How 6 lives were changed by homeownership through PHFA

Marcus and Michelle Cole (photo provided by PHFA)

Few things compare to the dream of becoming a homeowner. If you think this goal is out of your reach or don’t know where to start in the home-buying process, then the following stories of people who have worked with the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) could give you the encouragement and the direction you need.

1. Doing it on her own. At age 22, Dana Geiss was living with her parents and her one-month-old son while she studied to earn her master’s in speech-language pathology.

It was always Dana’s dream to have a home of her own. With a can-do attitude, Dana got in touch with a lender and selected an affordable PHFA mortgage for her new house. Today, she owns a home with her son in Philadelphia that fits within her budget. Instead of paying rent, she’s building equity in her own property, and she’s making a better life for her family.

2. Finding her happily ever after. For three years, Dana Schmitt and her father scoured around town to find the perfect place for Dana to call home. Then, devastatingly, Dana’s father passed away. She was going to give up looking, but she saw the perfect home for sale while she was driving to the store one day after his passing. It was as if fate stepped in.

PHFA offered her a loan with no private mortgage insurance and a payment that was lower than the rent that she was paying. With the helpful tips from her father, her determined searching efforts, and PHFA’s affordable mortgage, Dana was able to purchase her dream home.

3. Building roots in a place together. Newlyweds Patrick and Linda Mencel are both artists, and they were having trouble finding a home that was affordable and could accommodate their art-studio space needs. This is where the PHFA assisted.

After doing some research, Linda came across PHFA’s Keystone Home Loan. She knew it was the right mortgage for the two of them. With their new home, they now both have more space to do what they love.

4. Creating room for the little ones. Marcus and Michelle Cole had been married for four years when they started looking for a home large enough to hold their growing family. They also wanted room to be able to welcome foster kids into their lives.

After finding a house, the Cole's realtor suggested they use a PHFA home loan that gave them a competitive interest rate as well as assistance with their down payment and closing costs. They welcomed their first child just two months after they bought their house. Marcus says that it’s something he’ll remember for the rest of his life.

5. Gaining back independence. Paralyzed from a car accident, Holly Petro suddenly found herself facing some unique challenges. She wanted to live independently in her own home, but she didn’t think she could do so from a wheelchair.

Then she learned about PHFA and a 30-year, fixed rate mortgage that made owning a home affordable. She found a townhome complex that was under construction, and the builder was able to work with her to design a house that could fit her needs. She was able to get features such as lower countertops and roll-under sinks to help her home be more functional for her.

6. Not letting student loans get in the way. Christine Vega-Perez was 23, single, and living with her parents when she decided that she wanted a place of her own with a shorter commute to work.

She assumed that at this stage of her life, owning a home would be an unattainable goal, but her real estate agent led her to a free homebuyer course that is supported in part by PHFA. The two of them visited 35 homes before she found the right one for her. Christine’s advice for others is, “Don't think of owning a home as a far-fetched dream because it really can be a reality.”

If you’re working toward home ownership or have questions about how to obtain this dream, visit You can also call their Customer Solutions Center at 1-855-U-Are-Home (827-3466). You might be able to make that home purchase sooner than you think.