A Two-Generation Success Story

  Essie and Kanica James on Essie’s front porch on Ohio Avenue.

Essie and Kanica James on Essie’s front porch on Ohio Avenue.

Daughter Buys Lease-Option Home, Inspires Mother To Do The Same

This is a story of a mother driving a daughter to success, and the daughter challenging her mom to join her in it. The result: both became homeowners in 2018 through Homeport’s lease-option program.

“It was important for me to grab my mother, to come with me,” Kanica James said. “She wasn’t thinking about buying it. I kept saying, ‘It makes sense. Take advantage of what is available.’”

Kanica said she grew up in poverty and remembers her mother, Essie, stressing how education could make a difference between working for someone or being her own boss.

In 2001, Kanica, a young mother at the time, leased a house in Homeport’s Kingsford Homes scattered site community on the West Side of Columbus. Lease-option homes, under terms of their financing, can be purchased from Homeport once they are 15 years old.

“I moved into the home when it was first built. It was always a dream of mine to own it. What I heard was that I had an opportunity to get the home, to have a thousand-dollar credit for each year lived in it,” Kanica said.

By October 2009, Kanica graduated from DeVry University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, with a concentration in health services management. She subsequently got a master’s degree from DeVry’s Keller Graduate School, also with a health field focus.

“I knew I wanted to be in the medical field, not sure where, but it was a passion based on my father’s and grandfather’s health conditions,” she said.

  Kanica James, left, came to her mother’s house closing. On right is Homeport Lease-Option Program Manager Brenda Moncrief.

Kanica James, left, came to her mother’s house closing. On right is Homeport Lease-Option Program Manager Brenda Moncrief.

After the 15th year passed, Kanica inherited money that, together with savings, positioned her to be a homeowner. She reached out to Homeport Lease-Option Program Manager Brenda Moncrief and asked her what else she needed to do to close the deal.

Moncrief directed her to Homeport’s Housing Advisory Services Department and Kanica took homebuyer courses and other learning opportunities on credit, budgeting, home maintenance and financial fitness.

She also shored up her personal finances by becoming co-director of an agency caring for people with developmental disabilities.

In February of 2018, she closed on the home.

It was then that she took on another goal – getting her Mother, Essie, to purchase the 15-year-old home on South Ohio Avenue she had been leasing for nine years from Homeport.

“I knew the drill, so I decided to try to make the process as seamless and effortless as possible for her. There was freedom that came over me when I bought my house. It was an investment. Growing up in poverty . . . this was our way out. I wanted the same for her,” Kanica said.

Essie James said she too worked with Homeport’s Housing Advisory staff. But unlike her daughter, she had her doubts.

“I didn’t think I was ready. It’s kind of scary buying a home. I always thought you had to have money to buy a house, a significant amount of money. Kanica told me it was not what I thought,” Essie said.

“I did drag my feet a little bit,” Essie said. But she moved ahead once Kanica explained that her mortgage would probably be the same as rent and that, “‘you might not get this chance again.’”

  Essie James accepts at closing the keys to her home on Ohio Avenue.

Essie James accepts at closing the keys to her home on Ohio Avenue.

“I took every class Homeport offered, I did. Home readiness, home maintenance, financial fitness, credit and budgeting,” Essie said.

“She did it all,” said Isabel Giles, Homeport Loan Program Manager. “She just wanted to make sure she knew everything and complied with the purchase rules.”

Said Essie: “When it got to closing, I was scared . . . if something happens, ‘who do I call now?’ When you rent, you don’t have that much worry. Brenda (Moncrief at Homeport) said if I needed more help I could call. That they were not going to completely throw me away. I was glad to hear that.”

Moncrief wrote Kanica a note after the closing.

“Your encouragement to insist your mother buy her home along with you was a wonderful gift to you both,” she said.

When Essie James closed the end of September, she and her daughter became Homeport history. They are the first two-generation homeowners from Homeport’s lease-option program.

Essie, who works with her daughter, said there are no regrets. “It feels good, exciting. Sometimes I wonder if I can do this. I am just a little more responsible (with my spending). You have to monitor everything. It’s all on you.”