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Ringing out in Liberty Heights? A story of generational wealth building

May 8, 2023

As Isaiah Delmoral and his wife Priscilla set out to meet their realtor, he plugged the listing’s address into GPS. The driving time? Two minutes.

“I’m like, ‘What the heck? This can’t be the one, it’s too close to home!’” says Isaiah. But they immediately fell in love with the three-bedroom 1933 cape, located in Springfield’s Liberty Heights. Theirs as of April 2023! 

“The layout, the ample living space, the yard. The house has a lot of character, and we were able to envision different ways to change it up and raise a family there,” says Isaiah, a program director at New North Citizens’ Council and pastor of LifeStream Ministries. 

No matter that it’s a stone’s throw from the home his parents bought in 2013, where Isaiah and Priscilla have lived—along with his four siblings—since they were married in April 2021. 

“Living at home, the rent was much less than what we’d pay traditionally. It was a blessing for us, it gave us some breathing room to really focus on capacity building. We were both able to go back to school, to save and grow financially, and plan for this next step. I’m extremely grateful to my amazing parents for helping us get a leg up,” says Isaiah, who is finishing his bachelor’s degree in human service management as his wife pursues her associate’s degree in early childhood education. “It wasn’t the easiest thing to do. But it was a temporary and necessary step, we made it work.”

There was a shower schedule involved, for sharing the one full bathroom. There were late nights of wishing for peace and quiet.

“We lived in a house full of lively teenagers, so it would get loud and lively sometimes. To be honest, that’s what motivated us the most,” says Isaiah, who began his childhood in low-income housing. “We wanted to be in a place where we could say, ‘Lights out and music off! Everybody, go to sleep!’”

Motivation, meet education: In spring 2021, Isaiah and Priscilla signed up for Frameworks, Way Finders’ self-paced online education course for first-time homebuyers. Over the next six months, they pushed forward through a host of unforeseen events—illness, hospitalization, loss, and grief. 

“Once we finished, we thought we’d get our certification. But we hadn’t read the fine print,” says Isaiah, of the advising session that Frameworks requires. “I thought, ‘Great, one more thing we have to do.’”

But this one session—with Homeownership Advisor Melanie Nunez—kicked off a transformational year of personalized coaching. On budgeting, expenditure spreadsheets, loan 101, predatory dangers, credit, applying savings to pay down debt, clearing derogatory marks, and more. All at no cost.

“When we connected with Melanie, it felt like home. Forgive me, no pun intended,” says Isaiah. “The level of professionalism, authenticity, and humility that we received was so refreshing. Melanie has been an amazing resource to us, she just made everything easier. She took all these complex concepts about getting a loan and all these acronyms—HUD, FHA, MHP, PMI. And she broke it down for us in a language we understood. She did such a great job, we were like, ‘Yeah, we want to keep talking to you!’”

And they did, coming together about once a month, for what Isaiah describes as “working sessions.”

“I’d present a question, and in real time, we’d calculate numbers, work out a solution,” says Isaiah. “She brought a different voice of reason. I never felt like I was being spoken down to, it was a conversation on the same level. Although she had all this knowledge, we felt heard, respected.”

With preparation—all with an eye toward being able to sustain a home purchase—came confidence.

“When we met with the loan originator, we said, ‘We want this loan at this rate, and we don’t want anything else,’” says Isaiah, of feeling in the driver’s seat while applying for a Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP) loan with Freedom Credit Union. “Some of my family members and friends, they didn’t have the best experiences when they bought a home. Some were caught up in the Bank of America mortgage fraud scandal.”

“The product you’re getting, the MHP loan, is the one I tell everybody to go for if they are eligible. Because there’s no private mortgage insurance, it can save you like $200 to $300 a month,” says Melanie. “And stars aligned! The MassDREAMS—Delivering Real Equity and Mortgage Stability—grant program was developed last fall, and they were able to get down payment assistance through it.”

In addition to covering all their closing costs, the MassDREAMS grant brought down their mortgage by about $20,000. They also received downpayment assistance through the city of Springfield.

“It’s amazing, we’re so happy! For us, homeownership means creating generational wealth and changing the trajectory of our family line,” says Isaiah, who next aspires to pursue his MBA. “And it means breaking paradigms that exist right now in Black and brown communities. The programs Way Finders offers change the game for a lot of us, this gives us an upper hand.”

“About generational wealth, I so love the fact that because your parents own their home, they were able to give you that cushion, that option to save,” says Melanie. “I think this should be normalized in our communities, instead of feeling like you kind of have to struggle on your own to feel grown up.”

“I’ve been blessed to benefit from Way Finders’ good work. We’re people of faith, we believe everything happens for a reason. I want to tell my story to help others, it’s about paying it forward,” says Isaiah, who has already inspired his in-laws and close friends to sign up for first-time homebuyer courses.

“This is a full-circle moment for me, you were one of my first clients,” says Melanie. “From our action plan, on day one, you said you wanted to buy a house within a year. Here we are, literally one year and a month later! I’m super, super proud of you and your wife. It’s like the perfect story.”

Congratulations to you, Isaiah and Priscilla!