The Long Road Home

Elena Borneman Wins Our Third Annual Own Your First Home Contest

After the birth of her twin daughters, Elizabeth and Victoria, 12 years ago, Elena “Elle” Borneman promised them a home that they could call their own-though she didn’t know how or when she would be able to deliver. Motherhood forced Borneman, then a 19-year-old college freshman at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Florida, to delay her education for full-time employment. Without a college degree or support from her parents, she struggled to pay her rent and keep food on the table. But Borneman was determined to leave a financial legacy for her children and grandchildren, and she was optimistic that one day her dream would come true. So, when Earl G. Graves Sr., chairman and publisher of black enterprise, told her on a conference call that she was the 2007 winner of the Own Your First Home Contest and would receive $10,000 toward the down payment on her first home, she exploded with excitement.

“I screamed. I was pacing my apartment. I was jumping and I was crying,” Borneman recalls. “I thought about how far I had come. When he said I was the winner, that feeling was like having everything come together in my life.”

After the call, Borneman raced to her daughters’ school to break the news. While Victoria broke down in tears, Elizabeth was elated at the idea of having her own room and plenty of space to spend time together as a family. “My mom is always trying to give to other people all the time and it was just great that it was actually our turn to get something,” says Elizabeth.

Victoria, who is five minutes older than her sister, says homeownership meant finally having an opportunity to put down roots. “My mom was always moving around a lot so when she told me [that she won the contest] I felt like I was on top of the world,” she says. “I was crying and laughing and smiling all at the same time because we had some place to call ours and we didn’t have to move around anymore.”

Borneman, 31, was chosen as the contest winner from more than 1,000 applicants. And on Nov. 30, 2007, she used her prize money, along with a $15,000 loan from the city of Clearwater, Florida, to help her close on the purchase of her $140,000, three-bedroom, three-bathroom, tri-level townhouse complete with a deck and sizable backyard.

Borneman’s road to homeownership has been long-and paved with obstacles that may have broken those less driven. But through planning, exercising patience, financial discipline, and an unshakable determination to achieve her piece of the American dream, she has given her daughters a permanent place of their own-and a foundation upon which to build wealth for future generations.

Becoming Buyer-Ready
Purchasing a home requires a level of preparedness that many first-time home buyers struggle to achieve. As a director of various homeownership programs for the past five years, Borneman has educated legions of potential home buyers. So once she decided to begin the process, knowing how to

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