Joseph Butler recently purchased a newly renovated home from St. Ambrose in the Belair-Edison neighborhood. Fifty-seven years old and a first time homebuyer, Butler said that he was looking ahead to retirement and wanted something to call his own, “anyone can own a car, but a home- that’s something special.”
Mr. Butler is a particularly special first time homeowner for St. Ambrose because he is a former tenant with St. Ambrose Rental Services. He lived in St. Martin’s apartments in West Baltimore for seven years before purchasing his new home in Belair-Edison. As the first client who has both rented from St. Ambrose and purchased a St. Ambrose home, we sat down with Butler to inquire about his journey to homeownership.
This spring, “things just fell into place” for Butler, who had always dreamed of owning his own home. Although he admits that he had his doubts during the home-buying process. Things were moving slowly before the settlement and his patience was tested as he waited for the final approval to go through. Working with Denise Hairston, our in-house realtor at St. Ambrose, Butler finally went to settlement on Friday, June 12th, accompanied at the signing table by his proud father.
Through support from the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) based in Washington, DC, St. Ambrose offers closing cost assistance grants for first time homebuyers. This special funding helps us to bring new homeowners into Baltimore neighborhoods. Butler, however, was a special case. Because he was our renter at the time, a technicality prevented St. Ambrose from offering him the closing cost grant. But NFHA wouldn’t allow a small complication to prevent Butler from receiving this support. The last thing to fall into place for Butler was a grant check directly from NFHA to support his closing costs. Hairston’s advocacy on Butler’s behalf was critical in ensuring this benefit was accepted by the lender.
Butler’s advice to someone who wants to own a home is to “save money, be patient” and citing the old adage that so often rings true, “Rome was not built in a day.” He also recommends others to be proactive in addressing their credit issues. “Have an open conversation with those who you owe debts.”
Resilience and gratitude are two other factors that undoubtedly contributed to Butler’s success in achieving his lifelong goal. An army veteran from the DC area, Butler moved to Baltimore in 1998. Butler was honest and candid about his life’s journey. A former drug user, Butler went through rehab at Maryland Center for Veterans Education (MCVET) in 2000 and has been clean for 15 years. While living in St. Martin’s, Butler paid off all of his debts and sought assistance to help to repair his credit in order to prepare to take out a mortgage. “I am so blessed,” Butler emphasizes when he speaks of his journey to homeownership. His warm smile radiates his appreciation for life’s lessons and successes.
Mr. Butler works for the federal government as a security guard for the Smithsonian. He commutes to Landover, Maryland where he works an evening shift at the Smithsonian storage facility. He’s also worked at the American Indian, Air and Space, American History, and Natural History museums. Butler has loved the opportunity to learn from museum curators during his tenure at the Smithsonian. The American History Museum is his favorite, noting a Duke Ellington exhibit, JK Lilly’s historic coin collection, and the first ladies’ inaugural dresses. Another testament to Butler’s ethic, he actually left his position at the Smithsonian for several years and was successful in earning his job back- not an easy feat for a position in the government.
What is Mr. Butler looking forward to about his new home? For one, all of the appliances are brand new. The luxury of not having to worry about replacing the air conditioning, furnace, and kitchen appliances is peace of mind for a first time home buyer, and having his own brand new washer and dryer means he has the privilege of doing laundry in the comfort of his own home. Another amenity about his new home is that he can practice his saxophones (both alto and tenor) more freely than he could in his apartment. Afforded with both a front and backyard, he’s also looking forward to sitting outside and drinking coffee while he reads the paper.
When asked what attracted Butler to Belair-Edison in particular, he didn’t hesitate for a moment before responding, “It’s nice and quiet. Listen… all you hear is the wind blowing across the trees.” Indeed, nestled on a quiet street next to Herring Run Park, Butler’s new home is far enough from the bustle to feel at complete peace.
“This will always be mine,” Butler says with pride. “I am so blessed.”