When Make Room first met Karl, Courtney and Aubrey (Courtney’s now 9-year-old daughter) two years ago in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, they were renting a two-bedroom apartment for $1,200 a month – a monthly cost that ate up over 30% of their dual income and left them struggling to make ends meet.
“When Make Room showed up at our door – strangers who wanted to help – it gave us an awareness of the situation we were in and we started looking at things differently. We became enthusiastic about finding a solution for ourselves.”
Last month, they closed on the purchase of their first home – a 1,346 square foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom house in Baton Rouge Parish, just outside of the Baton Rouge city limits. They chose a house with an extra bedroom for the baby they are hoping to have someday and have been able to shave over $200 off their monthly expenses with a monthly mortgage payment of $976.
How did they do it? A combination of goal-setting, research, making tradeoffs and a rural development loan with a 0% down payment.
Before they were ready to house hunt, there was a longer process of preparing themselves to be homeowners. It started with educating themselves about the home-buying process. Courtney started with the basics of building her credit– first, opening a checking account and then building her credit over a two-year period.
“It takes time. You have to be patient and you have to sacrifice,” Courtney advises. “We still had a life, we still went to movies – but part of me wanted to go back to school and that meant taking on student loans. I couldn’t go.”
Having honest conversations with each other about their finances was also a key to staying focused on their priorities. Karl and Courtney put off a wedding, for the time being, to keep their expenses in check and buy a home.
“Be transparent,” Karl explains, “Be willing to look each other in the eye and figure out where you’re falling short. If you can sit down and figure it out, you keep hope alive. You keep trying.”
Courtney also stressed the importance of continuing to try. “Being low-income, you can research what is available and find knowledgeable people who can help you,” Courtney explains. After the first lender that Courtney reached out to wasn’t being responsive, Courtney found another lender through her realtor. “Trying different ways helped me find a lender who was able to talk to me for over an hour and take me step-by-step to understand how to do it.”
Once they knew they could get the financing, they started looking at houses in their price range. They found homes they could afford, but that had been flooded in the storms that came through Baton Rouge in 2016 and required flood insurance that would cost another $6,000 per year. They looked in other areas, but “had to scale back on what they wanted,” Karl explained. “We found a great house, but you have to sacrifice something.”
Courtney agreed, “We became willing, for our first house, to get into something we could grow out of.”