Homeowner Stories: Meet P.J.

Published On: July 28th, 2023|Categories: Homeowner Stories|

Maybe you think a one-bedroom condominium with just a little under 600 square feet sounds like it would be the perfect fit for a single person. Or maybe, like P.J., your first thought is that it sounds a bit too small.  

When P.J. first moved to North Carolina from Orlando in September 2019, she felt lucky to find a job quickly: within two weeks of moving, she was working full time as an animal husbandry technician at UNC. She had relocated after a divorce, and she and her teenage daughter lived in an apartment in Carrboro near the high school, which was especially convenient since Lizzie could walk to school. Having lived her whole life in Florida, P.J. found that she really liked the area: she appreciated the change of seasons and all that the local community had to offer. She occasionally looked through online listings for homes and imagined she’d one day purchase her own home here. 

But it wasn’t long before the pandemic hit, and with the wild changes in the market that followed, P.J. felt certain her dreams of homeownership had all but evaporated. That is, until a Google search for homebuyer programs turned up Community Home Trust – and when she read about the program she thought, “Hey, this might just be for me.” So she applied to the program and got on the waitlist. 

P.J. knew what she was looking for in a home: most important to her was that it was close to work, accessible by bus, or even better, on foot. She knew that she was not going to want to drive to work during bad weather, and because she’s an essential worker, snow days are not a vacation for P.J. She had previously driven as far as 40 minutes each way to work, and she knew that wasn’t what she wanted long-term. 

That’s why when she received a sneak peek about a condominium coming up for sale at 140 West, right in the heart of downtown Chapel Hill, she jumped at the chance to see it. It was small, definitely smaller than she’d imagined her ideal home being, and she thought a second bedroom would be convenient, just in case her now-adult daughter wanted to live with her. Other than that, though, it was exactly what she wanted: close to work, restaurants, shops, and the free bus line that could take her literally anywhere she needed to go. She remembers thinking, “I don’t know when I’ll have another chance like this,” so in December 2022, she purchased her condo. 

After moving in, she quickly realized she had “panicked for no reason”: the condo really is perfect for her. She has no yard to take care of, very little space to clean, and with some simple under-furniture storage solutions, plenty of room for her things. Plus the convenience and access to all Chapel Hill has to offer has proven to be just as great as she imagined. She lives 0.7 miles from work, a leisurely 17-minute walk, and the bus is just as easy to use as she’d hoped. In fact, she tells everyone she talks to on the bus about CHT and encourages them to consider it, too. 

She loves how walkable downtown is: it’s easy to find great places to walk her dog, Steve, and she has access to all kinds of delicious restaurants — “maybe to my detriment!” she admits. Most importantly, she is living in the community where she works. “I think it’s important to be in the community: I work in the community, I really enjoy the community, and I wanted to be able to live in the community. I don’t want to live so far out that I’m not part of it. I feel like where my work is, that’s my community. I like to be in my community and spend money in my community,” she shares. 

P.J. is building community with her fellow CHT homeowners in 140 West, too. She’s found her neighbors to be really friendly, and she’s felt very welcomed. And she appreciates how she feels known and cared for by the staff at CHT, too. She says that the process of buying her home wasn’t “sterile, like at the bank”; instead, she says the CHT sales team of Deja, Amy, and Ian really took the time to get to know her and help her through the process. “If I had any questions, they were there to answer them, to help me get things together and keep me on track.” P.J. describes the homebuyer education and financial counseling aspects of the program as “enlightening,” and says they really helped her feel financially ready to purchase her condo. 

P.J. shares about the program whenever she can because she thinks it has “a lot to offer for all different kinds of people, whether it’s families or single people, older people, even young people should look into it to give them a start.” In fact, her now-19 year old daughter has already applied, even though she won’t be ready to purchase a home for a while. 

And that’s P.J.’s biggest advice: “Just get on the list!” She says she made the mistake of thinking she had to be completely ready before she applied, but she knows now that wasn’t true. Instead, she suggests that anyone even considering the program go ahead and complete the free application. That way, they’re already on the list – and making their way up! — while they’re working on credit or savings or whatever barriers might be between them and purchasing a home. She says the idea of the list can be confusing and can sometimes make it feel like it’s going to be a long wait. But having been through her own homebuying process, which lasted only about 6-7 months from application to closing, she knows now that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.  

As for other advice, P.J. also says it’s important to know what you’re looking for in a home. She was very clear that location was most important to her, while she knows other people might prioritize more space, a backyard, or access to a particular school or neighborhood, for example. She recently participated in a CHT bus tour, and she says she learned a lot about the diversity of housing options in the CHT inventory, so she suggests that all applicants take advantage of opportunities like those to learn more.  

P.J. recently spoke at a Chapel Hill Town Council meeting. Hear what she had to say!

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