Over 3 years ago, Heather packed up her 2 young daughters Zoe then 6 weeks old and Riley 2, left an abusive relationship and everything that didn’t fit in her car and began a search for a home to raise her family. After living in a succession of marginal rental situations – at one point living out of her car, Heather and her two young daughters moved in to their 3-bedroom home, close to family and work, and in the preferred school district.
It had not been easy, but Heather was determined and was quick to point out that it could not have been possible without the support of a team of housing professionals.
In January, she submitted an application to a housing counselor with Easter Seals Greater Houston for $14,500 of down payment assistance through the Montgomery County HOME Fund program and was approved.
With the down payment assured, she began working with Terry with Storehouse Mortgage to qualify for the mortgage loan. Their budget was tight as she began paying down debt and building assets, but as Heather remarked, both Riley and Zoe understood that finding a permanent home was important and they all came together as a family to make it happen.
Heather began working with her realtor, Mike with Realty Solutions to find a property suitable for her family, proving to be a challenge. Homes in her price range of $135,000 – 185,000 are the fastest to sell, and home-buyers like Heather even with committed financing must compete with cash buyers purchasing properties within the same day of listing. Over the next several months, Mike presented multiple offers on homes with no success. Finally in March Heather’s contract on a home was accepted, beating out eight other offers made the same day of listing. She would move from a ‘trailer’ home in an unsafe neighborhood for a home in a beautiful family-friendly neighborhood, with a mortgage payment $200+ less than her rent payment. She pointed out that even her utility bills in the new home have been $200+ less.
The transition from renter to homeowner for families like Heather’s could not be possible without the support of Easter Seals Greater Houston and their Financial Literacy, Home Buyers Education, FinTech and Case Management programming.
On the local level, housing professionals such as lenders and realtors like Terry and Mike, and the Easter Seals HUD-certified housing counselors work to ensure that families like Heather’s secure sustainable mortgage products with all the financial support available. County agencies such as Montgomery County Community Development provide a number of programs such as the down payment assistance to help home-buyers purchase their first home.
On the community level, non-profit coalitions such as United Way Greater Houston THRIVE continue to support housing counseling programs such as Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Housing Initiative.
On the macro level, NSEs such as our partner, Freddie Mac help people in the military, veteran and care-giving communities, as well as those with disabilities, obtain affordable housing through renting or buying a home. They also constantly search for innovative ways to support affordable housing opportunities, such as their webinar series and other online resources.
It has been quite a journey for Heather and her daughters, but as she looks around her home, you can see the pride in her eyes at what they have accomplished. Now she would be proud for her children to invite friends over for sleepovers, and they can walk safely to the neighborhood park for birthday parties.
As Heather looked around her home filled with toys and the backyard filled with swings and wading pool, she remarked, “This feels like home.”
Katy Thorstenberg, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Housing Coordinator