Breaking Barriers: A Journey from Foster Care to First-Time Homebuyer

“I have never had a sense of home, I never thought I would buy a house. Now that I have it, it still feels like a dream,” is what Elliot, a recent first-time homebuyer, had to say as they have embarked on this new journey.

Elliot, a proud Georgian, had grown up in the foster care system at a young age after their parents passed away. After spending time in South Georgia’s College Park, or one of the sea chain islands in Helena Park, they wanted to set roots along the way.

As a queer-disabled, multi-racial person, thoroughly researching and comparing options via spreadsheets (shoutout to their Master’s Degree in Library Science), from social and economic policies, finding community, accessing public transportation and healthcare, and affordability was key to finding their new home. Elliot had their eyes set on Minnesota. Additionally, Elliot appreciated how welcoming many Minnesotans are to refugees and being fairly inclusive. Although some people may have their own image of Minnesota, they have been able to see how Minnesota can embody the spirit of “give me your tired, your poor.”

Today, Elliot is getting settled into their new home on the East Side of Saint Paul thanks to a culmination of quality friendships, advice from sincere professionals, and believing that they are deserving of a place to call home. You can read more about their story below:

How has the transition to Minnesota been?

While I love my hometown’s food, the people, etcetera, it turns out I love the winter. I went out in shorts in the city of Atlanta’s 2014 snowmageddon snowfall. The roads were deemed being in emergency conditions, they had to remove cars, Georgia was not prepared for that. In Minnesota, they seem to take more caution and be more prepared.

I brought Marcus [you can read about his story here!] and encouraged three of my other friends to come to Minnesota. Marcus and I have been friends for 11 years. I was a sophomore in college when we narrowed down where we were going to be be moving to with darts. Minnesota won 4-0 in the game. Marcus was a HUGE part of housing searching process. I got a grant from the city of Saint Paul for my down payment, on the condition that I stay in my house for 10 years. I now live on the border of Phalen. I got shopping in Maplewood. I can go to Minneapolis for day trips. It’s been great. 

How did you get connected with your ABC Realty Realtor, Seanne Thomas?

My model city advisor gave me a list of [realtor] names. I have a huge tenant to support Black and women-owned businesses. ABC supports the things that I want in my community, because they are a part of that. Out of the list, I chose Seanne who also is a Phalen girlie which is wonderful. 

I grew up bouncing houses in foster care since I was 4. I have never had a sense of home, never thought I’d buy a house. Almost as if it was out of reach. I was waitlisted for the Saint Paul grant program, where you have 30 days to complete financial education coaching. When Seanne and I started the housing search we viewed 16 houses in three weeks. I signed a work contract at the beginning of August and by the beginning of September, even though it was a rough market, we were able to make things start to happen. Everything happened kind of fast but I’m glad it got me to where I am today. 

Tell us about your new home. 

It was built in 1925. I’m trying to restore as much of it as I can. I didn’t know what to do with myself [upon moving], but Seanne gave an idea of the nearby restaurants, the community, and overall helpful tips as someone who knew nothing about the housing process here. 

After I got the keys in October, unfortunately in the freak accident of the universe, my boiler went out 10 days after. We were winterizing things as much as possible. I ended up moving in on December 16th and I never thought I would ever have a home. I never thought I’d be in the wealth class of homeownership. Now that I have it I’m going to put apple trees down. It still feels like a dream.

I work for the state, have lovely access to public transportation, and my cat. It’s a good city. The neighborhood is great, despite being disabled, I’m a trans non-binary, disabled person in America that has been given the opportunity to live a life here.

Any piece of advice for other first-time home buyers?

It’s always going to cost more money than just the mortgage. Your home may not be perfect the first-time. There are tool libraries that work between business hours, use them. Youtube is your friend. Save up at least 200 dollars if you want to patch up anything. Enjoy moving, enjoy living before you try to perfect the house. Don’t skip your home inspection!

Which is your favorite room?

My nomadic foster life led me to collecting. I took the door off of a closet and put bookshelves, slowly turning it into a library. I am currently reading a book called The Poison Heart, it’s about an African-American girl whose family leaves her a property, and a book on herbs.

ABC Realty would like to give a big thank you to Elliot and wish them a prosperous time as they relish in this moment in time. We can use this empowering story as a reminder to lean on your community and their resources. They can often times play a crucial role in providing the necessary guidance and support throughout the homebuying process. From financial assistance programs to accessibility resources, ABC realty can ensure you have the tools, knowledge, and options necessary needed to make the best decision in securing your new home.


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