Watch Your Money: This Domestic Abuse Survivor Works Her Way To Homeownership | New
Occupation: senior government official and program analyst
Money transfer : Wants to buy a condo
Four years ago, Jamie R. Wright met “Him” when she went swing out dance with friends in Dallas. The tall, dark and handsome preacher, firefighter and retired veteran approached, asked her to dance and then walked her to his car.
They soon started dating and he promised her marriage and the love of a lifetime. They prayed and worshiped together. He bought flowers, opened doors and cooked dinner.
“He just brushed me off my feet,” says Wright, 42, now from Houston. “You couldn’t tell me anything about this man.”
The career woman had her own traditional 3-2 home in Dallas, but he wanted her to live in Houston with him. She moved to H-Town, a move that added $8,000 to her credit card. She actually owned two cars, a Nissan Infinity and a 350z, but he wanted her to trade one of them for a Mercedes SUV. She did and put the luxury vehicle in her name.
He loved to travel, so he always insisted that they go on vacation to places like Hawaii, and she put the trips on her credit card.
Two years after meeting at prom, the couple exchanged vows but were unable to file their marriage certificate as the courts were closed due to the pandemic shutdown.
A little after he did the unthinkable. He hit her with HIS laptop, loosening his teeth. Fearing for her safety, Wright sought refuge in a Houston shelter for victims of domestic violence. It wasn’t the first time he had physically abused her (the abuse had started three months into the relationship), but it was the last.
“I thought he would kill me,” says Wright, who now has a permanent restraining order against him.
She lived in the shelter for three months and saved money by eating there. Life at the shelter helped her realize that she could live within her means.
Through therapy and learning more about the abuse, Wright now believes she was the victim of coercive debt, where a person allows their spouse to influence them into debt.
Wright now lives in a 600 square foot apartment, part of which is furnished by Goodwill. She participates in a debt consolidation program, which helps her improve her credit. She must maintain her credit to keep her job.
“I’m the happiest I can remember since my daughters were little,” says Wright, a mother of two grown children, ages 21 and 27.
Wright loves living in Houston. In addition to her day job, she does motivational speaking and other activism on behalf of survivors of intimate partners.
“Houston has opened many doors for me,” Wright says.
She would like to buy a condo for less than $300,000 in a safe part of town. She is ready to rebuild her life with the tools she learned from therapy.
Wright works as a senior executive and program analyst, earning $142,000 a year. She has student loan debt of $42,000 from her undergraduate and MBA programs. His credit card debt is around $40,000. She spends $1,483 on rent in an average-sized apartment. His car bill is $600 a month. However, she still has $29,000 in car payments she still owes from a car she traded in to avoid being recognized by her ex. His Dallas home is rented.
One of the effects of the period of confinement and the economic stress of Covid-19 has been an increase in violence between intimate partnersaccording to the researchers.
Phyllis Perillo is the founder of W!SE, a non-profit financial education organization with a national program called MoneyW!SE to educate victims of domestic violence about their finances. Perillo says it’s critical that people develop the right financial habits at a young age. The 12-week course includes a financial literacy certification test. Those who pass are deemed to have certified financial skills.
Whether rich or poor, many victims of domestic violence have “given up their financial rights,” Perillo says.
For example, they live in houses and sometimes their names are not on the title. They have buddies who put their names on credit cards they don’t use. Also, many survivors don’t put their money in banks, which are safe places to build an emergency fund for at least six months, Perillo said.
H-Town Real Estate Market
The median March listing price for the fast-growing Houston market was $373,733, up 9.5% from the same period a year earlier, according to Realtor.com.
Even with this number, Brandie Warrena Houston market realtor, says finding a nice condo in a great Houston neighborhood is doable for less than $300,000.
Condos in the $180,000 to $300,000 price range are staying on the market longer than single-family homes, easing the vicious bidding wars that have become commonplace since the pandemic, she says.
Warren says the minimum credit score required is 580. The higher the credit score, the better the interest rate for the potential homeowner. However, Warren cautions that buyers should be aware of monthly homeowners association fees which can range from $700 to $800 in the best neighborhoods. Still, you can get into a home with as little as 2.5% down payment.
“I always refer my clients to condos when they’re single and absolutely don’t need all that space,” Warren says. “(Condos) are easier to get to and much cheaper.”
Natalie P. McNeal is the author of The Frugalista dossier: how a woman got out of debt without giving up the fabulous life.