ELKINS, W.Va. (WBOY) — An Elkins business has been helping create and support successful homebuyers in Randolph County for 25 years, helping almost 1,200 first-time homebuyers.

The HomeOwnership Center, Incorporated celebrated 25 years of serving the community, Thursday in Elkins. The company, which started as a department of the Randolph County Housing Authority, decided in 1998 that it needed something to help the community more with its housing needs, and the HomeOwnership Center was that answer.

The now non-profit agency also became an affiliate member organization with NeighborWorks America.

Since then, HomeOwnership Center has served close to 1,200 first-time home buyers, including Richard Smith, who was homeless before the company helped him buy his first home earlier this year. It also has credit counseling, budgeting, and pre-purchase counseling, and about 4,500 residents have taken advantage of those services.

“About 95% of our customers are first-time home buyers,” said Kate Somers, Executive Director of HomeOwnership Center, Inc., “and, in many cases, you know, we are their resource for information on how is this process going to go, what do I need to look like as a borrower, um you know, what would—what’s the best loan fit for me and so were a HUD Certified housing counseling agency and so we have a lot of answers. We have a lot of those answers to help them feel comfortable.”

Once clients are to the point where they are mortgage ready, the HomeOwnership Center has many loan options that aren’t available elsewhere, particularly for lower and moderate-income households.

“We can serve anyone, but we have special programs that are really designed to help the folks who may have extra challenges getting into homeownership, so I think that makes us really unique,” said Somers.

While the company is based in Randolph County, that doesn’t stop them from serving a broad area. They offer their services in seven other counties including Barbour, Tucker, Upshur, Lewis, Pendleton, Pocahontas and Webster.

In honor of National Home Ownership Month, the HomeOwnership Center will be offering half-price credit reports for the month of June. For more information, you can visit www.hocwv.org or call 304-636-9115.