Janelle Sapiel is a member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe in Pleasant Point. She began working with Four Directions in March of 2019 with the goals of building her credit, increasing her savings, and becoming a homeowner. That’s just what she did!
Becoming a homeowner was so important to Janelle because of the lack of homes and apartments on the Pleasant Point Reservation. Janelle knew that as someone without children, she wouldn’t qualify for a housing unit and would either have to rent a home off-reservation, or continue to live with her parents. Neither of these options were a good fit for Janelle, as she wanted to grow her independence while remaining close to home.
Janelle worked with a Housing Counselor at Four Directions to build a household budget that made sense for her. She began to learn how different financial decisions affect her credit profile and began working to improve her credit score and increase her savings. Janelle took some time off from financial counseling and got to work on her own. She stuck with the budget she initially worked on with Four Directions and began to start saving. For example, she was going out to restaurants twice a week and decided to limit that to twice a month. Janelle limited her spending and shopped around for cheaper car insurance rates in order to free up some money to put aside.
Janelle also increased her credit score by almost 200 points since she started working with Four Directions. She was also able to refinance her car, which lowered her monthly payment by over $100, but she continued to pay the original amount to allow the extra to go directly to principal. She also started to pay more than the minimum payment due on her credit cards helping her to increase her credit score and reduce her total credit card debt. Once she got her credit card balances low enough, she consolidated them by taking out a loan for the amount owed, leaving all the cards paid off. Because cancelling credit cards can have a negative impact on an individual’s credit score, Janelle has kept her credit cards active, but does not use them. Janelle also opened a Credit Karma account and checks her credit score daily. Credit Karma helped her to increase her credit score and allows her to continue to monitor her credit report.
After a lot of work on her credit and savings, Janelle began speaking with multiple different contractors to put together the blueprints to build her dream home. In September 2020, she started shopping around for financing options. She reviewed multiple different loan products and lenders. In November of 2020, Janelle picked the loan product she felt worked best for her and closed on her new home! Her home was finally finished in May of 2021.
Janelle’s journey to homeownership was not without challenges, and the long timeframe proved to be the biggest challenge. Janelle waited on her Title Status Report (TSR) showing approval from the BIA for over a year. The long wait proved to be worth it, and Janelle says she couldn’t be happier.
“Once I got the TSR back from BIA, the process was smooth sailing with Four Directions,” Janelle shared. “I am very thankful for the service and guidance Four Directions provided during my journey and I am forever grateful. I am proud of the accomplishments I have made and have had people approach me to say I have inspired them to start their own loan process. It feels great to be a homeowner but becoming a homeowner comes with its own task in itself. There are a lot of little details that you do not think of when going into building a home — direct vent or chimney, radiators, or baseboards. So, if I can give some advice before building a home is to do some research and make sure everything you want or think you want is laid out clearly. Financially, it has been an eye opener. I am currently in the process of trying to refinance my current loan, which Four Directions is assisting with. I start to worry about things I never had to worry about before, like insurance, ‘what if this or that breaks,’ but, in the end, it will be all worth it and has thus far been rewarding.”