Mike Gallagher double-checks the address on his smartphone and walks up the cement steps of the brick two-story house on Detroit’s west side. He rings the doorbell, and after waiting a minute knocks loudly on the door. A dog barks and a shirtless black man in his mid-thirties cracks open the door.
“Good afternoon. I’m Mike from the Home Savers group. We’re talking to people who have a land contract from Harbour Portfolio. Is that your situation?”
“Yes,” says the man, whom the visitor may have just woken up. He cautiously looks at Mike, who is white with unruly short white hair.
“A lot of people are finding these rent-to-buy loans may not be such a good deal. Sometimes they’re worse than being a tenant, since you have to pay for all repairs and maintenance. But you don’t build any wealth until you make the last payment. How long is your contract loan?”
Gallagher learns the man’s name is Antoine and that he paid $30,000 for a house that Harbour Portfolio bought for about $6,000. Antoine has paid $410 a month for four years. He works a night-shift job and has struggled to make the payments.
“If you miss a payment, all this money you are putting into the house will be lost,” Gallagher cautions. “They can evict you, without the protections a homeowner often has.”