Blakley and Branden had always rented but wanted to buy a home of their own.
A couple for 10 years and married for six, they rented in Worcester and worked hard at their jobs and to save for buying a home. Despite having good credit and employment, they were falling just short.
"We rented forever," said Branden. "We’re hardworking people, and had good credit, but the whole down payment part made it so difficult. Without this program, we don't know how we would have done it and bought our home."
The program that allowed the couple to buy a single-family home in Webster was MassDREAMS through MassHousing.
MassDREAMS grants helped eligible Massachusetts residents purchase a first home by providing them with up to $50,000 in homebuying supports, including down payment assistance, prepaid mortgage insurance, prepaid closing costs, and interest rate reductions.
MassDREAMS (Delivering Real Equity and Mortgage Stability) was designed to address the racial homeownership gap, and to boost Massachusetts communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19. The impact has exceeded the program's high expectations. The program was launched last September, and due to popularity was suspended the following November. In just 79 days, MassHousing paired MassDREAMS grants with its affordable home mortgage loans to help hundreds of low- and moderate-income first-time home buyers – many of whom are people of color – purchase a home in Massachusetts.
For Blakley and Branden, the launch of the grant program was perfect timing. Blakley saw a social media post about MassDREAMS from real estate agent Mia Fisher at Berkshire Hathaway and called her.
"That was our biggest incentive," said Blakley. "Having this program put the fire in us [to complete the homebuying process]. We used the grants for down payment assistance and our closing costs. We were so blessed and fortunate that this grant was available to us. It gave us back all the money that we had put out. We got it back when we closed. We were saying that we have to put money out but we’re going to get it back and we did."
Branden and Blakley said they would never have become successful homeowners without Mia and Cheryll LeBlanc, a loan officer at Movement Mortgage in Auburn. Cheryll felt the couple would be able to use MassDREAMS and guided them through the process that allowed them to move into their new home with their two dogs.
Branden called me and as we were speaking, I had a feeling that this program would be a perfect fit for them. And it was. Along with Mia, we all worked together as a team to help them take advantage of the program before it ended,” said Cheryll.
"Cheryll was so knowledgeable and patient with us," said Blakley. "She walked us through everything step-by-step. There were times that I called her at 9 or 10 o’clock at night, asking 'what does this email mean,' and 'what do we have to do?' She was phenomenal. There is no way we would have done this without her. It was so important that we had people we trusted like Cheryll and Mia, and we relied on them."
"It was such an honor to help Branden and Blakley buy their home," said Mia. "They didn’t want to believe that this was real, that there some kind of catch. I kept reassuring them that it is real and introduced them to Cheryll, who helped them through the loan process. They said they will believe it when they get the keys. It was such a thrill for me to give them the keys to their home after closing. The smiles on their faces were priceless. This is truly one of the most exhilarating transactions – because they never thought in their wildest dreams that they could purchase a home. MassDREAMS truly helped Branden and Blakley's dream of homeownership come true. What a fantastic program!"
The couple are also grateful for the MassDREAMS program and expressed a ringing endorsement for providing new funds to the program so even more people like them can buy their first home.
After closing on their home, opening the door with their key brought a wave of emotion.
"It was exhilarating," said Branden. "I can't even put it into words."
"My moment was when the attorney called us and said, 'Hey it's on record [at the Registry of Deeds]," said Blakley. "We had just opened the door when she called. That's when I broke down. It was the most amazing feeling."
"It was really a team effort and we at Movement Mortgage were honored and excited to be part of this monumental milestone for them," said Cheryll. "Without this program, it would've taken them much longer to buy a home."
The couple wanted a single-family home over a condominium, and their dream became reality.
"Mia was on top of finding what suited our needs and in a location that worked best for us [work commute, away from the city, easy access to major routes]," said Blakley. "She was diligent in finding something that she knew would fit our budget, and a top notch negotiator. She made sure all of our boxes were checked, and that we were not out of the loop during any process. She directed us in the path that we truly needed, and without her we wouldn't have found 'the one.'"
"It's our own space," concluded Blakley. "We have two dogs, and we were trying to avoid restrictions and fees and things like that. We wanted to be able to do what we wanted...We just paid our first mortgage payment, and we feel so much better paying for something we own."