Fixin’ to Stay

Visitors gather at Deborah Wright

It’s 10 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and on the side of town where the sun had set just hours before, people are gathering at the beautiful home of Deborah Wright. Deborah has invited this group of diverse faces to learn about opportunities to renovate the home of their dreams through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 203K program.

I’m sure I hear tires screeching! Department of Housing and Urban Development, isn’t that HUD? You are absolutely correct. However, HUD offers more programs than the notoriously stereotype HUD homes. The 203K program is one of those other programs. Let me explain through a personal experience.

In August 2005, I made a bold decision–one that is unfathomable to many Jacksonians. I located a Realtor, got pre-approved for a loan by a lending agency, and set out to buy a home. I worked in downtown Jackson, so I wanted to live close to where I worked. Why subject myself to an unnecessarily long commute when I could stay literally down the street from my office? So my decision was made: I would buy a house in Jackson. But where?

I wanted to live in a neighborhood with character. None of those cookie-cutter homes or cul-de-sacs. So I narrowed my preferred neighborhoods down to Belhaven and Fondren. Belhaven oozed charm! Charming old homes, a charming college directly in the center of the neighborhood, and charming home prices to match. In fact, the home prices were too charming for my budget. Fondren, on the other hand, was a cool and upcoming neighborhood. It had great places to eat and shop, but the real estate was moving so fast! Every house that I wanted to submit an offer for was sold before I had a chance!

What was I to do? I looked at Midtown because I saw it had lots of potential. I even submitted a bid for a foreclosed home in that neighborhood with no success. Eventually, I began to lose hope. That is, until I found a home in *gasp* West Jackson!

My home is in the Pecan Park neighborhood. This neighborhood is bordered by Robinson Street, Prentiss Street, John R. Lynch Street, and Pecan Boulevard. The neighborhood is just as charming as Belhaven with its sidewalks and grassy street median. I closed on the home with a traditional 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, received the keys to the house, and opened the door to my quaint fixer-upper.

When I bought my home, there were no institutions offering the 203K program…at least none that I knew of. If I was able to use the 203K program, my fixer-upper would be a custom-renovated home at the time of closing. That’s the beauty of such a program. At a time in which everything has increased except salaries, people are redefining “affordable homes.” No longer do people want a home that maxes out their bank accounts, they want something that they can move into and not be stuck with eating “beans and rice, rice and beans” to make ends meet.

Another positive aspect of this program is the fact that it can be used to maximize the energy efficiency of your home. Let’s face it, older homes can be very drafty. Through this program, the home can be insulated and HVAC equipment can be upgraded to optimize the coziness of your home without sacrificing the money that you’ve worked so hard for.

West Jackson is full of what Bo Smith calls “acres of diamonds.” There are many jewels that sit vacant and lonely, waiting for someone to come claim them and polish them up. Renovating these homes into custom sanctuaries could easily save a part of Jackson while saving a piece of the earth from the swift destruction of sprawl.

Bo Smith of Cornerstone Mortgage made a convincing plea to the gathering that the 203K program is a win-win for all. Deborah Wright’s visitors left pumped–excited about the future of West Jackson. Lunchtime approached and the guests were treated to a delicious meal catered by Tom Ramsey of Ivy & Devine–compliments of Atmos Energy. As everyone prepared to depart, one question lingered…how many were fixin’ to stay in West Jackson?

For more information about the 203K program, visit here.

Also, Jackson State University’s Center for University-Based Development is starting a pilot rehabilitation program using the 203k and energy efficient funding to jump-start the revitalization of West Jackson’s neighborhoods. Be on the lookout for this in the near future!

Special Note: Special thanks goes to the sponsors of this program, Cornerstone Mortgage and Atmos Energy.

Thanks also goes to Solar Control of Jackson who presented guests with an excellent alternative to burglar bars; SafeHomes Inspections; Leah Cim Real Estate & Property Management, LLC.; and Energy Installation, Inc.

However, the greatest thanks goes to Deborah Wright who graciously opened her beautifully renovated home so that visitors could see the potential of a revitalized West Jackson!

1 Comment on Fixin’ to Stay

  1. This is a lot of great information. I’m not quite in a place to buy a home yet, but the idea of an old house with new amenities has always appealed to me. Thank you!

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