The Long Road Home

Elena Borneman Wins Our Third Annual Own Your First Home Contest

navigate its tough terrain was not particularly difficult for the Florida native. Getting past life’s challenges to make her buyer-ready, however, proved a bit more daunting. “Homeownership was something that I always felt was achievable, and I believe that my path professionally truly set me up for this moment,” says Borneman, a former homeownership center manager for Clearwater Neighborhood Housing Services Inc., a NeighborWorks organization (www.nw.org) that provides home buyer education, financial assistance programs, and wealth-building classes. “As things happen in life, you face different challenges that you don’t expect and it goes from a survival situation to stability and then investing.”

For starters, Borneman didn’t anticipate that her parents would pull their financial and emotional support after she decided to forgo an academic college scholarship in favor of having her twins-but they did. (She has since mended fences with her parents.) On her own, Borneman moved to Washington, D.C., in 1997. There she worked by day as a receptionist, executive assistant, and accounts payable clerk for an engineering firm making $400 a week. By night she managed a small apartment building in a southeast D.C. housing project in exchange for a discount on her rent. “Because I was managing the building my rent was only $575 a month, but all we had was carpet, a pillow, our clothes, and a blanket,” she says. “I remember turning on the oven so I could get heat into the apartment. I was in a rough area and scared out of my mind.”

Borneman has also attended college part time thoughout the years and is about a year and a half from earning her bachelor’s degree.

Thoughts of a better life kept Borneman motivated and moving from one job to the next. With each new position came more money and a better apartment. Over the next five years Borneman bounced from Washington, D.C., to Maryland to Virginia. By 2002 she had moved back to Florida, where she made $600 a week working for a NeighborWorks organization in Gainesville. Borneman says she couldn’t have asked for a better job. Thoughts of homeownership still weighed heavily on her mind, so while she helped others position themselves for homeownership she also began preparing herself.

When Borneman began getting ready, she was $25,000 in debt-including $10,000 in student loans and several thousand on credit cards. Her credit score was around 500 and she had virtually no savings. In fact, Borneman says she had to use her 401(k) to pay off some of her debt.

One important step was that Borneman spent time disputing inaccuracies on her credit report. “For example, I had health insurance when the twins were born, but the hospital didn’t apply both authorization codes to each child, so on my credit report it said that I owed $3,000,” she says.

All told, Borneman spent five years eliminating all of her bad debt and was able to raise her credit score above 600. By March 2007 she had also established a solid work history with NeighborWorks, having been recruited to

Pages: 1 2 3 4
ACROSS THE WEB