“I don’t even have words for the gratitude I feel – thank you, thank you. When you have an opportunity like this, it really makes a profound impact on your life,” said Kricket Caffery in a recent Zoom call.
Kricket had a long journey to homeownership. Over the years, serving as a Marine in Japan, experiencing several of her family and friends unexpectedly passing away, and a divorce, she was alone and had to do something to stay motivated in life. Kricket says, “in the Marines, ‘Pain is temporary, and pride is forever, and I truly believe that.”
She started with building a solid financial foundation by taking $500 of her savings to start a business related to circus classes. She held workshops and taught people from the ages 8 – 62 how to walk on stilts and make stilts using power tools. Kricket says the circus brings joy and love to the world and helps fight depression. She found an opportunity as there were not many places selling circus equipment, so she started making and selling stilts, costumes, and art online.
As a resident of Portland, the frequent rent increases caused her to move often. Stability was also essential to improving her health, which was affected while serving in the Marines. With the goals of improving her personal health, financial well-being, and expanding her business, she set a goal to find a new home in Oregon and on the west side of Interstate 5.
She worked to get a Veterans’s Administration (VA) loan, but she needed a little more income than she received with her business to qualify. One of the eligibility requirements for the loan also meant that she had to establish employment history in addition to working for her own business. She researched communities and potential employment opportunities. She found a local company near where she wanted to buy her home that could use her skills and made a presentation to them. They hired her on the spot. But this new part-time job also meant making some sacrifices to achieve her future goal. She took a cut in pay, and each week, she left her friends and family to drive four hours from Portland to Bandon and camped during the week in veteran supported campsites.
Finally, she qualified for a $135k VA loan, found a tiny home in Lakeside, an unincorporated community in Coos County at the right price, and coincidently, it was built on stilts! The home could not have been more perfect for her as it also included a more expansive shop than the house itself; perfect for expanding her business. “I cried the day I got my keys. I always worked and nothing was never handed to me, but I feel like I have received a gift. It was eye-opening – it showed me that every step we take in our lives matters.”
Some problems with the home required repairs as they caused mold and allergen health hazards. Kricket replaced the roof as she was allergic to the shingles made of Cedarwood. Sheetrock, rotted out studs, and wall insulation were replaced to alleviate mold issues. The outside of the house was resided and weathered areas repainted. She installed a heater in the living room where there was no heat previously. She also added a hallway and bedroom, both with non-allergen flooring. “Without NeighborWorks Umpqua, I would not have been able to save money for the repairs,” acknowledged Kricket.
Through coaching programs at NeighborWorks Umpqua, she saved money and refinanced her home mortgage to make additional repairs in the Spring of 2020. As part of the refinancing process, she had an appraisal, and it showed the value as less than she originally paid. With help from NeighborWorks Umpqua, she gathered a second appraisal, which showed a substantial increase in the home’s value by 32%. The hard work on her home improvements paid off, as this now has enabled her to do three things: 1) pay off her credit card debt, 2) make further repairs to her home, and 3) replace tools that she needed to grow her business.
This home equity Kricket worked to build helped make 2020 a positive year, even though she had challenges as a small business owner, with sales down 60%. “Thank you NeighborWorks Umpqua for this amazing program and for helping me, it has made a huge difference in my life and future. We are all one, and it takes everyone — when you learn to walk on stilts, everyone starts by holding hands together.”
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