Hannah comes from a legacy of people who sacrificed everything so she could live the American Dream, and she’s just days away from a capstone achievement: homeownership.
“All the sacrifices that they made for me are coming together in the form of this house,” she said about her family.
Her Family’s Journey
The first-generation American was born in a refugee camp while her mother and grandparents were emigrating from Vietnam to give Hannah more opportunities for an education and a better life. “My parents knew I wasn’t going to have the life they envisioned for me,” she said.
In Vietnam, her mother wasn’t allowed to go to school past the fourth grade. The whole family faced discrimination because Hannah’s biological grandfather was a U.S. military engineer, and her mother looks Caucasian, she said.
Hannah’s father joined them in the U.S. five years later. Despite living at the poverty line most of her childhood, Hannah went to private school at her parents’ insistence to help her excel and learn English.
She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Stetson University and a master’s degree in health administration from the University of Central Florida, graduating both times at the top of her class. She now works at UCF as an academic service coordinator.
Her Homebuying Journey
Hannah knew the next step in her American Dream – and making her family proud – was to settle and start building wealth by becoming a homeowner. But she was surprised to find that advanced education and a good job were not enough to achieve that dream in the Central Florida market.
She applied for two homes and made offers on three over the years and was rejected every time. Her student loans were affecting her debt-to-income ratio. But Hannah didn’t give up.
A couple of years ago, Hannah hit another setback – she lost most of her belongings, savings and rental home. “I thought I hit rock bottom at that point and my whole life flipped upon itself,” she said.
Her two sisters gave her safe haven in their apartment despite not having a bedroom for her. “I live in what we call ‘the nook’ – it’s their dining room and we put up curtains for walls,” she said.
Hannah started working hard and saving her money. But the homebuying experience “never felt right.”
Then she applied for Habitat Orlando & Osceola’s homeownership program at the encouragement of her friend. Her circumstances made her believe she might be overqualified. “I thought it was for people who are struggling more than I am… families with children or people without a job,” she said.
Habitat homeowners must meet credit and income criteria. They pay low monthly mortgage payments, which cannot exceed 30% of their gross income.
She met the requirements and was accepted.
“I think God rejected the other opportunities because this opportunity was for me,” Hannah said. “This time, I’m not scared at all. I feel like I know I have a team who’s going to help and support me and mentor me. It’s the biggest blessing I’ve ever achieved my adult life.”
More Than a House
She said the sweat equity, Habitat U courses and the first-time homebuyer class put all the pieces of homeownership together. “Everything made sense and flowed so much better,” she said.
Hannah especially liked the home maintenance classes, admitting that she wasn’t very handy. “I felt so empowered when Habitat U gave me the tools … so if this breaks, I know what to do.”
As she looks forward to getting the keys to her new home at the end of the five-day Builders Blitz, she is already paying it forward, referring friends and even inspiring her little sister to look into homeownership.
“It’s going to continue to ripple out, and I’ll be able to share that message and help others achieve their dream,” she said.
She’s even thinking about how she can strengthen her new community of Silver Pines Pointe by starting a neighborhood vegetable garden.
Hannah choked up as she reflected on what it took to get here – along with all the sacrifices her grandparents, parents and sisters have made for her.
She said Pulte Homes is not just building her walls.
“The house that they’re helping me build represents so much more. It’s hope — it’s a reward for the hard work you put in year after year. Not just me, but three generations worth of it.”
Read about our other Blitz homeowner:
You can help more local families experience the peace and freedom of owning an affordable home. When you donate to Habitat Orlando & Osceola, every dollar helps us build homes and work toward a world where everyone has a safe and affordable place to live. You can impact lives through homeownership; please give today.