Ethan and Lanea pose in front of their house

Lanea Hope stands with her son Ethan, 8, outside of their home in the Heights.

BRONTE WITTPENN, Gazette Staff

These days, Lanea Hope gladly spends her spare time with her four children working in the yard of her home in the Billings Heights.

A volleyball net takes up a prominent place in the Hopes’ back yard. Lexy, 13, Lanea and Anthony Hope’s oldest daughter, plays volleyball, and Lanea has also taken up the sport as a way to stay active.

“I love doing yard work, and I never thought I’d like to,” Lanea said. “The kids and I try to do a lot of the work; we try to get done as much as we can.”

Before the family moved in to the ranch style house on Babcock Boulevard, Lanea sometimes thought twice about sending the kids outside to play. Open space was at a premium at the apartment building where they lived.

“There were six of us in a three-bedroom apartment, and it was very tight. Now we have a four-bedroom house, which is wonderful,” she said.

Spring was a busy time for the Hope family. Not only did they search extensively for a home that fit their needs, Lanea and Anthony also participated in a first-time homebuyer program offered by the Home Center, a collaborative effort among local agencies that provide housing services in Yellowstone County.

The Hopes said the full-day class prepared them well for home ownership.

“There was a budget counselor, and she was great in showing us how to budget,” Lanea said. “In the class we learned each aspect of buying a house.”

Class participants listened to presentations from lenders, Realtors, title companies and other real estate specialists.

They also heard from a home inspector, who prepares a detailed report that documents any deficiencies or repairs needed before the sale can close. They also learned about the importance of home maintenance.

“They give a lot of information that I never would have thought about,” she said. “I used to think that when you bought a house, it was kind of like buying a car. You met with the sellers, agreed on a price and signed some papers.”

With so much information being presented, Anthony said he sometimes got the feeling of drinking out of a fire hose.

“I enjoyed the program,” he said. “I just wish it could have been a little more spread out. There’s a lot of information to retain in that short amount of time. I asked a lot of questions, but there was a lot to remember.”

The Hopes are pleased that their new home meets their needs. Lanea works as a medical assistant at the Billings Clinic’s Heights location, so it takes just a couple minutes to get to work.

Neighbors have provided tips on yard care and maintenance.

“We absolutely love our house,” Lanea said.

Amber Hofferber, Housing affordability has been receiving a lot more attention in recent years, in part because real estate prices have been rising faster than incomes.

Statewide, 46 percent of renters are payin g more than 30 percent of their gross income for rent, which makes it difficult for families to save up for an emergency fund or to make a down payment on a home. That's why the programs offered through the Home Center are so important, she said.

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