Thomeka Ray had a picture in her mind of what she wanted in her new home. There should be a place for her six-year-old daughter to play out back. Each of her children would have their own room. She needed a basement and a master bathroom was a must.
“I went to so many houses. They were nice houses, but some of the neighborhoods weren’t what I was looking for,” said Ray, who bought her Deanwood area home in October 2016. “You have this vision of what you want. I wanted front and back yards, but I loved the inside of this house.”
Ray purchased her own home with help from the District of Columbia Housing Authority’s Homeownership Assistance Program. She learned of the program nearly 15 years ago. She attended a briefing at that time and heard that good credit was a requirement to purchase a home.
“I didn’t pursue it. I had to work on my credit,” she said.
Ray didn’t immediately start working on her credit, but a few years ago she decided it was time. She began calling her creditors and making payment arrangements.
“I was slowly working on it. It was something I wanted to do, but I wasn’t rushing. I was taking my time, making sure I was going to be ready for it,” said Ray, who received a raise from her job that helped her efforts. Ray is a 17-year employee of Giant grocery stores.
Little by little she paid off all of her debts.
“Once my credit was good, I went back to 1133 North Capitol Street (DCHA’s main office) and asked about the program again,” Ray said.
That is when she met Alice Revel, a homeownership coordinator with DCHA.
“I followed what she told me to do, step by step,” Ray said.
She enrolled in the homebuyer program with University Legal Services, a community-based organization that is supported by the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development. There the staff helped Ray complete her Home Purchase Assistance Program application that offers assistance to first-time homebuyers in D.C. They checked her credit. They gathered all of her employment information. She had to attend a group interview and two eight-hour classes with the program.
“They talked about what to expect when you become a homeowner, how to pick your insurance, how to pick your home,” she listed.
Once she had completed all of the courses, she was given a certificate that she immediately brought to Revel. It was time to pick a realtor and start looking for a home.
“She was on the ball. You’d give her the information and she’d run with it,” said Revel.
Ray agreed. “I was not playing. Once I get my mind set on something, I’m going to go for it,” she said.
Ray’s landlord of 13 years owned several properties. He introduced her to his trusted realtor to help get her started.
“She was an older lady who didn’t move on my speed sometimes, but she was on point,” said Ray. “She had to slow me down sometimes. You don’t want to take the first thing you see. You have to shop around and shop around.”
Her realtor took her to houses all over the city. She weighed the neighborhoods and the benefits of the houses. She made sure the house she picked would accommodate her family’s needs. At first, she was against the idea of a rowhouse, but when she stepped into her home for the first time, she knew it was a perfect fit—a kitchen full of cabinets, a carport, room for the kids and more.
“The paperwork was intense. I think I had three inspections,” she said. “The house kept failing over little things, but I’m glad [the inspector] found them. You never know what could happen. But finally we got through it.”
It was tough moving from the old home to the new one, too. There was a lot she had to pack and even more that she had to throw out. She wanted to start fresh with a home she owned. She also wanted to be prepared so she set up a savings account that automatically adds money from each paycheck, in case of an emergency.
“Ms. Ray was a joy to work with, and I will always remember the smile on her face and the gratitude she displayed when she settled on her new home,” Revel said.
For anyone considering applying to DCHA’s homeownership programs Ray had some advice: Get your credit straight and keep it straight. Keep up a good work ethic. Be prepared for a lot of phone calls. If you don’t understand something, ask questions. Make sure you get a good realtor and a good inspector.
“I had to teach myself along the way,” she said. “If I can do it, they can do it.”
She added, “As long as they have Alice, they’ll be good.”
But all the work is worth it.
Ray used to share her bedroom with her six-year-old, but now all three of her children have their own room.
“She wanted bunkbeds, so I got her bunkbeds,” said Ray of her youngest.
Her 19-year-old daughter and 22-year-old son love their rooms, too, she said.
“I always wanted a bathroom in my bedroom,” Ray said. “I finally got that!”