Celia Serrano used York Habitat for Humanity’s home-ownership program and the lessons it taught to help grow her assets and change her family’s future.
In 2009, Celia Serrano and her nearly adult children moved from Arizona to York to be with her, now, husband , hoping to find stability and a place to call home.
Having both previously lived in New York City, she and her husband longed to have a house of their own. After exploring options for buying a home, Celia saw that York Habitat for Humanity’s home-ownership program offered the best path forward.
“Once I came here and got settled down and started working, I looked into the program and to see if we were eligible, and we were,” Celia says.
The application process began in 2013, and after months of navigating credit checks and paperwork with her York Habitat for Humanity coach, Celia and her family were approved to become owners of a Habitat home.
An 11th-hour switch
Celia and her husband committed to putting in over 400 hours of sweat equity required for the purchase of a York Habitat for Humanity house. They worked alongside volunteers and Habitat staff to renovate a home. The process was about not only rehabilitating a house but about building a sense of community and empowerment.
“I learned how to use a handheld drill. I learned how to use a circular saw. It was intimidating at first, but once I got used to it, I was like, OK, I can do this. I can do this,” she says.
Life had a wrench to throw into the works, though. After they had nearly completed their sweat-equity hours on the home they thought they’d be moving into, York Habitat for Humanity learned of another family in desperate need that was a better fit for the home.
Frustrated but still hopeful, Celia watched as that family moved into the home where she had selected and helped install the cabinets and flooring and apply finishes. Her frustration soon dissipated, however, as the York Habitat for Humanity team took her and her husband to another property, one that fit their needs perfectly.
At the time, Celia was taking care of her brother along with her two children and her husband’s two children. That second home had extra bedrooms, providing space for the children, and later for grandchildren to stay when they visited, and even a space for an office so she could work from home. Best of all, it had a backyard and its own parking spot, a rarity for that downtown York locale.
“When we saw the new house, it fit us better,” Celia says. “It was just more welcoming, you know, and we knew this was going to be our home.”
In 2014, Celia and her family moved into their home, marking a new chapter in their lives. In June 2015 Celia and Luis married. Over the years, they have made numerous improvements and personalized the house to make it truly their own.
Building generational opportunity
Homeownership has had a profound impact on Celia and her family, providing opportunities for personal and financial growth. By applying budgeting skills acquired in Habitat’s classes and building equity in their home, she and her husband eventually were able to purchase two rental properties.
Celia’s husband was able to buy a truck and drive as an owner-operator.
The stability and security of homeownership have allowed Celia and her husband to plan for the future, not only for themselves but for their grandchildren. They want to provide a solid foundation for the younger generation, ensuring they have opportunities and support, and break the cycle of uncertainty and instability that Celia and her husband experienced growing up.
Working with York Habitat for Humanity provided Celia and her family with more than just a home. The guidance and support they received during the process, especially through the budgeting classes and one-on-one counseling, were pivotal in helping them become financially literate and in shaping their decision-making.
The lessons learned from these experiences have continued to benefit them long after moving into their home.