A Home to Call Our Own

Jessica and Joseph Bembry are the winners of our fourth annual homeownership contest

But it wasn’t a smooth ride all the way. When the financial markets began to collapse, the Bembrys’ own negotiations started to waiver. There were some hesitations on the developer’s part. The couple got a 30-year fixed mortgage at a very decent 5%. As for the down payment, they shelled out $20,000 instead of the $10,000 they had initially planned, nearly depleting Jessica’s 401(k) from a previous employer.

The Bembrys realize they have to work even harder now to rebuild their retirement savings. In addition to the money put into the house, the couple withdrew $30,000 from their 401(k) accounts to finance their nuptials. Currently, they have about $15,500 combined in retirement accounts.

A plus is that the couple has worked hard to improve their credit. At the time of their home purchase, Jessica’s credit score was 621 and Joseph’s was 759. They have about $12,800 in credit card and personal debt, and there will be another $25,000 in student loan debt due in about five years for Jessica’s undergraduate education at Trinity University, where she is just 12 credits from her degree.

Since buying their home, the couple has become a bit more frugal, curtailing entertainment and utility expenditures, and adding energy-saving thermostats. Their $2,500 mortgage payment constitutes the biggest chunk of their $3,500 to $4,000 monthly household expenses. Fortunately their household income got a bump up to $98,000 when Jessica started her current job at the DDOT in December.

Like most Americans, the couple is worried about the economy. “We read the headlines and watch the news. We know people around us are losing their jobs. It’s frightening,” Jessica says. But since both work in the public sector, they feel relatively secure about their jobs. And the recent transplants—she relocated from Boston in 2006 and he from New York in 2003—say the local economy has been picking up. “Permits are getting issued for new construction and there are licenses for new businesses,” says Joseph. “And President  Obama gives people hope. That’s a positive.”

This story originally appeared in the April 2009 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.

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  • All2familr

    Congrats to the Bembry’s. This is such a great blessing…and a positive step in the right direction for financial soundness and planning together for their future. As newlyweds, how exciting it must be to win!!!