“I didn’t see myself as a homeowner,” says April Waltonen, proudly standing in front of her four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home in Euclid that she closed on in July of last year. “The minute my daughter and I saw this house, we knew it was the one.”
Waltonen, a 39-year old mother of two who spent the better part of the last decade working toward her college and post-graduate degrees at Cleveland State University (CSU), did not believe she would realize the dream of homeownership. Juggling family, school, and full-time employment kept her plate full enough. Then Waltonen took on an internship through the College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University where she discovered the Land Bank’s BRAIN (Buying and Retaining Academic Interest Now) Program., which provides students and graduates with an opportunity to fulfill the dream of home ownership.
Through the BRAIN program, Waltonen took part in counseling sessions through Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) of Greater Cleveland where she learned how to manage her credit score and take the proper steps to achieve home ownership. “Those workshops and speaking with the staff at the Cuyahoga Land Bank set my mind to being a homeowner,” says Waltonen. “They not only teach you the steps to becoming a homeowner, but they also make you feel like you can really do it.”
The BRAIN program offers discounts of up to 20 percent on renovated homes in select communities to those currently enrolled in a college or post-graduate degree program or those who submit an application within two years following graduation. Homes are completely renovated and move-in ready with modern amenities like granite countertops and restored hardwood floors, updated kitchens and baths, and updated major systems, including plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling, roofing and foundation. Featured BRAIN program communities include Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, Euclid, South Euclid, Garfield Heights, and Bedford. Both immediate purchase and lease purchase options are available. Through the program, qualifying individuals must submit employment history, credit score, down payment and must also agree to live in the home for a minimum of 3 years.
While still in school, Waltonen applied for and was approved to purchase a discounted home through the BRAIN program. “I accomplished everything I wanted to,” says Waltonen, who earned dual Bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Organizational Leadership at Cleveland State University and then went on to earn a Master’s degree in Education at CSU. “I finished everything up in December, just four months after moving into our new home.”
“I love the fact that the home was completely remodeled and I didn’t have to do anything,” says Waltonen. “I’ve heard all these horror stories about people buying homes to fix up. It was nice that all we had to do was move furniture in! I also love the fact that this once-vacant house has been renovated and is being reused thanks to the Cuyahoga Land Bank.”
Waltonen is now one of the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s biggest cheerleaders. “I recommend the Land Bank to friends and family – everyone,” says Waltonen.