Habitat closes on 1st side of duplex after months of waiting | SteamboatToday.com

Habitat closes on 1st side of duplex after months of waiting

Kat Kelly and her two sons moved into their new Habitat duplex home in Riverside on May 1 and closed on the $185

— At long last, Kat Kelly has closed on the purchase of a home in one side of a Routt County Habitat for Humanity duplex in the Riverside subdivision on the west side of Steamboat Springs.

"It's a fantastic feeling. It feels like home. Even the dogs are happy," Kelly said. "I've never, ever lived in a brand new home that no one else had lived in before."

Kelly and her two sons moved into the home May 1 thanks to a short-term lease organized by Habitat that allowed her to move out of the downtown motel room in which she had been living since February. She originally had anticipated moving into the home shortly after the December holidays, but financing her mortgage proved to be a lengthy process, and for a time, she and Habitat officials were talking through their attorneys.

The Kellys' side of the home sold May 31 for $185,000. It comprises 1,164 square feet with three bedrooms and 1.5 baths on two levels.

Routt County Habitat for Humanity Board President and interim Director Kathy Meyer said Thursday that the organization is within one or two months of selling the other half of the duplex, which would allow the local nonprofit to hire a permanent executive director and begin looking forward to another home project, perhaps in 2015. The new owners would work off the required 350 hours of sweat equity on a significant Brushes with Kindness renovation of another local home as well as by working at Habitat's ReStore outlet.

In addition to the work required by the homeowners, more than 330 people and organizations logged more than 3,000 volunteer hours on the project during the past 18 months, according to a news release from Habitat.

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Kelly said Thursday that she and her two sons are looking forward to hosting relatives coming from Texas and Oregon in their new home for high school graduation ceremonies and parties.

She added that she's thrilled with the upgraded, black kitchen appliances she was able to purchase with steep discounts that Whirlpool extends to Habitat homeowners. The same is true of the privacy blinds that came from Hunter Douglas at much less than half-price.

Kelly and the intended occupant of the other half of the duplex, Renee Gaerlan, were disputing the final costs of their home in late 2012 and early this year. Gaerlan since has left for a new city and a change of careers. Kelly expressed continued misgivings this week about the way the price of her home grew to exceed what she said she originally was told to expect by Habitat officials.

And more recently, Kelly was frustrated that it took a month from the time she and her sons moved in May 1 under the short-term lease until last week's closing was complete. That cost her a full month's rent, she said. And Kelly says she has applied for a weekend restaurant job in addition to her full-time job with the city of Steamboat Springs Planning Department to help afford what she said is a monthly mortgage payment that is $400 higher than what she expected.

Meyer said the board of Habitat's local chapter has reviewed how it handled its interactions with its two partners for the new duplex and confirmed they lived up to the requirements of Habitat International.

"The pricing and terms (for a new Habitat home) are always set at the end of the process," Meyer said. "That's something beyond our control."

In this case, she said, early in the development process when Routt County Habitat applied for a grant to help build the home, the anticipated cost was $165,000. The primary reason for the cost overrun was that the builder discovered the underground utilities only came within 50 feet of the building lot instead of right to the front of the home. It was expensive to extend them.

Going forward, Meyer said, Routt County Habitat will be more deliberate in how it communicates with its partner families about the real estate costs.

She agreed that there likely was verbal communication between Habitat officials and its two partners for the Riverside duplex that resulted in misunderstanding.

"Habitat is the sixth-largest homebuilder in the U.S. We have to do best practices based on Habitat International's guidelines," Meyer said. "Everything we did was under their rules, but we didn't (fully) communicate that to the partners."

In the future, she said, that would improve.

"I think we need to do a better job in communicating expectations," Meyer said. "What we need to do going forward is to put policies, procedures and outcomes in writing so there's no misunderstanding," she said.

Meyer added that Habitat homeowners are partners with the organization and said that partnership doesn't end with the purchase of the house.

Kelly is looking forward to Saturday, when Connell Resources will arrive to pave her new driveway, and not long after, when she'll host a gathering so members of the community can see what they helped build for her family.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com