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Making a House a Home - A Labor of Love

Posted by Wayne Maloney, Communications Coordinator, USDA Office of Communications in Rural
Jun 28, 2013
First time homeowner, 76 year old Carol McCormack Arentz with Tom Fern, State Director for USDA Rural Development in Kentucky. USDA photo.
First time homeowner, 76 year old Carol McCormack Arentz with Tom Fern, State Director for USDA Rural Development in Kentucky. USDA photo.

June is Homeownership Month.  Today we are sharing a first person account of a 76-year old Kentucky resident who used USDA’s home loan program to purchase her first home.  She submitted this account through the USDA Rural Development Kentucky State Office and we are sharing it so that others who are interested will better understand the steps that must be taken before closing. USDA has helped rural residents purchase homes since 1949. Since the start of the Obama Administration, USDA Direct and Guaranteed home loan programs have helped more than 650,000 rural residents buy houses.   Each buyer has a story.  Here is one of them.

By Carol McCormack Arentz, McCreary County, Kentucky

Having nowhere to be at a certain time today and nothing immediate on the agenda, I decided to write my story on buying a house through USDA. Not only in buying a house but in having one built. Now to me a house is just that until you move into it, then it becomes home.

All women I believe when they are little girls dream that someday they will have their own little house. It begins when they get their first dollhouse, or when they read their first fairy tale. Now that may be a two bedroom cottage or a mansion. My first dream was the latter. I wanted a seven bedroom, seven bath, family room, music room, library, dining room and kitchen. That is when my grandmother told me "It is ok to dream, but remember reality." The reality was I would never get that seven bedroom house. Thank you, Lord.

Then, many years later I moved to Kentucky and put in my application with the Experience works program. This is a federally funded program for senior citizens who are low income and who may need training or additional training to get a job. My training was in different places. One of the agencies I was placed with was the McCreary County Community Housing Development.

They work with Southern Tier Housing and Kentucky Highland Investment Corporation, to either repair homes, or possibly get a new house for people with low or very low income. My job is to take applications for one or the other; answer the phone and also questions when they arise. I was not aware that such a program was available. From here on out, it becomes a different story.

After listening to me at least once a week for over a month, saying I should put in my application for a loan to get a house and all the reasons why I hadn't, Leah a lady I work with from Southern Tier Housing opened the desk drawer and pulled out an application. This was on Dec. 21, 2011.

This was the first step towards seeing if I would qualify. Part of this step is a credit check and if I fit into the income guidelines. LO and Behold I qualified, with some minor problems I needed to clear up on my credit report. When this was done the application was then sent to the USDA.

Believe me these people are very thorough. This process led to a great deal of self-evaluation for me. It seem like every time I was in the middle of something at work, the phone would ring saying the agency needed more information. Again, my fault for not having all the information needed in the beginning.  Finally! All the paper work was in and the ball could get rolling.

April, 2012: I have found the piece of property I want: almost an acre and a half of land, backing up to the Daniel Boone National Forest. There are only four other residence on the street. A friend and I have gone out and tied red ribbon on the Dogwood trees which I don't want cut down. I hope to do only the amount of cutting that is necessary to place the house, leaving everything as close to nature as possible. My house plans are picked out -- excited to share these with friends and family. A three bedroom, 2 bath home. In my mind, the exterior is a white house, light gray roof, black shutters and a bright RED door.

Have been able to get a blueprint of the house and will be taking this with me to show to friends and family. Finally, believe that this is what My Higher Power wants for me.

I am 76 years old.  People who are buying a home for the first time are required to take a home ownership course. This course is offered on-line or in a classroom setting. I went for on-line so I could go at my own speed. At the end of the course you are given a certificate of completion. Another step in becoming a home owner.

The contractor broke ground today, December 13, 2012. The work has begun. How these men work in the cold and sometimes the rain is beyond me. During December I go out about once a week to see how things progress.

January and February is a different matter, did not go out as often last month. Don't want to make a nuisance of myself and get in peoples way.  Did get a few pictures.  Sometime, in the latter part of January I ask if the master bedroom wall could be moved to make a larger bedroom. Due to the fact that the supports were already in, that was not possible. The general contractor called me back a little later and suggested that if I went to a two bedroom it would give me a larger bedroom and bath. My decision needed to be made within 24 hours so that work would not be held up. The decision was made to go this route. USDA was then contacted to get their approval for same. I have now gone from a three bedroom to a two. I feel I am going to be happier with this decision.

It is now March and it is really beginning to look like a house. I tell the boys, they are really men but anyway, I tell them to build it as if they were doing it for their mother or grandmother. We joke and cut up about these remarks. They are a good group of fellows.

Maybe it is just me but when I go out to the site and walk into the house there is a feeling of love about it. These men have put their heart into building this house. Words cannot describe the feeling. They give it their all.

It is April 11th. Final closing is today. We do the walk through, and I then sign the papers and receive the keys. It is now mine. There is still the feeling of love. By the 15th I am completely moved in, and this house is now a home. To try to describe how grateful I am to others is difficult.

There are many people involved in the process of buying a home. My thoughts on this matter are that they want you to succeed and are willing, if at all possible to help you and guide you throughout the whole process.

There are many that I would like to give my thanks to. But it's almost impossible. But first and foremost my thanks goes to my Higher Power. For the rest THANK YOU for the chance, for the love and the pride you take into helping others.

June is Homeownership Month.  To find out how USDA’s programs can help you become a homeowner, click here.

Category/Topic: Rural