Pregnant and on her own at the age of 15, Shala believed that homeownership was for rich people and characters on TV. “Where I come from everyone thinks homeownership is unattainable,” she says. “Only if you’re a TV family can you realize such a goal.”
But after Shala moved to Maryland in 2007, she realized that her long-held belief was wrong. When her boss invited Shala to her house for Christmas, Shala realized that an African American woman could own a home. “Once I figured out it was possible, I had to figure out how to do it,” she says.
She was tired of paying $1,400 a month to rent a small property where her two children shared a bedroom. Though she lived in Section 8 housing at the time, the single mother was determined to change her reality so she started exploring her options and realized that financial education was key.
An Internet search led her to HomeFree-USA, and there she was energized to hear someone tell her, ‘Yes! Homeownership is within your grasp.’
To achieve her goal Shala went on a “debt diet” to pay down her credit cards. That meant giving up her habit of eating out frequently and cooking instead. “I cut out all frivolous spending,” she says.
She also involved her 14-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter in the journey. She brought them with her to homeownership classes at HomeFree-USA so they would have a head start on managing money and achieving financial goals when they reach adulthood.
Ravenous for a home, she took the Fast Track homeownership education class twice so the information could truly sink in.
Her efforts paid off because her dream is now a reality. She currently has a 3 bedroom, 3 ½ bath home in a perfect location. Now her children each have their own room “and no one has to wait to use the bathroom,” she says.
The journey was not without its challenges. For example, at one point she lost her job and had to go through some of the money she had saved for a down payment.
But HomeFree-USA helped her get back on her feet, reaching out to lenders on her behalf and helping her to get her finances to the point where mortgage companies competed for her business.
As Shala prepares to celebrate her first holiday season in her new home, she is adamant about how valuable housing counseling is and says she never could have navigated the homeownership process without HomeFree-USA.
She also remembers her childhood belief that homeownership was an impossible dream. “I don’t want my kids to ever think that,” she says. Thanks to financial education and the determination of their mother, they never will.