WINSLOW — Stephanie Basford has never been happier.

After living nearly all her life in mobile homes or apartments, Basford, a single mother of three boys, became a homeowner for the first time with the help of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“It’s so quiet. I absolutely love it,” Basford said inside the dining room of her new home in Winslow. Located on Frankwood Drive, the split-level home is partly shaded behind trees. It has a one-car garage and spacious backyard.

Basford said the process started two years ago, when the mobile home where she and her three boys lived was getting more dangerous by the day.

“It needed a lot of repairs. The water leaked. The windows were drafty. Electrical outlets were catching on fire,” Basford said. “It was very unsafe.”

Basford, a Marden’s warehouse worker in Winslow, was approved for the FIX ME Home Improvement Loan Program, which helped provide low-interest loans for home repairs up to $15,000.

“They sent someone out for the estimate of repairs,” Basford said. “It came up to $14,000, which was more than the mobile home was worth.”

Carlton Pinney, owner of Northeast Housing Services, did the estimation and also told Basford about the possibility of getting a USDA 502-Direct loan, which provides single-family housing loans in rural areas to eligible low-income applicants who are unable to obtain credit elsewhere.

“My income is not great and my credit isn’t great,” Basford said. “With those, no banks would work with me on getting a home loan, so the USDA was all I could work with.

“If it wasn’t for the USDA, I would not be in this house.”

Even though the agency was willing to work with Basford, it didn’t make the process much easier. Basford was approved for a loan of up to $148,513, but whatever house she decided on had to meet USDA standards. It had to be modest in size, design and cost; and it had to meet the voluntary national model building code adopted by the state.

“We had to find her a house, but then we need to find a house that meets the standards of USDA — no chipping or peeling paint, the septic system and water need to be in order,” said Hoa Hoang, Basford’s real estate agent, who represents Keller Williams Realty. “A lot of the homes in her price range weren’t taken care of that well.”

It took two years for Basford to find the house in Winslow. During those two years, there were times when she lost hope.

“It was very stressful,” Basford said. “I was under contract with a home in Fairfield which fell through, so I was getting really discouraged. My Realtor was great. Every time I started to get frustrated or lose hope that I would ever get into a home, she’d boost me right back up.”

In early March, Hoang arranged to look at 10 places with Basford, but those tours were cut short once Basford stepped into what is now her new home on Frankwood Drive.

“As soon as I stepped into this one, I fell right in love with it,” Basford said. “I’ve always wanted a split-level with a fireplace. This house just fit everything.”

However, one problem loomed over the entire purchase. Basford still hadn’t secured the funding from USDA, and the current homeowner, Robert Evans, was on a tight schedule to retire and move to Texas.

“This seller was ready to retire, and he had other people knocking on his door with offers,” Hoang said. “I told Basford to stay in touch with the USDA every day, and I begged Mr. Evans to keep working with us.”

Evans agreed to work with Basford, and she received the funding needed at the end of April.

“Mr. Evans was so generous. He left her things,” Hoang said. “He was in a tight position. If things didn’t work out by a certain date, he was going to have to move on.”

According to Basford, Evans left behind a dining room set, end tables, a coffee table, a pool table for her boys in the basement, workout equipment, tools and a washer and dryer.

One of the greatest changes Basford has come to enjoy is the extra amount of space. Never before has she had her own backyard — or lately, even her own living room.

“In our mobile home, my older son spent most of his time in the living room because he had to share a bedroom,” she said. “My kids would have a hard time bringing friends home. Now we’ve got plenty of room. They can have friends over and boys can be boys. It’s just amazing.”

When the process started two years ago for Basford, she couldn’t see herself being this happy. A life of 37 years had taught her not to get her hopes up.

“Things never turn out right for me,” she said. “I was trying not to get my hopes up. I’ve always lived in a mobile home or an apartment.

“To actually have a house — I’ve never had one.”

Jesse Scardina — 861-9239
[email protected]

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