Helen King stumbled onto a new career that she could do from home. Now she needed a house of her own in which to pursue it.
A year ago, she had moved to a new apartment and decided to give it more personality. She painted some walls in accent colors. Then, “since I couldn’t afford the furniture I wanted, I went to Goodwill, where I found a table and repainted it,” she said. She heard so many compliments on the decorating job and her eye for color “that I thought, maybe I can make a living out of this.”
She started hunting for a house she could afford that would have enough room to accommodate her furniture painting and met her other specifications: a duplex or townhouse; on a quiet, tree-lined street but close to shopping and transportation; and with a finished or unfinished basement. She found one in the Hamilton neighborhood, and at that point she approached a mortgage company.
An agent suggested she might want to get homeownership counseling from St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center. When she looked into it, she found an interesting coincidence: “It turned out the house I wanted was a St. Ambrose house.”
St. Ambrose not only sold Helen the house, but also matched her with a number of grant programs that enabled her to make the purchase. When all the available financing still came up a bit short of a final deal, St. Ambrose closed the gap by turning to a special program to offset closing costs.
The closing cost program came from funds awarded to St. Ambrose by way of the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA). NHFA has awarded funds to 19 cities through a collaboration with Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. that aims to foster homeownership, rebuild neighborhoods impacted by foreclosure and promote diverse, inclusive communities. St. Ambrose received an $100,000 award of NHFA funds.
“Closing costs in Maryland can run as much as $13,000 for a single house,” said David Sann, Director of Housing Development at St. Ambrose. “We try to make good judgments and spread the money as far as we can.”
Generally, St. Ambrose limits closing cost grants to $3,000, and gives them, as in Helen’s case, when the home buyer has applied all other available resources and needs a grant to close the gap.
Helen moved into the first home of her own at the end of 2013.
“I can dictate how I want my home to look,” she said. “I get to do whatever I want.” She also gets to make her living refinishing and repainting furniture that she sells online. Some special pieces, which she calls her “visionary art,” she sells locally on consignment. “It has all come together,” she says. “I’m very happy.”