Sofia Crisp, AHWD, C2EX
Executive Director, Housing Consultants Group
In 2004, Sofia Crisp had a conversation with a friend who worked for a credit union. What Crisp learned troubled her. Of 300 people who had come to the institution over a 12-month period seeking a mortgage to purchase a home, only 50 qualified. It was the height of the housing market, and Crisp’s friend didn’t have time to counsel the other 250 people on the steps they needed to take to become mortgage-ready.
Knowing the power of homeownership to change lives, Crisp took action. She started Housing Consultants Group, a HUD-certified Executive Director, housing counseling agency, that offers a tiered approach to helping consumers become mortgage-ready. HCG offers a host of education opportunities and counseling to help people obtain a home and stay in that home, including financial and credit education, budgeting classes, one-to-one coaching and foreclosure counseling.
Crisp, a 30-year veteran in the business and 2023 president of the Greensboro Regional REALTORS® Association, leverages her industry knowledge and community connections to build bridges to homeownership. She operates HCG as a nonprofit brokerage working with the city of Greensboro, nonprofit organizations, lenders and a nonprofit builder to help clients get into new homes at an affordable cost.
Taking Action in Times of Crisis
Crisp has been there for the community in good times and in bad. During the crash of 2008, HCG partnered with the North Carolina Foreclosure Prevention Fund, helping over 1,300 families stay in their homes and avoid foreclosure. After a tornado touched down in 2018, devastating Greensboro’s poorest ZIP code, Crisp moved swiftly to action. HCG, NC REALTORS® Housing Foundation, and local real estate professionals put boots on the ground and invested dollars in repairing homes and paying rent and mortgage fees.
As president of the NC REALTORS® Housing Foundation in 2018, Crisp lobbied for and secured $800,000 in funds—including a grant from the REALTORS® Relief Foundation—for recovery from the tornado and two other natural disasters. Additionally, she and HCG volunteered resources to manage temporary rent and mortgage assistance for displaced homeowners. These efforts assisted over 1,500 families.
Converting Renters to Owners
While helping with cleanup after the tornado, Crisp says, she discovered that in the majority-Black neighborhood affected, residents were paying exorbitant rent costs for substandard housing. She started a social media campaign using the hashtag #100HOMES, which created 317 new homeowners in 2019, 347 homeowners in 2020 and 253 homeowners in 2021. Through her efforts, she helped increase African American homeownership in the poorest ZIP code of Greensboro by 68%.
She also helped influence changes, including the ability to purchase a home warranty using down payment assistance funds, to support the needs of under-served populations. Her influence is helping make it easier for residents in Guilford County to obtain home loans.
As in times of crisis, Crisp is leveraging partnerships. She helps first-time home buyers work with Housing Connect GSO, the down payment assistance program for the City of Greensboro. Through the program, qualified residents receive a loan, forgiveable after five years of living in the property, to help cover their down payment. Before Crisp and HCG’s involvement, Connect GSO made only 12 down payment assistance loans in a 10-month period. After HCG took over intake and administration of the program, the agency closed 1,053 loans in a period of three years.
“I personally know the power of home-ownership, especially for people of color. My parents purchased their first home for $19,000 and thanks to that purchase, they were able to put me and my three siblings through college without debt,” Crisp says. “We didn’t know it then, but it made such a big difference in our future. For people of color, their home is often their only asset that can build wealth in that way. It’s so important to look at your house as more than just the space you live in.”