Deborah Dunlap never thought she would own her own home.
She had been a customer of the District of Columbia Housing Authority for 32 years. She had a nice house where she raised her children. Her landlord’s family was like her own.
Then about 10 years ago Dunlap received a letter from Alice Revel, a homeownership coordinator with DCHA. That is when Dunlap began to plan her path to buying a home of her own through DCHA’s homeownership programs.
“[The homeownership program] helps people to really think about where you want to take yourself. Do you want to be in this program for the rest of your life or do you want to move on?” Dunlap said. “I said, ‘Move on!’”
Dunlap already had a good job working for a local law firm. She worked on her own to clean up her credit. One year she decided to use her entire tax return to pay off a lot of debt. What she couldn’t pay off, she put into special repayment plans.
“It was something I really wanted to do and I did it,” she said.
Once her credit was straightened out her first call was to Revel, who listed all of the things Dunlap would need to qualify for the program and purchase a house. Dunlap had most everything all ready to go, but she needed to take a first-time home buyers’ class from Lydia’s House and get a certificate to apply for the District’s Housing Purchase Assistance Program.
“The class prepares you for what you are about to get into: How their program works, as far as your bills what will change,” Dunlap said. “You are buying a home. You can’t call the rental office if you need something fixed. You have to pay for that yourself now. They want to prepare you for that.”
She received her certificate and then began the tedious task of searching for potential homes. Revel introduced Dunlap to a real estate agent. The two toured D.C. to find the right house.
“I didn’t want a home that needed things fixed …. I don’t have money like that. I told her I wanted a new home,” said Dunlap, whose realtor knew the perfect community being developed in Northeast. “She sent me there to see if I qualified. Thank God I was qualified for it. And we went from there.”
Dunlap was able to see her home being built from the ground up. She toured her house several times—starting when there were only stud skeletons where walls would eventually be. Then she was able to choose all features that would be included in her home, even the color of the marble countertops.
“I didn’t know they do that. I thought they built the homes and people go to the model and pick out the model they wanted. I didn’t know they were going to have me go through the whole process of it,” she said. “Everything in that house is like I designed it.”
While she enjoyed the process of seeing her home from design plans to fruition, the paperwork was overwhelming. She has advice for future home seekers.
“When [you’re] going through the process, the loan people are going to keep asking you for papers the same papers over and over again. Don’t get frustrated. You know what I’m saying? You have got to just keep a pile of the papers. They may ask you for your tax forms 50,000 times. Be ready. Don’t hold them up,” she said. “They are really trying to help you... Have faith.”
In June she broke the news to her landlord that she was moving out. She said the landlord and her family were so happy about her accomplishment.
“I have my own home. Brand new. I won’t have anything fixed for a minute, so I have to save up some money,” she said with a laugh. “I am happy for my grandkids. My kids grew up in a home, but now I have something to leave to my kids and my grandkids. It is something that is mine. I’m so happy about that.”