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A year of thank-you moments brings the perfect bungalow within reach
As she reflects on her path to homeownership, Patty cuts right to the chase: “I’ll park a forty-foot bus for you in a little space. I’ll change the oil in your car, build you cabinets. But don’t ask me to be on the computer!”
But when a series of amazing opportunities came Patty’s way—the chance to buy a home through a private sale, the chance to apply for a homeownership grant—she had to confront the screen.
“To this day, I don’t feel confident about computer stuff,” says Patty, an experienced school bus driver. “But you have to do everything on computers now.”
At the start of 2022, Patty was looking for a new living situation. She and her dog Cuco had been living for about a year with a relative in western Massachusetts. “My family is wonderful,” she says. “We’re all tight, we watch each other’s back.”
Patty’s story is familiar to many people across the country.
Per NeighborWorks America’s 2022 Housing and Financial Capability Survey, nearly one in five adults (18%) has ever moved in with family, friends, or roommates as a direct result of financial challenges, up from 13% in 2020.
Patty wanted to stay in the area, but with rents at $1,450 and up, finding an apartment seemed impossible. She kept an eye on the real estate market, in hopes of finding a price she could afford.
In spring 2022, an acquaintance texted Patty to say she wanted to sell her 1950s one-bedroom bungalow. The price they negotiated for the cozy home seemed doable, so she applied for a loan with Florence Bank.
“The bank suggested that, because of my income, I should apply for one of these grants,” Patty says. “They said, ‘Go on the Way Finders’ site, so you can become a certified first-time homebuyer.’ That was a requirement.”
She opted to take Way Finders’ First-time Homebuyer Workshop through the Frameworks online course, which is a set of self-paced modules, instead of a one-day class in person. As she went about registering, she connected with Homeownership Advisor Melanie Nunez.
“Melanie was just so patient. I was in tears with her, like, ‘I can’t do this!’ She was so kind, she was just wonderful. She said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll get you all set up,’” says Patty, who closed on her home in the summer of 2022. “And you know, she’d call me back. And she never made me feel like I was a bother.”
Over the course of six days, Patty conquered the course. “Just logging in every day was like, ‘Oh, what is my password? What do I do?’ Copy and paste this! But I managed to do it. It was good, every section had a purpose. It was tricky though! Some of those questions were tricky.”
Much of the content was a refresher for Patty, who had previously owned a mobile home and built a home in the mid-1980s. But she appreciated the chance to learn about how things have changed since she was last in the buyer’s seat—all the nuances that are part of the homebuying process.
Once she received her (electronic!) certificate of completion, it was a waiting game.
“And lo and behold, I got a grant for $22,000,” says Patty. “When they told me, I couldn’t believe it, it was a godsend. It made such a difference in my mortgage payments. I couldn’t have done it otherwise. I still get teary eyed, I do! Between Way Finders and Florence Bank, I owe my life to you.”
What Patty loves most about her new home, which is decorated with her own colorful acrylic paintings, is that it’s hers. “Through the years, I’ve always lived with a sibling, a roommate, one of my kids, my husband. This is mine! I don’t have to answer to anybody, and that’s a pretty good feeling. I say to Cuco, ‘We’re living like college kids!’ It’s kind of nice not having to say, ‘Oh, I should pick this up, this one’s coming home.’ It's a real empowering, independent feeling.”
It means she can set up her easel in the living room (“I was going to set it up down cellar, but I’m like, ‘Who says I have to go down there?”). It means she can curate her vintage pieces as she likes (“As you can see, my style is ‘early-American tag sale.’ Every item tells a story. This rotary phone was in my dad’s machine shop”). And it means she can pursue her vision for the backyard as she sees fit (“It’s like walking into a yard in Savannah, Georgia. Look at the potential, can’t you see it with more flowers and grasses?”).
After her closing, Patty had a phone appointment with Melanie. “She wanted to know how everything went,” says Patty. “And I thanked her. I tell you, it has been a year of all these thank-you moments!”
Congratulations to you, Patty!