Woman's search for perfect house: an NSP property in Oakland
Crystal Kimbrough’s search for the perfect house began three years ago, when she met Rose Hughes, a realtor with a gentle smile who was relatively new to the world of real estate.
Kimbrough, who works from home, was looking for a house where she could be comfortable 24 hours a day. She wanted to live in a neighborhood where she could feel safe and in a house with enough room so that her three children wouldn’t feel overcrowded.
Crystal Kimbrough, left, and her realtor, Rose Hughes, outside the South Side rehabbed home Kimbrough recently purchased through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.
Hughes showed Kimbrough several houses and on two occasions they thought they’d found the right one. But contracts on both houses fell through and the two took a hiatus from working together.
Then Kimbrough’s brother, who lives in Atlanta, told her about the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), a federal effort to help towns and cities tranform empty, foreclosed properties into attractive new residences. Now Kimbrough, with Hughes at her side, has become the first Chicago-area homebuyer to purchase and move into a house that's been rehabbed through NSP.
And this is where their journey has led them: A turn-of-the-century, Victorian-style row house in the city’s Oakland neighborhood. The house, on South Lake Park, is near the Metra train tracks, across the street from a quiet park, and just a few blocks from Lake Michigan.
“When I came in here I knew this was the home of my dreams,” Kimbrough said during a recent tour of the house, which is bright and spacious.
“Immediately I saw the property and I was like, ‘This is it. This is what I want.’”
What she wanted turned out to be a house whose story reflects the tumultuous real estate market in recent years. According to real estate tax data, the property sold for $735,000 in 2007, and sold again in early 2008 for $675,000. It subsequently went into foreclosure and was vacant. Mercy Portofolio Services (which administers NSP in Chicago) bought it for $134,900 in December 2009, rehabbed it, and sold it to Kimbrough for $235,986.
Kimbrough had been living in the house for only two weeks when
The Victorian rowhouse has many fine features, including detailed woodwork and hardwood floors.
she opened her doors to an inquiring reporter, but already she was imagining herself years into the future. In the backyard, she pointed to an imaginary path leading out to her new two-and-a-half car garage.
“We’re gonna do grey bricks to blend in with the Victorian greystone,” she said. Hughes, who has become Kimbrough’s trusted advisor, smiled as she too imagined the path.
But Hughes is realistic about what it took to get to this point.
“You know when you’re working with the government you gotta do extra paperwork,” Hughes said.
“As this thing grows…they have to get everything tightened up.”
NSP uses funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to get empty, foreclosed properties, such as Kimbrough’s, back on the market.
“Because you’re dealing with HUD, a federally-funded program, they’re going to require documentation above and beyond what your lender is requiring for documentation,” Kimbrough said.
“You have to provide them whatever it is they ask for. And they do ask for a lot.”
Kimbrough is very happy to be in a beautifully rehabbed house that will be comfortable and affordable for her and her children.
Since Kimbrough was one of the trailblazers of the NSP locally, she had to be patient while her bank learned the rules and regulations surrounding the program. She said that while she waited, the NSP representatives from Mercy Portfolio Services were incredibly responsive and helpful. She also said that future NSP homebuyers will have an easier time now that they have standardized things.
To qualify for the NSP, Kimbrough was required to attend eight hours of a home-buying class where she learned about contracts, inspections and insurance. She also had to prove that her income fell below a certain threshold, which is based on the number of people in her household.
Now that she’s settling into her new home, however, many of those concerns have faded into the background.
“The floor plan is open, which I love,” Kimbrough said, waving her arms toward the tall ceilings. She and Hughes continued to think out loud about ways to improve the house and the features that they loved - the wood floors, the recessed lighting, the kitchen with a full granite backsplash.
And Kimbrough showed off one of her favorite things to do in the new house: Opening up her bedroom blinds and watching as the sun fills the room with light.
By Bill Healy