News

February 22, 2016

Breaking Barriers to Homeownership

Charity Burseth knows the meaning of determination. 

She pushed herself to undergo months of physical therapy so that she could walk at her high school graduation.

She moved away from home to go to college at UC Riverside, where she lived independently and obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

In January 2016, Charity, who uses a wheelchair because of a genetic bone condition, achieved her goal of homeownership when she got the keys to a condo in Anaheim that she now calls home and moved in.

“I’m a big believer in the idea that you should not limit yourself,” she said. “Because of my disability, I face obstacles all the time. I’ve always not let those things get in the way. I’ve tried to always do what I can to the best of my ability, like purchasing a home or going away to school. People say, ‘That’s a big thing. Aren’t you scared?’ But if you think like that you won’t do it. You really can’t put a ceiling on yourself.”

Charity, 34, grew up in Huntington Beach and in Long Beach, where she graduated from Jordan High. Charity had been born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic disorder that made her childhood bones brittle. As a result, she suffered some 30 bone breaks, had four surgeries at CHOC Children’s Hospital and in elementary school began using a wheelchair. Yet even as a child, others saw something special in her. As a third-grader, she was honored by the Orange County chapter of the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation. 

After high school, Charity was admitted to UC Riverside, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She lived in dorms her first year, then in off-campus apartments.

Following college graduation in 2005, she moved back in with her parents for several years, went to work and began driving in 2007, using a Honda Civic with special hand controls. For about four years, she lived with a series of roommates, but repeatedly experienced the frustration that many young renters do. Over and over, she found herself seeking new roommates and moving from apartment to apartment. In her last apartment, Charity’s split of the rent was $1,045, and she was paying down college loans, too.

When she got word that she was losing another roommate last spring, Charity decided to look into homeownership. Charity works as bill review analyst for an insurance company. A co-worker told her about the nonprofit NeighborWorks Orange County, which guides low-to-moderate income homebuyers toward their goals of ownership, teaches the basics of financial fitness and offers realty and lending services.

Charity took an eight-hour class in homeownership at NeighborWorks Orange County in August.

“They give a lot of advice in the class,” she said. ”They said you really need to know what you want and what you’re looking for, and to really be sure. It has to be something that you love, and you can see yourself there.”

Within a day or two, she met with a homeownership advisor to determine next steps in her quest to buy a home.  Charity had a good work history and good credit.  NeighborWorks connected her with a trusted Realtor. 

Charity figures she looked at about 10 possible homes. She needed something on the ground floor, readily accessible for a wheelchair. 

After two months, her Realtor located a condo in Anaheim that met Charity’s needs. It was a first-floor unit with a low first step at the entryway, but it also had wide doorways connecting the kitchen, living area, bedroom and bathroom. 

Charity decided this was the place for her. It had a patio, fireplace, stainless steel refrigerator and beautiful hardwood floors.  Built in 1990, the one-bedroom, one-bath condo has nearly 800 square feet. 

The “friendly experts” at NeighborWorks helped her put together a finance package for the $245,000 purchase. 

It included a $57,500 deferred payment CalHome loan, a forgivable 3-1 matching grant of $15,000 through the WISH (Workforce Initiative Subsidy for Homeownership) program for low-income homebuyers, and a $165,000 first mortgage. With her down payment and deposits, Charity came in with more than $10,000. Her final college loan payment was in sight.

“It’s a big risk,” Charity said of her decision to become a first-time homebuyer. “You’re betting on your future income. I prayed about it. I thought, “My God, this is what I want to do. If You make it possible, all the better.’”

Sometimes in escrows things go smoothly. In Charity’s case, there was a hitch. The sale was supposed to close Dec. 28. Then it was supposed to close Jan. 8. Charity had to be out of her apartment by Jan. 12, or face a rent payment of $149 a day. 

As it turned out, Charity didn’t get her keys until a week after that deadline. But NeighborWorks did something extraordinary. It decided to reimburse Charity for the extra week’s worth of rent payments.

Moving day finally arrived, and friends were on hand to help. The former owners left behind some wall art that said, “Welcome to your new home.” A former roommate gave her a wall decoration that says, “Love makes a house a home.”

Working with her boyfriend of the past two years, Charity added some touches of her own, adding new curtains, new faucets and new doorknobs. Movie videos – and the condo’s two TVs – hint at her interest in watching films, like Disney productions, comedies and the Harry Potter series. 

She had the walls, which had been brown, painted to reflect her love of blue. They’re a shade of aqua called “Adonis” and a variation of white called “Cotton Blossom.”

Photos of those dear to her and of some of the trips she has made decorate the living room. You’ll see her mom Lorraine, sisters Megan and Autumn, brother David and boyfriend Michael Sy. You’ll see a shot of Charity and her dad Mark at Mt. Rushmore. 

“I feel a sense of accomplishment,” Charity said. “Right now I am really on my own. I am completely independent – officially an adult.”

In addition to her love of movies and travel, Charity has also been an active member of Mariners Church in Irvine, where she has led Bible studies and was involved in a singles ministry.

“I’m grateful to NeighborWorks and to God,” Charity said. “He blessed me to come across this program. I pursued something, and I’m blessed with the opportunity to have succeeded.”

Charity sees her purchase as another milestone in adulthood. She’s looking forward to marriage, and having kids. 

“This is the beginning, a starting off point,” Charity said. “I think it’s definitely a big stepping stone to independence and to the next step – marriage and eventually having children.”