Real Estate

This Is Me: How I Bought a House in Shaw on a $250,000 Budget

"I was making close to $42,000 ... my mortgage is under $800 a month."

Image by Ryan Weisser.

This Is Me is a new column in which we speak to Washingtonians who have a unique story to tell. Did you leave your job on the Hill to become a bartender? Did you used to work as an escort? Do you support yourself as a social influencer? We want to hear all of your stories—no matter what the subject or how kooky they may be. Email Mimi Montgomery at mmontgomery@washingtonian.com.

Name: Angel Thompson, a Smithsonian employee
Age: 27
Where she lives: Shaw/Mt. Vernon

On how she decided to buy a house…

“I’m a native Washingtonian. I went to school at Tufts in Massachusetts, and I moved back after undergrad and moved in with my sister.”

“Renting never made sense to me. I figured that out pretty early on. Rent is expensive, and friends were saying oh yeah, it’s like $1,900 a month or $2,300 a month. Once I figured out I wasn’t going anywhere, I started looking for programs to help purchase a house.”

On finding assistance programs…

“Prior to being at the Smithsonian, I was an attendance counselor for DC Public Schools, so one of my duties was finding affordable programs for my parents to join so they wouldn’t be evicted or they could find housing. So that’s how I found the Home Purchasing Assistance Program (a DC program that provides loans and closing costs to applicants with below-median incomes). When I started, I took all of the classes, like first-time home buyer classes, financial management, and different courses and workshops you can participate in free-of-charge to understand the responsibilities of being a homeowner in the city.”

“I took those classes through the Latino Economic Development Center, and they told me about the Inclusionary Zoning Affordable Housing Program (a DC program that requires developers to set aside units for affordable housing, which are then distributed via lottery). So I went about finding a home through them. I knew I didn’t want a condo, but they didn’t have any stand-alone houses available with my qualifications and household size at the time.”

“But then my mom got sick, so I started taking care of my younger sister who’s in high school. I started filing her under my taxes, and I added her to my household size. And then last year, I got selected for the house.”

On the house…

“It was a blighted property in a historic district on N Street, by the Convention Center, and then the city rebuilt the house. I loved it—it’s a rowhome, two bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms, everything is renovated. I have a backyard with off-street parking. It’s got grass for my dog to play. My sister still lives with me.”

On saving up and paying for the house…

“When I was living with my sister, she was charging me rent, about $500 a month. So I was able to save money and work multiple jobs. I like to stay busy. In undergrad, I was working at Macy’s full-time, going to school full-time, and leading a literacy team in the neighborhood. When I graduated, I was doing federal background investigations from home, and I was an attendance counselor with DCPS, and in grad school, [and] I had an internship with the National Parks Service. I didn’t have time to spend money. I would just come home, eat, sleep, go to work, and repeat.”

“The city decided to sell the home at an affordable price of $250,000. But I had a Home Purchasing Assistance Program grant of about $64,000 and I was also able to put down about $13,000 of my own savings, so my mortgage ended up being $175,000.”

“If your income falls within a certain track, you don’t have to pay interest on your mortgage. When I started the program, I was making close to $42,000, so my mortgage is under $800 a month.”

On the significance of buying a house…

“It’s important for me to do it. People don’t take advantage of the programs that the city offers. You don’t have to go to a certain ward in DC because you only make so much money. There are places for you to live east of the river or west of the river. Before I moved in, I lived in Southeast, where there was only one grocery store for the entire ward and you still had to drive there. Being able to walk to the bank, the grocery store, to work, to the gym—I’m extremely grateful.”

“It just sucks that so many developers are going in and purchasing these single-family homes that are three-to-four bedrooms, breaking them up, and turning them into three-unit condos and charging the same mortgage that the house would be.”

On being a homeowner…

“I love owning. The only downside is maintenance stuff—HVAC or roof repairs, electronic things in the house. But that comes with owning a home. Because I consider myself financially literate, I understand how to save money and put money aside for things that may break.”

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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Associate Editor

Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. She previously was the editorial assistant at Walter Magazine in Raleigh, North Carolina, and her work has appeared in Outside Magazine, Washington City Paper, DCist, and PoPVille. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives in Adams Morgan.