Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation

Working together, building community

ABCDC sat down with one of our Homebuying 101 graduates, Valerie, who recently purchased her first home! Learn more about her journey to homeownership and how she made her dreams of buying a home a reality.


I just purchased and moved into my first ever home – a beautiful newly renovated one-bedroom condo in Dorchester with central air, washer/dryer in-unit, outdoor space, and a $150/month HOA fee.  I got it for $340K, which was $10K under asking.  I took advantage of the One+ Boston and MassDREAMS programs and in total, I paid about $6K of my own money.  My mortgage is $2,100/month. Here’s how I got there.

I’ve been renting in Boston for 12 years with roommates and my dream was to stay in the City, but buy a single-family, 3-bedroom home so that I could have space to adopt children in the near future.

I reached out to a lender, Michelle Meiser from Cambridge Trust, in late December because I had finally saved up enough down payment to take advantage of the ONE+ Boston program and MassDREAMS assistance and start looking for a home. Once I received pre-approval, I started interviewing Real Estate agents. Despite difficulties at first, I went with Katherine Meisenheimer from LAER Realty, who took the time to schedule a Zoom meeting with me, did more listening than talking. Katherine was optimistic about what I could find if I was flexible and asked me questions about what I wanted (pets? parking spot?) that helped me picture myself in a condo with fewer bedrooms and actually feel excited about what I could get.  I got a lot of advice from friends and family that your realtor makes all the difference – you need to work with someone who you have a good relationship with, understands your needs and will work hard to make them happen.  Katherine was that person for me!

I had widened my parameters of what I would consider buying. I started looking outside and inside of Boston for condos and single-family homes. The price would be key though, and I was seeing mostly one-bedroom condos in Boston that matched my budget.  Katherine started sending me options of homes to look at, and I spent the first two weekends of February going to open houses.  I went to three total.  The second one I saw was the condo I ended up purchasing.

Katherine had helped me know what questions to ask, so I left the open house feeling confident that I wanted to make an offer.  They were asking for $350K, and I was ready to offer all of what I was pre-approved for, which was $365K!  Because of stories I had heard from others, I was convinced that I’d be tied up in a bidding war with other buyers for weeks, all of whom would surely have more money than I did. But Katherine did her research and saw that another similar property had just sold for $340K and that if we offered too much, we wouldn’t pass bank appraisal (and then I’d be liable to make up the difference).  So, we offered under asking.  To my shock, the seller counter-offered, and we settled on $340K!

Once we had an accepted offer, I got in touch with my project manager from the City of Boston.  I also engaged a lawyer, Karla Goodale, who was recommended by Katherine.  I attended the inspection, which was very educational for me!  The inspector gave me a lot to think about for the future, but in the immediate, the only thing he found was that there was no dryer vent in the new construction, and the seller agreed to fix that ahead of closing. Then it was mostly a waiting game.

My takeaways from this waiting process

  • Only give the bank and the City of Boston what they are asking for; don’t try to anticipate their needs and give them more documents. Instead, just be proactive in checking in and asking whether they need anything else.  Let them tell you what they need.
  • Using the One+ Boston and MassDREAMS programs is fantastic, but stressful!  My approval for closing costs being covered came in the day before closing.  My lender assured me that it would come, and I trusted her.  The City works to a deadline, and they were not going to provide anything any sooner than they had to.  I heard of others’ closing date getting pushed back, but thankfully mine didn’t have to.
  • Trust your team.  Katherine, Michelle and Karla have been working together for decades, and they were usually very responsive to my questions and concerns.

My biggest takeaway

The housing market can be inequitable, unjust, and preferential to people with a huge pot of money that allows them to over-offer on properties and pay huge down payments.  So, fight the injustice by using resources like the Allston Brighton CDC’s classes and counseling, take full advantage of all the money available to you through programs like ONE+ Boston and MassDREAMS, and don’t be intimidated by people who say you can’t do it! If you’re flexible in what you’re willing to purchase, and decisive when you see a place that you want to offer on, you’ll find something maybe that you weren’t quite expecting, but truly amazing all the same.

No one buys a property alone – I hadn’t spoken to one single person who purchased a property without a gift from a relative or friend for their downpayment, or inherited a huge chunk of cash, or even a piece of land for a property.  For those of us who don’t have the network to give that kind of wealth, we have programs offered locally and federally, and places like Allston Brighton CDC to keep us educated about them!  Through these programs, I was able to budget and save my downpayment slowly over time and access a little under $45K in grant funds to help me purchase my home, including all my closing costs covered.

 You can do it!

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