Saul smiled. His eyes shinned behind the folds of his smile. He still couldn’t believe it. His dream of owning a home had just become a reality.
But Saul’s journey was not easy.
For more than 20 years Saul worked as a seasonal landscaper in Chicago’s suburbs. As soon as it was warm enough to work, Saul would begin redesigning Chicago’s intricate lawns and gardens. As the days grew longer, so did his workday. Every night he would return home… to a rented house.
Saul wanted more. He dreamed of being a homeowner.
As a seasonal worker, Saul knew that the odds were stacked against him. It was discouraging. But he didn’t want to give up hope.
When he first heard he might qualify for help to buy a home through the Chicago Housing Authority’s Choose to Own program, Saul jumped at the opportunity. He was referred to Alma Hernandez, a Pre-Purchase Counselor at the Spanish Coalition for Housing, an NCLR Affiliate.
Together with Alma, Saul’s family began his three-year journey home.
As a seasonal worker, Saul’s opportunity to buy a home was limited by the time of year when he worked. But buying a home takes time. It can take months to qualify, negotiate, and close on a home loan.
For two years, Alma and Saul fought the clock again and again. By the time they realized the first bank they approached did not work with the Choose to Own program, winter had already set in. Saul’s window of opportunity had closed.
The second bank seemed promising. Saul and his family had found the perfect home. Then winter hit again. His employment season had ended. Saul and Alma were not able to get around the red tape in time. His loan was denied. He needed to be actively employed to qualify.
Saul was heartbroken.
“It was hard, seeing [my family] dream about each house. Imagining putting a little office here, or a desk there, and then… nothing,” Saul explains.
His smile begins to fade. The shine in his eyes is lost as he remembers that he almost quit. After years of trying, most people would have given up. Alma did not let Saul give up.
“It’s because of her that I didn’t give up,” says Saul.
Convinced to make it work, Alma and Saul tried one more time. This time, they chose to work with a small lender who understood Saul’s challenges and had worked with other first-time homebuyers.
The stars finally aligned. Saul found a great house for his family within his budget in a calm neighborhood. His loan was approved.
Saul had just become a homeowner.
Saul credits Alma, who he now “trusts as if she were family” for this achievement. Her patience and persistence helped him get there.
Thanks to the assistance he receives through the Choose to Own program, Saul’s mortgage payment is now one-third of what he used to pay in rent.
To add to the excitement, a week before closing on the house, Saul’s wife learned that she had passed the U.S. citizenship test. Now the whole family are U.S. citizens, own their own home, and are on their way to attaining long-term stability. They are living the American Dream.
Saul’s smile is back. His eyes are shinning once again. He couldn’t be happier.
NCLR thanks the Spanish Coalition for Housing for their commitment to helping Latinos achieve the American Dream and for contributing this story.