'I Wanted It'

Maggie Parks at home in Milo-Grogan.

Maggie Parks at home in Milo-Grogan.

A Home Buyer’s Message Of Diligence, Sacrifice, Discipline

To make ends meet, Maggie Parks has sometimes worked two jobs a week, as many as 75 hours -- all standing up, typical of the food services industry that has employed her 25 years.

Manager of a call center cafeteria in Whitehall, Parks organizes hot meals like a Western Omelette breakfast or Sweet & Sour Chicken lunch. Until recently, at the end of a 4 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. shift, the Brookhaven High School graduate headed to her small apartment in North Linden.

In March, the single mom of a 13-year-old middle school student came to a conclusion: “I’ve got to do better for my child (Bryan) and his future.”

That is when she turned to Homeport. She took a “Home Readiness” class on March 14. On Sept. 12, six months and several courses and counseling sessions later, and with some good timing, she purchased a Homeport owned home near Cleveland and East Fifth avenues in Milo-Grogan.

“You either want it or you don’t, and I wanted it,” Parks said.

Maggie Parks at her home closing with Homeport’s Brenda Moncrief, right, and Realtor Melle Eldridge of Coldwell Banker/King Thompson, left.

Maggie Parks at her home closing with Homeport’s Brenda Moncrief, right, and Realtor Melle Eldridge of Coldwell Banker/King Thompson, left.

Homeport Lease-Option Program Manager Brenda Moncrief was introduced to Parks by Homeport Senior Counseling Advisor Layden Hale on July 24.

Homeport had four homes in its lease-option portfolio that had become vacant, and Hale thought Parks could be an excellent candidate to buy one of them, having cleaned up debt, improved her credit scores and successfully trimmed her spending habits to regularly save cash.

“She cried when I told her about the home, a four-bedroom, 1 ½ bath home,” Moncrief recalled. “She could not bring herself to believe there was an affordable and decent home just for her and her family.”

The key to getting to the goal of homeownership came with the classes and one-on-ones with Hale, Parks said.

The Homeport Home Readiness course is meant to keep potential homebuyers honest in assessing whether they are ready to own a home. Hale pulled Parks credits scores after a class and told her they were too low to qualify for a mortgage.

But Parks was on a journey, listened closely and followed Hale’s advice. He told her she had sufficient income versus her monthly bills, that she had to set up re-payment plans for medical bills and trim back credit card debt. He also wanted her to commit to saving $50 a month.

After four months with Homeport’s directions, the Experian score for Parks had jumped 74 points to meet the level to qualify for a mortgage. Her TransUnion score had increased to an even higher level.

Parks said savings meant spending less.

“I had a habit of spending frivolously,” she said. Meals out after long work days were cut. Even son Bryan participated, foregoing a computer game he had his eyes on after his mother said no.

Maggie Parks and son Bryan on steps outside their new home.

Maggie Parks and son Bryan on steps outside their new home.

“I know. ‘We’re buying a house,’” he said, repeating his mother’s mantra.

Homeport Housing Advisory Counselor Isabel Giles reviewed the terms of the mortgage that Parks eventually used to purchase the home.

“We make sure they not only buy a house but have a payment they can make, that it is affordable to them,” Giles said.

Parks’ two-story 1,430 square foot, $49,000 house on Starr Avenue carries a monthly mortgage of $412 -- versus her previous rent payment of $495 for a 700 square foot apartment.

Homeport’s Hale provided Parks some parting advice on becoming a homeowner.

“Keep watching your expenses to make sure that you always have affordability to make your mortgage payments, car payment, other credit debt and utilities,” Hale said. “This will protect your credit score.”

Parks appreciates the direction from start to finish from Homeport, but said ultimately it is up to the potential home buyer.

“I wanted more and I wanted better. I had a goal, a mission and I was going to get it,” Parks said. “I wanted it.”