Ebony has lived in the same condominium for the last 10 years.

She was used to her rent increasing by $25 or $50 every year. She didn’t bat an eye.

But this past year, she got a renewal notice that showed a $400 hike — a 33% increase. That was the moment she decided to get serious about becoming a homeowner.

“I looked into homeownership for the stability because when you’re renting, they can just increase it how they want to, when they want to,” she said.

The Orange County Government employee, business student, and mother of two has partnered with Habitat for Humanity Greater Orlando & Osceola County for the 2022 Home for the Holidays special build. A Maitland-based commercial construction firm, Williams Company, will generously donate the labor and materials to build Ebony’s home in Holden Heights over a period of just two weeks. This will be the third Habitat Orlando & Osceola home Williams Company has built for a local family in need.

Construction kicks off on Nov. 28 and concludes with a ceremony on Dec. 9. She’s excited and nervous at the same time. “Everything is coming so fast,” she said, smiling and taking a deep breath.

“To the Williams Company, I just want to say thank you, thank you for giving your time because a lot of people don’t do that,” she said. “I’m the person everybody calls for everything, so this is a huge blessing for me!”

Investing in herself

Ebony, left, with her two children. Photo courtesy Ebony.

The Miami native is scheduled to close on her home in March 2023 with a predictable, affordable mortgage payment. She’s also looking forward to the opportunity to start building wealth over time through equity.

“The most frustrating thing is how much money I’ve put into someone else’s pocket for their ownership,” she said. “I’ve pretty much paid for that condo multiple times.”

But as a single mother, she didn’t always feel ready to take on the responsibility of home maintenance and repairs while taking care of two children.

“As a renter, I could just call a landlord and whatever was broken or not working would be fixed,” she said. “But now that I’m older, I think differently about how much money I’ve given to somebody else.”

In addition to making sure a homebuyer’s monthly mortgage payment is no more than 30% of their gross income, Habitat Orlando & Osceola requires all homebuyers to complete homeownership education classes, including financial literacy, foreclosure prevention, and home maintenance basics. This ensures that they can stay in their home for the long term.
Habitat also provides homeownership mentoring, before and during the homeownership journey, which can take up to one year.

This mentoring opportunity significantly helped Ebony who was denied the first time she applied for the homeownership program because her credit score was 5 points below the requirement. She worked with a mentor who advised her to pay down some debt which helped her get approved.

She’s still working with the mentor, as all future Habitat Orlando & Osceola homeowners do, to ensure she meets the credit and income requirements as she waits to close on her home.

“She’s been reaching out every step of the way. She has really been a great encouragement for me,” she said of her mentor.

Creating stability

Ebony’s vision for the future is stability for her 19-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son, and this home will help her create that. Owning a brand-new, energy-efficient home also means that she won’t have to worry about major repairs for many years and will enjoy lower utility and electricity bills.

“My son has lived in a condo his whole life. He’s excited about being able to play in the yard and play basketball in the driveway. My daughter just wants to decorate the kitchen,” she said with a laugh.

She recently realized how big of a role model she is for her children and hopes that owning her home and going back to school at age 40 will encourage them to work hard and not give up — no matter how long it takes.

“When it’s your time, it’s your time, and nobody can take that away from you,” she said.

She can’t wait to make her house a home.

“Home means family. Home means love. Home means together. Home means happy. Home means get-togethers — barbecues, Sunday dinner, Friday night fish fry,” she said with a big smile.

Support Us: 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.

Apply for Homeownership: Habitat Orlando & Osceola offers energy-efficient three- or four-bedroom homes, customizable options and affordable mortgages. Learn more >>