A House Is Now Our Home

James and Kimberly Papillion are the first winners of the Black Enterprise Own Your First Home Contest.

the couple, who met in college while doing charity work for the homeless, own a brand new home in Tuscany Villas, one of several new subdivisions that have sprouted up in Baton Rouge within the last two years. Their newly constructed home features a fireplace, central heating and air, modern kitchen, two-car garage, and a backyard that overlooks a reflecting pond that they share with other residents of the subdivision.

For James, whose father worked very hard to keep a home, and Kimberly, whose parents have owned multiple homes over the years, purchasing a home of their own is a source of pride. Like most people, the Papillions had to overcome various life circumstances and financial challenges, but with discipline and determination, they worked around those obstacles to achieve their goal.

The couple first applied for a mortgage during the summer of 2004, but were denied due to poor credit scores. Kimberly, who makes $37,000 as an eighth-grade math teacher, and James, who makes $31,000 as a youth development specialist and $8,000 as a GED instructor, had both fallen behind on credit card and personal loan payments they had accumulated in college. “When we first got married, we had different loans and just got behind,” James explains.

Shortly after the Papillions were rejected, Kimberly’s parents, Marie and Eugene Parker, used the equity from the sale of their home to trade up to a bigger one. At their closing in September 2004, Marie Parker met Gloria Winchester, a senior mortgage loan consultant with Celtic Financial, a regional mortgage broker. “[Ms. Winchester] was remarking how she had gotten [a client] a good interest rate on a mortgage, so I got her card and passed it on to Kim,” says Parker.

After meeting with Winchester, the Papillions were very eager to follow her instructions to get on the road to homeownership. “I worked with them for a year, helping them straighten out their credit situation by paying off some negative credit items, eliminating some debt, and helping them understand the home buying process,” says Winchester. “The Papillions were the ideal clients. They did everything that I suggested to them in order to prepare for their home purchase. I wish all my clients were like them.”

The top priority for the Papillions was to get their spending under control. “One thing we had to do was look at how we spent our money every single day for 30 days,” says Kimberly. “I used Microsoft Money on my computer, and every day I’d pull off a report to see where our money was actually going.”

The couple used these reports to figure out what costs they could trim and how they could apply the savings to their outstanding debt. “Did I need that extra latte? Or can I take that money and pay down on another bill?” Kimberly asks. “Once we went through that process it helped us trim expenses.”

But the Papillions also knew that spending wasn’t the only problem they had to overcome.

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