Mike and Jeanette Chappell had looked throughout the summer of 2015 for a house to raise their six children.
They looked at about eight properties in Cypress, Buena Park, Garden Grove and Santa Ana – houses that were too small, in great need of repair or just beyond their budget.
Discouraged and stressed out from their efforts, they were about to give up and put off their search for another year.
But a Realtor from NeighborWorks OC had another place to show them in Fullerton.
They remembered pulling up to the driveway on Santa Clara Avenue, debating whether to go in.
“Let’s just go in,” Jeanette recalled saying. “There’s no commitment.”
They overcame their doubts and looked inside.
They liked the character and charm of the house, built in 1956. It had molding around the doorways, wainscoting in the bathroom and wooden floors that creaked just a bit.
“We had walked into a lot of houses that felt either stale or rundown,” Mike said. “This one just felt like home.”
“We both walked out after looking at it and it felt like a house we could make home,” Jeanette said. “I walked out and I said, ‘I love it.’ There is something about that house. It has so much character. “
It seemed to them that a dream was about to come true.
Mike, 36, and Jeanette, 37, had both attended Westminster High School, a grade apart. After high school, they found
themselves active in the same Catholic organization.
They saw each other at events, started dating and got married. The first of their six children, Miriam, was born 12 years ago.
The Chappells, whose parents had never owned homes, rented a series of apartments and then a house in Costa Mesa.
They had concerns, Jeanette said, about the “health and safety” of rentals, about the potential for rent increases and about the risk of being forced to move in the event of a sale.
“One reason we pursued looking into home buying is because renting is very precarious and impermanent and it makes one depend on the landlord,” she said.
Mike, a graduate of UCI, attended a NeighborWorks OC workshop in 2009 after he and his wife searched for programs that helped first-time homebuyers. At the time, the Chappells had four children.
They had become attached to their old neighborhood in Costa Mesa but couldn’t find anything in the area below $400,000 – their price-point.
“We’re in a grey area,” Jeanette said. “My income is above us needing assistance of any sort,” said Mike, who teaches Spanish at Fountain Valley High School, “but below what we’d need to easily go out and save up and easily make a down payment and buy a house.”
Mike decided to take another home-buying seminar at NeighborWorks in June 2015. By this time, there were six little Chappells.
Working with a NeighborWorks OC HomeOwnership coach, they determined what they could afford.
In August, they saw the house in Fullerton, listed at $499,000, which was over their $475,000 budget.
Worried about the competitive market they faced, they wrote a letter to the owner, who by chance met the Chappells as they were looking at her home.
“We said we were grateful to have met her and to see the space that she and her family had called home,” Mike said.
“And that they loved and took care of and took pride in,” Jeanette said. “And that we would be grateful to be able to carry that on, the love for this house and raising our kids here.”
Meanwhile, NeighborWorks OC put together a package that would make the house affordable.
The Chappells offered $475,000, but accepted a $487,000 counter-offer, putting together a package that included a $417,000 first mortgage, a $57,500 second from CalHome and a three percent down payment. The CalHome loan, with payments deferred over its 30-year term, made the difference for them.
“It was a miracle that it worked out,” said Jeanette, a stay-at-home mom who studied sociology and music at Cal State Long Beach. “We literally would not have been able to do this without NeighborWorks OC.”
The sale closed on Oct. 9, 2015.
Dec. 12 marked two months since they had moved in with their six children: Miriam, 12, Leah, 10, John, 8, Audrey, 6, Jude, 4, and Joshua, 1.
Each of the children likes the three-bedroom, two-bath house for different reasons, Mike said.The house, in the Troy High School attendance area, has about 1,220 square feet, a large driveway, a backyard, side yards and a swing set.
“There are colors on the walls. It’s not all white,” Miriam said. “I like the color in my room. It’s green.”
Mike, who plays guitar, and Jeanette, who plays flute, look forward to their kids filling the house with music and art projects.
Both said the main lesson they learned from their experience with NeighborWorks OC and with home buying is gratitude.
“The gratitude to have that privilege to see that God provides,” Jeanette said.
“Because of what we learned, the gratitude,” Mike said, “we can appreciate the house in a different way.”
Photographs by Julie Leopo