Growing into Homeownership

Jessica Knapp had been a renter all her life before receiving a down-payment assistance grant from VHCB to purchase a home of her own.

At age 40, Jessica was tired of living with roommates and having to hunt for apartments that met all her criteria: a place in good repair, rent she could afford on her income, and the ability to keep her 17 year old pet cat, Beatrice, who has since crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

“I was honestly getting a little frustrated with the renting situation,” she explained. “My big thing is stability and not feeling like ‘oh I might have to move out at any point and find something new’.”


The uncertainty of renting prompted Jessica to look for a more permanent situation. Her parents owned a condo in downtown Montpelier, and they offered to rent the home to Jessica.

“I rented here for 5 or 6 years until I ultimately decided that it was time to think about buying it,” Jessica said.

Her parents were getting older and needed to access the equity they had earned on the property, so they agreed to sell. Jessica’s income as a Community Relations and Marketing Assistant at the local co-op qualified her to access down-payment assistance funding from Vermont Housing & Conservation Board to bring the condo into Downstreet’s shared equity portfolio.

 “I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do this otherwise,” she said. “I don’t plan on leaving Montpelier anytime soon.”

But Debbie’s career as a university professor took her to Indiana, and she lived there until 2013 before finally relocating to Vermont. She rented a home in Woodbury where she taught high school English for a few years. Then, in 2018, Debbie retired from the classroom and moved to Barre to be closer to her grandson.

After renting a single family home for some time, the owners decided to sell, leaving Debbie the choice of purchasing the home or finding a new place to live. When the pandemic started in early 2020, her work teaching online classes slowed down so much that her income was cut in half, making it impossible for her to purchase the house. An older friend in her 80s with whom Debbie had grown very close, purchased the home so she could rent it to Debbie, but when that friend passed away in September of 2021, Debbie and her beloved mastiff Abby were facing homelessness.

With work picking up and her income getting back to normal, Debbie reached out to Downstreet and connected with Kira Charissakis, who helped her prepare to purchase the homes from her late friend’s estate. Two weeks before closing, Debbie was notified by the bank that the underwriters decided not to underwrite the home loan. Debbie was devastated.

“I was in a real panic,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do. But Kira was a godsend, encouraging me to take a breath and get right back up in the saddle and begin the process all over again with a different lender.”

With a renewed determination to find a place of her own, Debbie looked at many other houses and made several offers, but with the competitive home purchase market and soaring prices, none of her offers were accepted.

With just two weeks left before her USDA loan expired, Debbie was starting to lose hope.


The Journey Home

Debbie Hill, her six-year-old grandson Caspian, and her 8-year-old mastiff Abby are beyond grateful for the home Debbie purchased in the fall of 2022.

Debbie is originally from New Hampshire, but during her time at a low residency program at Goddard College, she developed a love for Vermont.

 “There’s something about Vermont that there’s such a sense of peace,” she said. “And I would hate the thought of leaving that peace.”

“I had a lot of sleepless nights,” she said. “I was terrified. I was thinking, ‘I’m an educated person, I’m a professor, and I’m going to be in the street.’

Then, one day, Debbie’s mail lady, who she had become friendly with over the years, brought her a note with a phone number, address, and price of a nearby home that was for sale. The postal worker explained that she had spoken with the homeowner, who needed to relocate quickly for her husband’s job. The house had recently been under contract, but the buyer pulled out at the last minute because of the rising mortgage interest rates.

“From there, everything just went like it was meant to be. This house is just perfect for me, and my monthly payments are just about the same as what I was paying to rent,” she said.

As for Caspian’s feelings about Debbie’s new home, he said “I love it so much, I can’t even put it into words how much I love it!”