From GOAL to Graduate: Michelle’s Journey to Homeownership

Michelle, a recent graduate of New Hampshire Housing's GOAL Program, stands in front of her condominium.

Michelle, a recent graduate of New Hampshire Housing’s GOAL Program, stands in front of her condominium.

Michelle is a proud homeowner. As you take a tour of her new condominium, she shows you the basement that she transformed into a brightly-colored playroom for her ten year old daughter. She talks about how she caulked her bulkhead by herself; found a new bathroom countertop on clearance; and brightened up her living room by painting accent walls.

It’s very different from her situation six years ago, when she was receiving $500 a month in state assistance, living with her mother, and waiting for rental assistance through the Housing Choice Voucher program, which provides rental subsidies to low-income families. She recalls not wanting to go on state assistance, but swallowing her pride and asking for help out of necessity.

“I wanted to be better than that,” she said. In an effort to better her situation, she worked and went to school when she wasn’t busy caring for her daughter.

It was during this time that Michelle first heard about the GOAL Program from a classmate. Housing Choice Voucher participants who increase their earnings receive a lower subsidy and have to pay more of their rent; but, in the GOAL Program, most of that increase goes into an escrow account to help save for goals like post-secondary education and homeownership. She joined, started saving, and set her sights on homeownership.

Through GOAL Michelle learned financial management skills to budget and track where she was spending her money. When she reflects on her experience today, she said the skills she learned through the GOAL program made it possible for her to get ahead.

“It was hard because I was never one to sit and write every little thing I spent,” she said. She eventually realized it was a skill she needed in order to reach homeownership and make it an affordable possibility. Today she still saves her receipts and goes through them to track her spending.

In addition to the skills she learned, Michelle remembers the support of her GOAL coach. GOAL coaches provide support, resources, and direction to families so they can continue to work successfully toward their goals. She said it was helpful to have someone to hold her accountable to deadlines; but most importantly, she remembers her GOAL coach’s help and guidance, which she called “inspiring.”

That guidance and support was especially crucial when her plans to become a homeowner hit a roadblock. Two years ago she began taking steps to get pre-approved, but she found she needed to take care of some of her debt and improve her credit first.

“I was sitting here and I thought it was never going to happen,” she said of her homeownership dream. After spending time clearing her debt and improving her credit, she was pre-approved and began the search for her home. She eventually found the condominium she lives in today, which is in a neighborhood where she has found supportive, helpful neighbors and a safe environment for her 10 year old daughter.

She used her Individual Development Account, an account that matches $3 for every $1 saved up to a maximum of $2,000, to help with her downpayment. After moving into her new home in August 2012, her escrow, which was also set up through the GOAL Program, gave her the ability to fill her oil tank and make initial home repairs and improvements like painting and fixing her leaking bulkhead.

Michelle officially graduated from the GOAL Program in September 2012—about six years after her journey started. She looks back on her experience and knows it made her a stronger person. “Being in control and being able to realize where your finances are going—it’s a big factor in confidence,” she said. “I had the program to help and guide me, and prepare me to where I am today.”

Today, Michelle works as a dental assistant and would like to go back to school to become a dental hygienist. She is looking forward to continually improving her home little by little so it reflects her and her daughter’s style.

“At this point it finally feels like home,” she said.

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