Mary sees folks buying homes every day in her work as the financial policy processor for a title company. But the 72-year-old didn’t think homeownership was within her own reach until she found Habitat for Humanity Greater Orlando & Osceola County.
Now, after a lifetime of yearning for a home, it is actually happening.
“I’m going to have a place of my own that’s the right size and affordable,” she said. “It’s almost like a fairytale.”
This month, Mary is working alongside teams of volunteers to build her home in our Silver Pines Pointe community as part of Women Build 2022, an annual fundraiser and movement of women building, investing, and advocating for quality, affordable housing in their community.
Knowing that women are helping to build her home gives her goosebumps. “My hat is off to this group of women,” she said. “They are a part of such a worthy cause, one that is bigger than I could ever imagine.”
Finding her ‘earthly angels’
After raising two sons by herself and then helping with her five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, she finally found herself ready to focus on her future. She had been living with her sister, and her plan included purchasing an affordable home in which to retire. But “affordability” was eluding her in the Central Florida housing market.
“It would take every dime that I would make to meet my monthly obligations and I would be struggling to survive and be able to eat,” she said.
When she looked into age-restricted communities, she was either priced out or earned over the income limit.
She was stuck. Overcome with emotion and stress, she asked God to direct her path.
“That’s when God gave me a vision to contact Habitat for Humanity.”
Habitat staff, she said, are “God’s earthly angels.”
She had known about Habitat but thought the homeownership program was meant for single parents or low-income families.
Habitat for Humanity is an equal opportunity program. Applicants are selected based on their need for housing, willingness to partner with us, and their ability to pay the mortgage. Individuals from all races, sexes, ages, and creeds are encouraged to apply.
She applied and was approved. Sleep became elusive.
“I had happy, sleepless nights because I was actually seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
Currently, to qualify for the homeownership program, applicants must have a credit score of at least 640 and a monthly income of $2,500 a month.
In addition, they must contribute 75-150 hours of ‘sweat equity’ on a construction site and complete classes including financial literacy and home maintenance to prepare for becoming a homeowner.
Mary met the requirement for taking the classes – and then she started taking them again and again.
“I’ve never known anyone to give the kind of classes that Habitat does,” she said. “Those classes put homeowners on a path to having the knowledge that’s necessary to understand what they’re doing for themselves and the investment (of owning a home).”
A new chapter
Mary is scheduled to close on her 1400-square-foot, 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom home in Silver Pines Pointe, in the Pine Hills community of Orlando, in June.
She had some advice for aspiring homeowners who may have the “wrong outlook” on homeownership:
“Sometimes people feel like they have to have a big, fashionable home,” she said. “Don’t try to keep up with Joneses. As long as you’ve got a safe, secure home, it makes no difference where it is or how big it is.”
She’s already been getting to know her future neighbors while doing her sweat equity volunteer hours. They are planning to have a cookout to celebrate the Fourth of July.
She can’t wait to have her sons, her grandkids, and her great-grandkids over to visit.
“I’m finally going to have my home and my freedom that I’ve been looking for for a long time,” she said.
Apply for Homeownership: Habitat Orlando & Osceola offers energy-efficient three- or four-bedroom homes, customizable options and affordable mortgages. Learn more and apply >>
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