Jeff Brown and Alexus Walker had just started house hunting as first-time home buyers when Walker, a receptionist at Veterinary Hospital Associates, learned she was being fired from her job.
A month later, Walker discovered she was pregnant with her soon-to-be second son, Austin, adding another layer to a house hunt that began in September 2021.
Over the next few months, the couple experienced uncertainties, rejections and dashed hopes as they searched for a home while caring for their eldest son, Asher, and waiting for Austin to arrive.
On Wednesday, Brown and Walker alongside an overjoyed Asher and quiet but calm six-month-old Austin walked into their new home in Pueblo West. The couple were surrounded by parents, cousins, aunts and Habitat for Humanity staff.
The house is Habitat for Humanity’s latest build and the next stop for Brown and Walker’s family, ending a year-long journey that has brought bouts of hope but hints of pessimism.
“The rejections — I think they all happened so we could come here and get this house,” Walker said.
Brown and Walker have been rejected six times when looking for a home. Even though they were in contention, it was a long one – opposing cash offers often exceeded the $20,000 asking price and buyers were quick to close.
The house-hunting experience for the couple quickly deteriorated.
“You couldn’t even start a contract when they were closing,” Walker said.
Optimism grew after the couple visited a home on Evans Avenue that matched their needs and wants. The house had everything they were looking for.
But then another punch: A buyer put a cash bid $40,000 above the asking price.
Brown and Walker’s optimism faded.
“I was losing hope of finding a home,” Walker said. “I thought, ‘I’ll probably be stuck here forever. “”
A seminar in June changed the couple’s house-hunting trajectory. Their real estate agent, Lorraine Glach, spoke with two Habitat for Humanity of Pueblo board members, Pearl Atencio and Yvonne Rampa. Glach told them the story of Brown and Walker.
Atencio and Rampa have been more than responsive.
“(Brown and Walker) were trying to get out in the secondary market and they kept outbidding them,” said Rosella Parra, acting executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Pueblo. “It was an incredibly difficult time for them. (Glach) suggested Habitat and they were exactly what we needed…they suited us perfectly.
Brown and Walker were completing the required volunteer hours at Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore when Parra invited them up to his office and told them the news: the house the organization was building in Pueblo West would be theirs.
Walker, overwhelmed with emotion, held on before leaving the office. But she couldn’t hold back her tears after getting out.
“As soon as we got back down to the ground, I started screaming,” she said. “I called my family. It was just amazing. I couldn’t believe it.
Walker and Brown felt similar on Wednesday after a room-to-room blessing of their new home. But their journey as first-time home buyers is no stranger to today’s housing market.
Pueblo County homeowners who listed their property for sale in June received 100.1% of their asking price, according to statistics from the Pueblo Association of Realtors. This figure fell to 99.7% in July and sales declined as interest rates rose.
Brown and Walker, however, were house hunting during an unprecedented time for the Pueblo market – homes sold an average of 104% above asking price, said board member Dave Anderson. of the Pueblo Association of Realtors, at the Chieftain in January. Demand for homes exceeded supply, he said three months later.
“With the volatility and the price going up, it makes it more difficult,” Parra said. “But there has been a housing crisis for several years and it makes it harder for affiliates to do what they want to do and fill that affordability for landlords.”
Parra said an initiative placed on this year’s statewide ballot could have an impact and help Habitat for Humanity affiliates and their financial capabilities. Initiative 108 made the vote earlier this month and proposes to divert a tenth of 1% of state income tax to affordable housing funds.
According to an August housing analysis by CoreLogic and reported by Fortune, Pueblo County has a “medium” chance that regional home prices will decline over the next year. According to the report, CoreLogic considered factors such as revenue growth, consumer confidence, affordability, mortgage rates, inventory levels and unemployment forecasts to determine the ratings. Counties in the “average” group have a 40% to 50% chance of a price drop.
The analysis uses data from June and the ratings range from “very low” to “very high”. Pueblo County is the only county in colorado listed with an “average” rating. Counties in and around Denver and Montrose County have “low” ratings, according to the analysis. The remaining Colorado counties were not listed.
Habitat for Humanity of Pueblo received $300,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act fund of the city of Pueblo and wants to build a house on land at the corner of Sixth Street and Glendale Avenue on the lower east side of Pueblo.
The house will be the second built by the non-profit organization after a four-year hiatus and adds another opportunity to help a local family cement their future.
“It’s normal to feel discouraged. Cry if you must, but keep going,” Walker said, when asked what her message would be to other first-time homebuyers. “Do not stop.”
Chief Reporter Josue Perez can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @josuepwrites.