Tonya Williams knew the first thing she was going to do when she moved into her first home last weekend – drop to her knees and thank God for making homeownership a reality.
"It's exciting," Williams said in anticipation of her move. "Very exciting."
Williams is the first homeowner assisted from start to finish in the Prince George's County Department of Housing and Community Development's (DHCD) newest homeownership "Buy Suitland" program. Through the program, qualified buyers receive up to $40,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance for the purchase of their first home. The program offers homeowners a 0 percent interest loan and half of the loan is forgiven if the house remains the homeowner's primary residence for 15 years.
Williams, 51, an administrative assistant with the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority, is leaving the world of renting behind at a substantial savings. She will be paying $458 a month less in mortgage payments than the rent on her apartment in Suitland, where she's lived for 14 years.
Her new home is a two-bedroom, one-and-a-half bathroom townhouse. She purchased it through a short sale and the process took two months from her initial contact with DHCD to her signing papers at closing.
Williams also qualified for a loan to make home improvements [a new roof, remodeled kitchen, and a bathroom update along with termite treatment] to the house before she moved in.
Toward the end of moving day, June 30, an exhausted Williams only said, "It is nice."
"After renting most of my life, I'm sure I've paid for one or two houses by now in rent," Williams said. "Finally, a home of my own – my grandchildren can come over and play in the playground just out back."
William, who said she's been packed for a year, had attempted to purchase homes in the past with no success and had gotten to a point of shying away from the housing market.
"There [aren't] a whole lot of programs helping with down payment and closing costs," Williams said. However, those two areas are where the "Buy Suitland" program provided assistance.
"Oh wow, it was excellent," said Williams of the guidance and support she received from the county.
"Suitland is one of our target areas for the county executive's 'Transforming Neighborhoods Initiatives' with specific county resources dedicated to the area as well as a community anchored by the Suitland Metro station, the Suitland Federal Center and the planned mixed use of the Suitland Manor Redevelopment Project. It is an excellent location to purchase a foreclosed or short-sale property," said Eric Brown, DHCD director.
"Renters like Ms. Williams should seriously consider the benefits of homeownership and how our 'Buy Suitland' program can help."
Williams encourages those who have been thinking about purchasing a home but have become discouraged to consider the "Buy Suitland" program and to be patient.
"It's an overwhelming feeling," Williams said. "I am considered a homeowner."