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Homeownership � How I Did It

"It wasn't easy, but I finally own my own home."

Three and a half years ago Christian had poor credit, a stack of bills, no savings and limited Social Security Disability Income.

"I used to wake up at nights dreaming of owning a home." My mother Christina, who lives with me and helps with my care, asked, "How can we buy a home?"

[Photo 1: Christian and Christina on the front porch of their new home.]
Christian and Christina on the front porch of their new home.

Mom and I set our sights on buying a home; we eliminated all unnecessary expenses, we skipped Christmas and birthday presents, and began the process of buying a home. We began to breathe, eat and think house.

Christian's story -

First, a friend who owned a home told me that I'd need about $7,000 for a down payment and that I'd need to make sure my credit was OK. I started doing research on the Internet and began looking for general information about buying a home, and particularly for assistance programs that could help persons with disabilities. That's when I discovered the Colorado Housing Assistance Corporation (CHAC) and met Cecilia Cervantes, one of their counselors. She introduced me to CHAC's homebuying programs including counseling services, down payment assistance, education classes and referrals to real estate agents and lenders experienced in helping people with limited income, credit problems and little or no money for a down payment.

Credit

[Photo 2: Christian and Christina with keys to their new home.]
Christian and Christina with keys to their new home.

Cecilia taught me how to budget and how to clean up my credit. She set me up with Consumer Credit Counseling Services, and we began to make a plan. I'll be honest. My credit wasn't good. I had delinquent student loans and credit card debt and collections that I couldn't pay. I learned everything I could about credit. Some of the debts on my credit report didn't belong to me, and I wrote letters disputing some of the debts. This helped to get some debts removed, but I still had much to do.

Next, I cancelled all my credit cards. I also made lists of who I owed and how much. I called each creditor to find out what could be done and began negotiating individual payment plans. I was honest and up-front with my creditors, and I told them I wanted to buy a house. You'd be surprised with the results when you're honest and making a sincere effort to resolve your credit issues. Many of my creditors had written off my debt and didn't expect to be paid. Let's just say that something is better that nothing and I was able to negotiate payments that I could realistically make. I paid what I negotiated, and my credit began to improve. It took three years to clean up my credit.

Homebuyer Education

I asked my long-term care provider if she knew about programs that help persons with disabilities buy a home. She mentioned that HUD had programs and I found information about the HOPE VI program on the Internet. CHAC's homebuying class helped me learn more about the importance of credit, budgeting and saving for a down payment. I learned about different types of loans, how interest rates and down payment effect your payment, how to shop for a loan, how to shop for a home and the importance of a home inspection. I learned about closing and settlement costs and other expenses that go with owing a home; insurance, heat, electricity, sewer, water and trash service. I strongly recommend that all first-time homebuyers attend a homebuying class

Getting a loan

[Photo 3: Christian and his team.
(l-r) Bettye Gaiter (Wells Fargo), Cecilia Cervantes (CHAC), 
Christian, Larry Kresyman (Century 21), mother Christina, 
sister Christina, Joe Hughes (Denver Housing Authority)]
Christian and his team at closing of his home.

My loan officer, Bettye Gaiter of Wells Fargo, helped me get financing. Wells Fargo has a program for persons with disabilities. I also received a low interest loan from the Denver Housing Authority and their HOPE VI Homeownership Program, and received some down payment assistance from CHAC. In addition to helping me get financing, Bettye helped me understand that there's more to buying a house than being able to make the payments. She helped me create a budget and showed me that in addition to my housing expenses, I still would need to eat, buy clothes and maybe go to the movies once in awhile. When you own a home, things break or need to be fixed, meaning that you need to have money saved for the unexpected.

Shopping for a home

[Photo 4: Christian and Christina at closing with real estate broker, Larry Kresymen]
Christian and Christina at closing with real estate broker, Larry Kresymen

I didn't begin looking for a home until my loan officer and I felt that I was ready. I learned everything I could about buying before I started to look, and with the help of my real estate broker, Larry Kresyman found homes I could realistically afford.

I can't stress enough the importance of a professional home inspection. You really need to know about problems before you buy. The first home I put under contract had water in the basement and virtually no insulation in the attic. Because my purchase was contingent on the home inspection, I was able to cancel the sale. I was disappointed, but continued my search. Maybe it was for the best, because I found a home that I liked even more.

The home I purchased was not without its problems, but the seller was willing to work with me and the problems were resolved to the satisfaction of my lender and me. My home inspection revealed a broken sewer line, a chimney that needed cleaning and a new damper, some bricks that needed tuck pointing, a new roof and door for the garage and a new water heater. Total cost for repairs, $13,000. Had I not discovered these problems, I might be facing foreclosure and the possible loss of my home today due to the cost of repairs. The seller paid for most of the repairs and I paid $3,800.

Homeownership

Although I'm now a homeowner, I'm still budgeting; I don't buy things on time, and now that I own a home I'm being offered credit again. My new home needs some cosmetic work, but nothing major. I'm taking my time and prioritizing what I'd like to do. When I cleaned up my credit, I learned to make lists. Now I'm making repair lists to help me schedule the work I need and can afford. At the top of my list are repairs that improve the value of my home and help save money. With some help from Sun Power, Inc. a Colorado non-profit; I've purchased double pane windows, more insulation and lots and lots of caulk. I'm now working on some improvements to the landscaping to improve curb appeal.

It's been a challenge, but one that has been rewarding and well worth the effort. Both my mother and I are very happy. I still breath, eat and think house, but I'm in my own home.

More about homeownership in Colorado is available on our website. (http://www.hud.gov)

Colorado Housing Assistance Corporation (CHAC) (http://coloradohousingassistance.org/)

Sun Power, Inc. (http://www.sunpowerinc.org/)

Content Archived: April 5, 2011

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