The Ingham County Land Bank is celebrating record sales numbers in renovating abandoned or foreclosed homes through available grant money, and selling them to new buyers.
This year, the land bank has sold 38 homes, which means 2012 could be the most successful year to date. Since the land bank was formed in 2005, it's sold 126 homes in Ingham County, with 95 of those in the City of Lansing. It's all in an effort to improve the quality of local neighborhoods, and help more people realize the dream of owning a home.
For Stephanie Strickling, buying a house seemed impossible. She works as an administrative assistance at the Ingham County Health Department and is going to school for business.
"It kind of seemed like a pipe dream," said Strickling. "I'm from the East Coast and you don't buy a house in your twenties in the East Coast."
But after learning about the Ingham County Land Bank, Strickling and her husband Matthew began looking at Lansing homes in the program.
"It seemed too good to be true," said Strickling. "Beautiful, reasonably-priced houses and basically everything I was looking for."
Eric Schertzing, the Ingham County Treasurer and chair of the Land Bank Authority, says that's the goal of the program.
"It's a county level economic development tool or device to take, I call them unloved homes, but we're talking about tax and mortgage foreclosed properties, and bring them back to life," Schertzing said. "We always go through the houses doing new paint, putting in new carpets, electric and plumbing systems, new appliances, high efficiency furnaces, new windows, a new roof - it's like buying a new house. That's why buyers can be so comfortable with that decision."
Strickling says she's more than comfortable in her new home. With down payment help from the City of Lansing, she and her husband were able to move in September of 2011.
"I've never felt better about a decision in my life than about buying this house," Strickling said. "My house growing up was really chaotic and this is just - I never imagined I would have a house like this."
Now she's part of a movement to improve Lansing's neighborhoods, one house at a time.
"People are excited to be here and they want to make it a good place to live and I want to be a part of that," Strickling said.
In the past two years, more than 40 percent of the land bank's home buyers are buying into Lansing from outside the city, or even outside the state.
"That's a new development in the last couple of years," said Schertzing. "There really is an energy and excitement in the City of Lansing and buyers are recognizing it's a great place to invest."
In addition to rehabilitating run down homes, the land bank also demolishes blighted properties. It's torn down close to 100 homes in the City of Lansing this year. Schertzing says either approach to those homes helps stabilize property values for surrounding houses.
The public can tour more than 16 homes in the Lansing area during the Fall Home Showcase on September 21st and 23rd. Potential buyers, or anyone interested in seeing the positive impact of the program firsthand, are invited to attend. For more information, visit www.inghamlandbank.org.