How to go "from homeless to homeowner" in 4 years - Generocity Philly


Mar. 21, 2016 12:49 pm

How to go “from homeless to homeowner” in 4 years

Philly resident Kate Stoler's recent Ignite Philly talk offered tips for buying a house, even when doing so seems impossible.

"I wish that owning a home was accessible to more hard-working people."

(Photo by Julie Zeglen)

“If you want to own a house, just fucking do it.”

That’s from Kate Stoler, a Philadelphia resident who talked about what it took for her to go “from homeless to homeowner” in about four years during last Thursday’s edition of Ignite Philly, the biannual lighting talk series featuring Philadelphians doing cool stuff.

Other examples of that cool stuff: Technologist Savannah Carr told us what it’s like to be the only female on a multi-state biking trip. (Hint: Getting your period isn’t pretty.) The city’s director of civic technology, Aaron Ogle, shared why it’s important for constituents to easily navigate their city’s website. Philly Reporter Juliana Reyes used her time to film the crowd cheering and jeering for an upcoming edition of her dream video series, dream d’oiseau.

Read more about the event

Stoler’s talk was one of the more personal of the night. She started by telling the crowd that she’s lived in 17 different places since moving to Philly. But in 2012, she was lost, she said. She had no job or money for rent, no friends left who could spare a room. 

However, “I’m really lucky that this happened to me in Philadelphia,” she said. “This city has a lot of resources available for people who have mental illness, substance abuse problems, and it’s also so cheap to live here that once I had addressed the issues that I had, I was able to start over from scratch pretty easily.”

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She then lived in a recovery home in Kensington, and once she had gained financial stability, she moved into a shared house. She was eventually able to rent her own apartment for $800 per month.

At this point, she knew she wanted to set down roots in the city she’d come to think of as her home. Homeownership seemed out of reach, though. So, she started doing her research, and within a few years, she bought her own home. Here are her tips for buying a house in Philadelphia:

  • Pretend you’re buying a home before you’re actually ready to do so. Get as much info as you can from realtors, insurance agents and banks; it’s free to do so.
  • Check out the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, which offers home purchase loans at competitive interest rates, down payment and closing cost assistance, and educational workshops to teach you how to maintain your homeownership, Stoler said.
  • Look into the grants available to first-time homeowners. Stoler specifically mentioned First Front Door but said there are several.
  • Don’t get private mortgage insurance. “As someone who’s coming back from Ground Zero financial- and employment-wise, I thought that I had to accept this, but I didn’t, and if I didn’t, no one should,” she said. “You just pay money for nothing, and it goes nowhere.”

“The point that I want to drive home here,” she said in conclusion, “is that I am just an average person, and with a little bit of determination and moxie and a ton of hope in this great city that we live in, I was able to achieve my dream of owning a home. So, if you want to own a house, just fucking do it.”

(Wanted to get that quote in there twice for emphasis.)


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