Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Glorious Day (Part 2)

This is a view of the main living area of my condo.
After all names were collected of those who were to be a part of the lottery drawing, they were placed in one of those wire enclosed tumbler type of things. Helen Schiller, Alderman of the 46th ward and the original founder of the program, was on hand to draw the names from the wire basket. Helen Schiller and I knew each other because I had been at two previous lotteries and also she was personal friends with my dear friend Marguerite. We had met at Marguerite's retirement party.

Before the names are drawn from the tumbler it  is announced which particular property is being drawn and it continues until all properties have been awarded. The first name drawn was going to be awarded that large property that included the parking space, the property that I had wanted so badly. I do not remember this as distinctly as Bill does, perhaps because I was so enthralled in the excitement of the whole thing, but Bill told me later that when Helen pulled the first name out, a smile crossed her face.

My name was the very first name drawn and it was for the property I had worked so diligently at least mentally and spiritually to achieve. I could not believe my ears. It was all I could do to hold back my tears. This had really happened, I was physically shaking from the shock of it and was awestruck with amazement. I knew this was going to happen and yet when it did, I was overwhelmed.

Let me explain this did not mean I was given the property, it meant I had this wonderful opportunity to purchase this beautiful condo at a greatly reduced price. This meant I could actually purchase a place of my own after over thirty years of paying rent!

The next few months were a struggle to find financing. I did not have great credit, it was average, and I had worked for myself for the past twelve years, my income was somewhat of an issue. After having been turned down for financing several times, I was somewhat discouraged, but determined to find a way to buy this property. Bill was very encouraging, he said remember the smile that crossed Helen's face and always remember of all the people who were at that lottery, God chose you first. Six years later I still remember that and I always will.

After finally finding a bank and a loan officer, named Cheryl Weismith, it looked as if things were finally on their way to completion. Remember this was December 2007, within six months of my purchase the entire real estate market collapsed and it is still recovering to this day. I remember Cheryl was very insistent about the "drop dead" date of December 4. I think she knew the market was on the brink of collapse and if I did not get financing by that date, there was a possibility it would never happen.

As I stated at the being of this two part blog post, there were so many things that went so rightly with such impeccable timing it is beyond coincidence, it was divine intervention. Let me explain further.

Six months after moving into my elevator building with an attached and enclosed garage, I lost my first leg. As time progressed I began to realize just how perfectly suited this condo was for the amputee I had become. There are no stairs for me to climb either into or out of my condo unit or into or out of the garage, perfect for someone in a wheelchair. I had only lived in one other elevator building in my entire life and that was 25 years earlier, every place I had ever lived since was always on the second or third floor of a walk up building.

My condo also has in unit laundry facilities, something I had never had before ever, something I desperately needed after having become an amputee. When my name was drawn at that lottery I had no idea what was going ensue in just a few months. I have since come to realize just how perfect the timing was for was about to happen to me.

I feel that it was my destiny to become an amputee, that there is a reason this happened, an inevitable fate of sorts. I feel and I will always feel that this condo was chosen for me by God as a place that despite the hardships that losing not only one leg both legs, I have a comfortable, beautiful, and well suited place to live. If you look at all that happened in order for this to take place with such perfect timing it has to be more than coincidence.

Maybe I should have called this two part blog post, " two glorious days"  because it was glorious the day my name was drawn and it was glorious the day I moved in. I made a promise to God before my name was drawn that I would never take this place for granted and I would thank him for him for it everyday.

Six years later I have kept my promise and there is not one day that goes by that I am not grateful for the blessing of my home. Thanks be to God. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Glorious Day (Part 1)

The photo above was taken standing on the balcony of my new condo before I moved in 2007.

It was 6 years ago today that I realized a lifelong dream. I moved into my condo six years ago today, I was 50 years old. I had been wanting to own my own place for decades before my wish became a reality, through a series of events too perfect to be just a coincidence.

Through the guidance and tenacity of my friend Bill I was finally able to purchase my own home. Bill found out about a program here in Chicago that was designed to allow people to purchase homes at a reduced rate. This program called  Chicago Affordable Housing, was implemented  by an Alderman in Chicago named Helen Schiller.

The program offered new properties at a reduced rate. A person is required to attend classes about first time home ownership, managing money, maintaining property and the like. Upon successful completion of the required classes and being financially qualified, a person is eligible to participate in a lottery whereby if your name is drawn, you are able to purchase a condominium at a substantially lower price than current market value.

After having completed all the required perquisites, I was now eligible to be placed in a lottery. A few weeks before a lottery is to take place you are notified and invited to tour the property or properties to be offered in the lottery. I followed all of the perscribed procedures and attended my first lottery. My name was not drawn.

A few months later I attended a second lottery. At these lottery drawings, there are usually multiple properties offered anywhere from eight to twelve, in addition to the names drawn for the properties, there are also alternate names drawn. These alternate names are used in the event the person whose name was actually drawn is unable to attain financing.

My name was drawn as an alternate in my second lottery. I really didn't think that much about it, because I felt the chances of getting a condo through the unfortunate reality of someone else not being able to get financing, was a slim possibility. A couple of months later I was notified that someone was in fact unable to get their property financed, which meant the property was offered to me. I was able to look at the property again, it was a small two bedroom, one bath unit in a high rise with no outdoor space, no parking included and a west view.

At the risk of sounding like an ingrate, and although I was excited at the possibility of home ownership, I was not thrilled with this particular property. It was small, boxy, in a large building with a doorman, not really my cup of tea. I preferred a smaller building, without the added expensive of a 24 hour doorman. I was in a quandary. Bear in mind that if I decided not to take this property it would not make me ineligible for further lotteries nor would it reflect badly upon me in any manner.

I enlisted the advice of three people. First I asked Bill what he thought of the possibility of me turning down the property? He said he felt that this was a very important decision, a decision that I should make on my own, after all I was the one who would have to live with the consequences of that decision. The  second person I asked was my friend Marguerite. She said that as long as I was prepared to live with the possibility that my name may never be drawn again, to follow my heart. She also advised that I should be prepared to cope with my decision regardless of what may happen in the future.

The third and final person I asked was my friend, Lorelei. Her advice was short and sweet, she said, "Never settle for less than what you want."  I kept thinking that although it was brand new and nice, after all was said and done, I would be alone in this tiny cracker box with no outdoor space. I turned down the property.

After a few months had gone by was notified of yet another lottery drawing. Bill and I toured all the properties, one of them I really liked was in a new complex they were building. We did not actually tour the property per se, because the models were not even completed yet, instead we met with the saleswoman, named January and looked at the artist's renderings of the property.

The last property we toured was right up the street from the other complex, when we walked in the building before the elevator had even been installed, I thought there had been some mistake. Upon entering this unit I was struck by the fact it was huge, with recessed lighting, a east facing balcony on the second floor and unlike any of the other properties, it included parking. Parking in Chicago is a very big commodity. I was flabbergasted by the size, the view, and the all important and valuable parking.

I immediately set my sights on the large condo with parking. I could not get this property out of my mind. I prayed about it, I visualized it being mine, I created a vision board, I threw all of my energy into getting this property. I used to drive by and park in front of the building and stare at the condo. At some point I had a real epiphany about this property, I knew and I felt in my heart and soul that this was going to be my new home. To this day I cannot explain the feelings and the certainty I felt within myself that this was really going to happen.

After what seemed like an eternity, which was actually a month or two, the day of the lottery arrived. When I walked into the area where the lottery was to take place, there was the saleswoman, January, from the complex we had previously viewed.  I walked up to her and I said I am walking out of here today with a condo, she smiled. I also approached a woman named Christina, she was a representative of the Chicago Affordable Housing Program, I looked at her square in the eye and I said, "Christina I am walking out of here today with a condo, I just wanted you to know."

Then we took our seats, it was exciting, a buzz with anticipation and the impending possibilities.

To be continued.......