Chloe Wiliams is a Missoula middle school teacher and single mother determined to buy a home.

About a year after leaving her now ex-husband, Chloe came to Homeword to take the Get Ready for HomeOwnership class.

“I had gotten a divorce,” said Chloe, “so I was a new single parent living in a small apartment with my son. I wanted to try to buy a house for us so he could have a yard.”

Chloe met with Homeword Homebuyer Educator Julie Pavlish for individualized one-on-one counseling following class. At their first meeting, they went over Chloe’s finances and determined that she needed to work on her debt ratios before she would be able to buy a house.

“The counseling with Julie was great,” she said. “We met once or twice a year for the last four years. She was so patient! I was getting really concerned that I wouldn’t be able to buy a home, but she got me through the fear I had about money and the debt—because I had a lot of student debt.”

Julie coached Chloe through signing up with FedLoan Servicing, an organization approved by the U.S. Department of Education to service college student loans that supports borrowers with easy ways to manage their repayments. They also worked together to put together Chloe’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) documentation.

Finally, after years of hard work, Chloe’s loans were forgiven.

“I couldn’t believe it!” Chloe said. “I called Julie up and was like, ‘Is this real?’ I thought it would never happen.”

Together Chloe and Julie checked the website and confirmed that the debt was truly gone. Having completed the PSLF program successfully meant more options for Chloe in her financial decisions moving forward.

Even though she was debt-free, Chloe had yet another challenge ahead in her homebuying journey. As she paid off debt over the past several years, home prices and interest rates had continued to climb.

“I have to stay here because of my custody situation,” she said. “There’s not another option. I just have to figure it out.”

In a recent coaching session, Julie encouraged Chloe to enroll in a Community Land Trust (CLT) program with North Missoula Community Development Corporation. CLT home ownership is an alternative to renting that provides opportunity for people to build equity instead of paying a landlord. Chloe reached out right away to apply and found out there could be homes available within the next year.

Chloe persevered through COVID-19 and a tough economy, asking questions and following through with homework after every session with Julie. Chloe hasn’t purchased a house yet, but she is well positioned to when the right one becomes available.

“I’ve referred three other women—two of them moms— to Homeword. They want to buy homes or are in student loan debt and scared about finances. One woman just didn’t want to look at it, and that’s very much how I felt.”

Chloe says her advice is to jump in and let a counselor help you step by step.