The little blue house sits in the middle of a block, the second in a row of four homes. Two chairs and a small table on the front porch invite friends and neighbors to drop by for a visit. The porch faces west toward the city park offering a picturesque view of sunsets.
Josie Vitosh says this 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom house, nestled in the middle of Odell, Nebraska is perfect.
“It is just me living in the house, and the living space is cozy and comfortable for when friends and family come over to visit,” she said.
Josie grew up in the town with a population of 307. After college, she was hired for a job in a nearby community and moved back in with her parents. She wanted to make a life in the Odell area near her loved ones, but needed her own space, too.
“It was time to get out on my own and be an ‘adult,’” Josie said.
Just down the street from her parents’ home was this blue house. Josie’s Uncle Sid had purchased the house in 2004 and remodeled it with the help of her dad and some friends.
“Seeing pictures of the remodeling process, I remember different things about the house,” Josie said. “There is still a small piece of the wallpaper he had in his bathroom.”
The house sold in 2007, was occupied for a few years, then stood vacant until the Odell Housing Group bought it in 2019.
Odell Housing Group consists of community members who purchase existing homes, fix them up, and resell them.
Josie contacted Amanda McKinney, who leads the group, and is also a member of the Center for Rural Affairs Board of Directors.
“I knew this was my opportunity to stay in the Odell community,” Josie said. “My uncle passed away in February 2019, and the little blue house means so much more to me.”
Amanda, Josie, and Josie’s parents met to discuss options. Another member of the housing group, Jamie Renshaw, helped with the financial aspect, including creating a spreadsheet with different payment plans.
“He understood my concerns with the unknown of the COVID-19 pandemic and my fear of drowning in payments that I couldn’t afford if something happened with my job,” Josie said. “I am grateful for him and his knowledge; he took his time explaining things to me and helping me choose the loan that would set me up for success and not failure.”
Ultimately, Josie’s first home loan was through the Odell Housing Group. She was given the keys on Aug. 1, 2020, borrowed an air mattress, and spent her first night in her new home. With the help of her family, including her sisters, she was all moved in by Aug. 5.
“Once everything was in there, I think we just sat on the couch and smiled,” Josie said. “That night, I sat on my front porch and watched the sunset, which was the first of many sunsets to come.”
Owning the loan left the Odell Housing Group with a large asset on paper, but with little cash to continue their mission—improving housing stock in Odell. Meanwhile, the Center for Rural Affairs launched a new home lending service offering loans for the purchase of a home, owner occupied rehabilitation or renovation, or emergency repair to the property.
Odell Housing Group transferred their loan to the Center making Josie the organization’s first home loan recipient and allowing Odell Housing to continue their work.
“I felt very comfortable with the fact that, like the Odell Housing Group, the Center for Rural Affairs was about community and helping rural towns thrive and stay alive,” Josie said. “I am a young, first-time homeowner, so the time they have spent working with me and making sure I am comfortable with this process has been amazing. They have made sure I understand what is going on and are very good at answering all of my questions.”
With the loans squared away, Josie has plans. Her to-do list for this summer includes transplanting tulips and roses from her parents’ house and building a new front porch with the help of her dad and his friends.
“I plan to stay in the house as long as possible, and continue updating the house,” she said. “I would like to raise my family here someday. I want to be more involved in the community and schools. I want to help others and give them opportunities like I was given.”
Opportunities made possible by supportive family, friends, community members, and the Center for Rural Affairs.
“I am just so grateful for all the people who helped make this possible,” Josie said. “Rural communities are known for being generous and helping out when something needs done and Odell is no different. I truly just want to send a huge thank you to everyone who has helped me get here and made this house so special.”
As the sun sets each night, Josie has a good reason to relax in front of her little blue house.
Apply for a loan
The Center works with rural Nebraskans to assist them on the journey to becoming a homeowner. We believe in building sustainable communities and that everyone living in rural America should have the opportunity to live a happy and fulfilling life. We help Nebraskans own stable, safe, and quality housing.
To serve more diverse community members, we are often more flexible than traditional lenders. We may be able to help if you dream of owning a home but have little to no credit history or a low credit score.
To learn more about terms and to apply, visit cfra.org/homeloans.