Learn more about Nilay and Ozkan’s inspiring journey to homeownership in one of the DMV’s most expensive neighborhoods, with only one source of income, and during one of the most challenging times to find a place of their own.
Originally from Turkey, where they fell in love while working out at a gym, Nilay and Ozkan have been living in the D.C. region for about four years. In the first few years of living in the DMV, they tried to buy instead of rent. But, as the District and the entire U.S. started to shut down due to the pandemic, Nilay, an ESL teacher in Washington, DC, was able to continue working. In contrast, Ozkan’s job in fitness as a Physical Trainer dried up due to COVID restrictions.
The couple had been saving to buy a home for a while. However, with the pandemic, they had to adjust to a single income and look for homes that would fit their new budget. Also, they were especially eager to move to Arlington, VA, because they would be closer to friends, which they consider almost like family. And although interest rates were low, home prices, particularly in Northern Virginia, were rising, and lending was limited.
After looking at many apartments that were overpriced or didn’t fit their needs, they both started researching assistance and information that could aid them in their apartment search. They finally connected with the Arlington County Housing Division, which referred them to LEDC and our Condo Classes. Through this class, presented by Karen Serfis, our Program Manager in V.A., the couple had an AHA moment and found out they qualified for affordable housing.
With guidance and even more careful research from Ozkan, the pair learned about Arlington County’s MIPAP program - Moderate Income Purchase Assistance Program (MIPAP) – Official Website of Arlington County Virginia Government (arlingtonva.us). Through this program, they also learned about Arlington County’s ADU Program Homeownership – Official Website of Arlington County Virginia Government (arlingtonva.us). These two programs worked together and allowed them to find a home that fit their needs and budget. As Nilay mentions, she is “glad we found those programs; without them, we would still be renting… We are so grateful about Karen’s counseling and answering all our questions.”
After receiving additional counseling for lending, more advice on a housing spending plan from Karen, and writing multiple letters explaining their situation to Arlington County’s ADU Program, in May 2022, Nilay and Ozkan moved to their new apartment in Arlington, VA. The process took 7 to 8 months, but they had finally found a place they loved and felt comfortable living in.
Now that they own their apartment, Ozkan genuinely enjoys the amount of light it gets as it reminds him of other places he has lived in the past, and Nilay feels that they are starting anew and that it is a perfect start for them. An essential part of this journey for the couple has been finally having their place. To Nilay, “when you own a place, you have a belonging feeling that is very comforting… you know that it is your own… and now that we own a home, I am allowed to do anything I want, like painting the walls.”
Nilay and Ozkan with the keys to their new home.
As for advice for others in the same position, Nilay and Ozkan recommend researching as much as possible and finding people that can help you on your home purchasing journey. As National Homeownership Month is coming to an end, here at LEDC, we want to highlight Nilay and Ozkan’s story, which proves that despite setbacks and with the proper tools/ assistance, others could qualify for a property in another high-cost jurisdiction within the DMV.
For more information on buying your first home and how we can help, click here: LEDC - Buying Your First Home.
Author: Sofia Iszard, LEDC Communications