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With repairs needed, Concord woman worries about the future of her home

  • Robin Cutter gestures about all the work that needs to be done in the laundry room of her Fisherville home on Friday, July 20, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Robin Cutter breaks down thinking about the day her husband died and how it started a chain of events that has her worried she’ll lose her home if she can’t come up with the money to fix it. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Worried she’ll have to leave her home if she can’t come up with the money for repairs, Robin Cutter of Concord prepares for a yard sale on Friday, July 20, 2018. She said she made $300 from the yard sale, a small step on the way to covering the $15,000 estimate for repairs. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Robin Cutter breaks down on Friday, July 20, 2018, thinking about the day her husband died and how it started a chain of events that has her worried she’ll have to leave her home if she can’t come up with the money to fix it. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 7/31/2018 11:00:27 PM

For more than 25 years, Robin Cutter and her family have lived on a quiet corner of Fisherville Estates.

The 1976 manufactured home she bought with her husband, Mike Cutter, in 1990 shows its age in places, but it also shows signs of love.

Dozens of picture frames feature the Cutters with family and friends, their 11-year-old adopted daughter, Kyliegh, often taking center stage. Cats and dogs eye strangers before settling between their feet to beg for attention. A sign greets visitors at the door, warning them there will be no complaining in this house.

A year ago, Lot 41 at Fisherville Estates lost its “Pops” when Mike Cutter died of a heart attack. Now, Robin, the president of Fisherville Estates’s cooperative, is worried that she’ll have to leave her home because of the condition it’s in.

Cutter noticed the floor outside her bathroom was getting soft last year, but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago, when her foot went through the floor, that she realized there was a more serious problem. She said the damage was due to her toilet leaking after an unlicensed contractor improperly reinstalled it while working on her floors a few years ago.

Only a piece of plywood separates the family from the underside of the home, which is also missing much of its insulation. The underskirt is also damaged, Cutter said.

But Cutter said during a recent interview that unless she can come up with $15,000 to fix her floors and plumbing, she can’t remain in the home.

“It’s no place to raise a kid,” she said of her daughter, who was Cutter’s second niece before her biological parents gave her up for adoption.

At the same time, Cutter said, the idea of leaving is painful.

“Someone suggested to me, ‘Why don’t you just get an apartment?’ ” Cutter said. “But I can’t take (Kyliegh) away from her home – she’s already been through so much.”

Repair blocks

Cutter said she tried typical avenues to secure money, like going to the bank for a loan, but she faced steep barriers.

For one, she said her credit score tanked after being involved in a car crash in December.

But the age of her home is the biggest factor: manufactured housing units built prior to June 15, 1976, do not meet Department of Housing and Urban Development standards, even if homeowners fix them up.

The Federal Housing Administration won’t finance mortgages on those homes, and “most other mortgage insurance firms follow FHA policy,” according to HUD’s website.

But few lenders are willing to take on manufactured homes regardless of their age, said Jennifer Hopkins, director of single-family housing for the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund.

“There are some old misunderstandings about their value,” Hopkins said. “Few people might see them as worth it. And many lenders have a system set up where they’re rewarded by commission; when you’re selling a more expensive home and a bigger loan, everyone from the Realtor or the lender is paid a percentage of the home value.”

Manufactured housing tends to depreciate, Cutter said. She said she bought her home for $32,000 in 1990; it was assessed at $16,900 in 2017, according to city assessing data.

Hopkins said there are about 36,000 manufactured house owners in the state. About 70 percent of their lending goes toward new home purchases, 20 percent to refinancing and 10 percent to home improvement loans, she said. The average amount lent is $27,000.

Hopkins said the Community Loan Fund looks at income and credit, as well as recent financial behavior, in order to make sure people can pay loans back before approval. They do not look at a home’s age.

“It’s really looking at the whole picture,” she said.

Cutter said she paid off her home in 2009. She lives off Social Security disability benefits due to having Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective-tissue disorder. She does have insurance on her home – but she doesn’t know if it’ll cover the repairs.

“The guy wasn’t licensed,” she said of the person who did work on her home. “I can’t go after him for the repairs.”

Local options

Cutter said she put out a message on Facebook for help and started a GoFundMe page to try to raise money for repairs.

She soon got a response from Sue Glover, a former Kearsarge High School classmate. Glover said she had assembled a group of people willing to do the work Cutter needed on her home – and they were coming up the weekend of July 28.

Glover said she hadn’t spoken to Cutter much since high school, but was moved by her plea for help.

“She’s hit some roadblocks,” Glover said. “And there are millions of nice people who hit roadblocks in our lives.”

“People truly want to do good things,” she added, speaking of the group that was willing to do the work. “There’s not a lot of chances to do that anymore.”

Help was coming in from other places, too. People Cutter knew – but many she said she didn’t know – offered her gift cards and cash to get the work done.

Around the same time, Cutter went to the city for help after being referred to Concord’s revolving loan fund. Established in 1983, the fund exists to help create economic development and to improve housing opportunities for those on a low to moderate income.

The fund typically runs around $975,000. According to the city’s website, loans usually range from $1,500 to $250,000, with three- to 20-year terms and interest rates between 2 percent and 10 percent. The types of projects the city has helped fund are varied – $1,500 to a homeowner to replace a hot water heater, $120,000 to a child care provider for renovations.

According to program guidelines, the city can do a maximum of $250,000 for economic development loans, social services, child care facilities and multifamily residential properties. Single-family residences can get up to $25,000.

Applications are approved by the city’s Community Development Advisory Committee on a case-by-case basis, according to the city’s website. The city has to have a firm estimate on repair costs, provided by the resident. If they do approve a loan, the city pays the contractor directly.

Stefanie Phillips, public information officer for Concord, said the city cannot comment on individual applications.

Cutter said her case was going to be heard on July 25, but the meeting was canceled because the city didn’t have a firm estimate on repair costs. The CDAC meeting is now scheduled for Aug. 8.

Cutter said she was then told by a contractor that the cost of fixing her home would come in around $15,000, much higher than what she said she had expected.

Cutter said she’s anxious about coming up with that amount of money. But she’s not giving up; she had a yard sale two weeks ago and pulled in more than $300. She figures between the yard sale, selling some of her husband’s WWII possessions and the donations, she’s raised about $3,500.

“The outpouring of kindness to us has been incredible,” she wrote on part on her GoFundMe page. “We have not lost hope that we’ll be able to stay in our home.”

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)


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