media is one way to get the word out there of all the good work that HOME, Inc. is doing in hopes of helping more people. Everyone knows about Habitat for Humanity, but it’s time to spread the word on other non-profits too. There are so many resources to use, yet, people simply just don’t know about them. 

            HOME, Inc. also does their best not to promote toxic charity—charity that ends up harming people more than helping them. In my first-year seminar class, we read “Toxic Charity” by Robert Lupton and learned all about how important it was to promote stability instead of short-term fixes. The message of creating development over creating dependability was practically screaming at me! But that class had truly given me an entirely new perspective on how I looked at service. It really opened my eyes and gave me the motivation to put an end to toxic charity. I had finally realized that by providing the community with education and counseling opportunities, HOME, Inc. clients are truly able to move towards stability and away from poverty. It’s such a beautiful thing to see.

            Because of the Engaged Citizen Corps program, I am definitely more outspoken than I was. I used to be an introvert and would rarely find myself introducing myself to strangers. But now, I can proudly say I almost always want to socialize and build relationships with the community. As an engaged citizen, building relationships is vital to development especially within a non-profit. If you can’t communicate with your peers, how can you create development? 

            Through this program, I also found out my five strengths were adaptability, thinking strategically, acting as an includer, being a developer, and staying positive. It was so awesome to learn what my strengths were because they all were so prevalent in the work, I do for HOME Inc. Those strengths are also very useful in different work areas. It’s because of those strengths and communication that I am now an alternate Resident Assistant. That’s all thanks to the Engaged Citizen Corps program for giving me the opportunity to work with HOME Inc.—to further develop basic skills every organization needs. It’s because of that leadership position that I have the skills necessary to achieve bigger and better things. 

Overall, making a difference in the community—being an engaged citizen—should be a concern for everyone. Charity shouldn’t be looked at as a requirement. It should be looked at as a civic responsibility. It’s an amazing feeling when you actually create change within another’s life. But it’s an even more amazing feeling when you’re actually creating financial stability within a community of people. Being able to proudly move an entire community towards development and away from poverty is huge. That’s exactly what HOME Inc. has been working to do. I have never been prouder to be associated with such a great organization. They are my HOME away from home.

Thank you for reading or really, making it this far!

Love always,

Amanda Smith :)

I would not be doing my job if I didn’t advertise for HOME, Inc.! Follow their socials!
Instagram and Facebook: @homincdsm
Twitter: @homeinc3

Beware of rental scams!

If you reply to a rental listing and get an email stating that an owner is looking for a "responsible person" to rent his house while he "stays in Africa" (real example), you're probably going to suspect it's a scam. 

Often, however, rental scams aren't so easy to identify. The BBB's new study "Is That Rental Listing Real?" reveals that, no, there's a good chance it's not. And you could fall for it. 

While most of us picture seedy fake apartment listings on Craigslist, the BBB reveals that rental scams are pervasive even on what are widely considered "classier" house hunting sites like Zillow or Although, Craigslist is problematic; it only catches around 46% of fake rental ads.

Unbeknownst to many, often the fake (yet convincing) property being advertised isn't even the scam part; it's just the bait being dangled to con them into signing up for a fake credit check/score (allegedly to determine if they're "eligible" to rent, but really to procure their personal info determine if). 

Sadly, it's younger people (often those hunting for their first apartment) who most often fall victim to these scams. If you know any recent college grads looking for a cheap place to call home, call them up and let them know that roaches and bad roommates may be the least of their worries!

Homeownership Success

Back in 2014, Sherry bought her home.Since then, its assessed value has increased by 30%. When she initially bought the house, 29% of the cost was covered with grants.

Her son was living with her at the time but now is a college student. Having a home to come back to has given him a sense of belonging.

HOME, Inc. has given Sherri the skills necessary to successfully budget and save for a home. Without HOME, Inc.,Sherri says, “I probably would have never tried to buy.”

If Sheri were to give a piece of advice to new homeowner, based on what she has learned through HOME, Inc., she said, “Good credit is very important, but you have to be very careful not to get overextended because creditors make it easy to do so.”

HOME, Inc. is beyond proud of all the work she has accomplished. Because achieving housing stability feels like such a hassle sometimes, the fact that Sherri was able to buy her home gives her family a sense of belonging and a community. Owning a home means having the opportunity to be a better citizen—to give back and help others around you.

Overall, owning a home improves health and now that they have a stable place, Sherri’s family is truly able to enjoy their lives in a forever home.

It’s crazy to think about how much positivity a house could bring to a family. Sherri’s situation is a prime example that yes, housing and being able to afford a forever home can come with a lot of challenges, but it is not impossible.

One can triumph through and achieve really amazing things if you simply work hard. The best thing is that you are not alone. HOME, Inc. is here to help!

Homebuying terms you should know - B

A new month means five new housing vocabulary! 

Balloon Mortgage: A balloon mortgage is a loan that features consistent payment amounts with a large payoff, known as a balloon payment, due at the end of the loan.

The payments for balloon mortgages are typically calculated as if they were 30-year loans. For a $150,000 loan at 5 percent interest, the monthly payment is about $805 per month. If that loan is structured as a balloon mortgage with a 10-year term, the borrower still pays $805 per month for 10 years. At the end of 10 years, the borrower must come up with almost $123,000 to pay off the loan, or refinance it.

Bank Secrecy Act: Passed in 1970, the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) requires U.S. financial institutions to work cooperatively with the government to prevent money laundering. Also known as the Currency and Foreign Transactions Act, the BSA was designed to keep banking institutions from acting as unknown intermediaries in illegal financial transactions.

The BSA is enforced by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). In January 2017, FinCEN reported that they assessed $184 million in penalties to Western Union Financial Services for past violations of anti-money laundering rules, in a coordinated effort with the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission.

In 2012, HSBC Bank paid $1.9 billion for violations in its failure to prevent money laundering by drug traffickers, and in 2014 JP Morgan paid $2.6 billion in fines for failing to notify authorities about suspicions of fraud at Bernie Madoff’s fund.

Beta: Beta is the measure of the risk or volatility of a portfolio or investment compared with the market as a whole. Beta is used in the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) to help calculate the expected return of an asset.

An exchange-traded fund, or ETF, with a beta of 0.65 is 35 percent less volatile than the market. Most utility stocks have a beta of less than 1. Most high-end stocks have a beta of more than 1, offering the possibility of a higher rate of return — but posing more risk.

Bitcoin: Bitcoin is a type of digital cryptocurrency. Functionally, it serves the same purpose as U.S. dollars or Japanese yen, except that it’s not tied to a central bank and isn’t regulated by a government body such as a treasury. Bitcoin transactions take place entirely online and offer a degree of anonymity to users, and they are securely recorded in a public ledger called a blockchain. Users purchase bitcoins in an exchange and have the option of “storing” them in a digital cryptocurrency wallet.

A (very) early adopter of bitcoin named Kristoffer Koch bought about $26 U.S. dollars of bitcoin in 2009, becoming the owner of 5,000 bitcoins. He stored the unique key signifying the bitcoin on an encrypted wallet and forgot about it. Years later, he started noticing that the price had risen considerably, and he spent weeks trying to remember the wallet’s password. When he was finally able to unlock his bitcoin, the 5,000 bitcoin investment was now worth $886,000, and Koch was able to buy himself an apartment in Oslo.

Blockchain: A blockchain is a digital, public ledger that records online transactions. Blockchain is the core technology for cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. A blockchain ensures the integrity of a cryptocurrency by encrypting, validating, and permanently recording transactions. A blockchain is similar to a bank’s ledger, but open and accessible to everyone who utilizes the cryptocurrency is supports.

Asgaror, lead singer of the Norwegian black metal band Heimskringla, has seen his income dwindle ever since the band’s label increased their cut. Asgaror realizes he can increase his revenue by selling to fans directly. He decides to use the blockchain not only to register his band’s grim riffs and nefarious lyrics, but also to set up a smart contract that allows users to purchase Heimskringla’s records and merch by paying a set amount of a certain cryptocurrency. Both the registration of Heimskringla’s intellectual property and every transaction to purchase goods from the band are securely and permanently recorded.