WEST FARGO-Everything seems pretty normal at a new house here, but its sale will do something extraordinary as the proceeds help families around the world.
Verity Homes recently built the 1,750-square-foot house at 841 Albert Drive and sold it for more than $250,000. Unlike the standard real estate transaction, the sale marks just the beginning of what this project will mean across the globe.
Verity Homes teamed up with Homes for Hope, a program that has builders do their part to tackle global poverty got started in 1997 and has since seen more than 100 houses get built across the U.S.
The nonprofit asks builders to donate proceeds from the sale of a new home as an investment into sister organization HOPE International. That group then uses the funds to give out microloans as small as $50 to aspiring entrepreneurs in some of the poorest places.
Verity's recent contributions from the West Fargo house and another home it built in Bismarck will add up to a nearly $100,000 investment that can help 2,600 to 3,000 families, according to Homes for Hope Executive Director Jack Nulty.
Rather than give needy families cash directly, Nulty said the arrangement provides small loans to entrepreneurs throughout eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa.
The organization is currently helping 935,000 families and has a loan repayment rate of 98 percent, he said, meaning investments can go on to do good for years to come.
"When it comes to fighting poverty, it's just so much better to have a job than a handout," he said.
Verity Homes CEO Arthur Goldammer said he was drawn to work with Homes for Hope because of the unique way this organization helps people. Rather than being another welfare-type program, something he said he doesn't support except in limited cases of clear need, this arrangement gives loans to people who don't have access to capital but can pay back the money.
"When I heard about how Homes for Hope works, it was like, 'All right, yes, this is cool,' " he said.
Verity Homes, which has offices in both Bismarck and West Fargo, built its first Home for Hope in Bismarck in 2012 and sold the property in 2013, according to Goldammer. Nulty said that transaction raised $41,000 for the organization and helped 1,383 families.
This time around, Goldammer said he decided Verity could build two houses, including West Fargo's first-ever Home for Hope and the second one in Bismarck.
The partnership also lets participating builders donate proceeds to local organizations of their choice, and Verity picked Moorhead's 4 Luv of Dog Rescue and Mandan's Central Dakota Humane Society.
Still, Goldammer said Verity Homes can't take all the credit because the size of its financial impact was only made possible by working together with suppliers, subcontractors and others who agreed to reduce their take and put more money into the nonprofit organization.
"It's a pretty cool vehicle for everybody just to do what they normally do every day without having to go overseas somewhere to build a school or whatever," he said. "They can just do what they do and help a lot of people."
Nulty said the idea of microfinancing isn't new, with Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank winning the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for their work pioneering microfinancing and microcredit for people who couldn't access bank loans in India.
But it's still a relatively new concept in the American communities where participating new houses end up helping people in other countries, he said.
"It is the best way to help people in poverty when it comes to bringing about dignity in their lives and not causing dependency," he said.