Louisburg-based loan officer Lauri Orscheln holds a fondness for all of her clients, but helping first-time buyers achieve the dream of homeownership occupies a special place in her heart. “Homeownership to me is one of the most important things, something we are so privileged to be able to have,” she said. “Every first-time customer that ever closes is incredibly grateful and getting a great start.”
One of those customers is Nicole Taylor, a Paola mom of five who moved her family into their forever home this February.
“I’m a single mom with five kids–four teens and a 6-year-old–so family life is crazy and hectic,” Taylor said. She stays busy as a social worker, placing children in need of care with loving relatives and keeping them out of the foster care system.
“I was married and had a daughter in 2001, got divorced shortly after, and became a foster parent to adopt so my daughter could grow up with a sibling,” Taylor said. “From there I ended up adopting four kids.” Taylor’s family includes her biological daughter, now 19, and a 14-year-old daughter who joined the family at age 3 and was adopted in 2012. In 2015 she adopted three siblings: a 16-year-old boy and 13- and 6-year-old girls.
“When I was doing foster care I ended up putting myself back through college and got my degree in 2018,” Taylor said. “During that time I lived with my parents and we all helped each other out—I worked full-time, and they watched the kids while I was in night school. After graduation, I rebuilt my credit and got things situated so it could be my kids and me.”
Once Taylor started looking for a home she connected with Orscheln and learned about Kansas Housing’s First Time Homebuyer (FTHB) Program, an initiative that helps eligible buyers purchase their first home by providing down payment assistance. To qualify, applicants must be first-time homebuyers or not have owned a home in three years and have a median income at or below 80 percent of their county or metro area. Homebuyers must make an investment of 2 percent but no more than 10 percent of the sale price from their own funds. The program allows participants to apply for a zero percent interest loan in the amount of 15-20 percent of the home’s purchase price. The loan is forgiven if the buyer remains in the home for 10 years.
“I know it sounds too good to be true, but it really isn’t,” Orscheln said of the program. “First-timers can easily make that monthly payment, but when you’re trying to scrape together a down payment and all the first payments, that’s very hard.”
Orscheln has worked with the FTHB program for more than a decade, shepherding at least 10-12 Kansas buyers through the program each year. Her typical customers are young families just starting out, or individuals ready to embark on solo homeownership. “If they can afford a $100,000 loan payment and you can expand that to a $115,000 house, you can give them such a better home,” she said. “It’s phenomenal the difference that can make in the quality of home they can buy.”
Taylor agrees. “The program is excellent because you can get a little more house for your money,” she said.
She found the right home for her family last July, learned about the FTHB program and made an offer that fall, and finally closed and settled in this February. “The kids like it, they’re happy here,” Taylor said. “Before we lived five miles out in the country. We were constantly running back and forth four to five times a day for activities. Now we’re in the middle of town, kids can walk to dance class, and we always have random teens stopping by.”
For Taylor, the program is about more than just the physical space she can provide for her children. It’s about the example she sets. “My mom has talked about how she has raised a strong, independent woman,” she said. “I’m out here buying a house on my own, just me. My kids think it’s great. I’m trying to be a good role model, someone for them to look up to. No matter what you have going on, you can do this. Anything’s possible.”
For Orscheln, the value of the program ripples beyond the homebuyers themselves to benefit the entire community.
“I think homeownership in general just betters every town,” Orscheln said. “When people own their place they have pride in ownership, they make it look good, they spend money on it. It’s the core value for making communities better.”
Kansas Housing Resources Corporation (KHRC) is a self-supporting, nonprofit, public corporation committed to helping Kansans access the safe, affordable housing they need and the dignity they deserve. KHRC serves as the primary administrator of federal housing programs for the state of Kansas.
To learn more about Kansas Housing’s First Time Homebuyer Program, visit our website. Homes in Johnson County, Kansas City, Lawrence, Topeka, and Wichita are ineligible for KHRC’s First Time Homebuyer Program. These areas administer their own federal HOME funds, which may or may not be used for homeownership assistance.