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ESL First-Time Homebuyer Grant Recipient Story – Jonathan

Buying a house is often the biggest purchase made in our lifetime, which is why it’s important to educate yourself for the homebuying journey. To help you prepare for the steps along the way, we’re pleased to highlight successes of recent first-time homebuyers.

Meet Jonathan, a sign language interpreter who recently bought his first home in Irondequoit with the assistance of an ESL First-Time Homebuyer Grant. Hear more about Jonathan’s inspiring first-time homebuyer story, and tips for other buyers below.

Jonathan & his fiancé pose in front of their new home

How did you first hear about the First-Time Homebuyer Grant with ESL?

I heard about the First-Time Homebuyer Grant through one of my professors at RIT – they said I should look into grants and that ESL offered one. I also was looking at what grants offered the most for first-time homebuyers. I said I would look into ESL because I was already an ESL customer for over 10 years and felt comfortable working with them.

How did this grant assist you with your purchase?

The money helped go towards closing costs. It also allowed me to be able to get the floors finished, new vinyl for the kitchen and back patio, and moss taken off the roof. The grant allowed me to pay for these renovations, as I otherwise would have had to spend all that money on closing costs.

How did ESL help you with your grant and financing?

I’m so happy how everything turned out and was so happy working with everyone at ESL. Everyone was nice and had good communication. They were considerate any time I was stressed or waiting for things to process. They were hospitable throughout process.

Buying a home is stressful but the team at ESL was able to work with me and gave me a lot of reassurance.

What does owning a home mean to you?

It feels good. Homeownership feels different than renting because it’s something that is mine, I feel like I could pursue my dreams more now that I have a house.

What steps did you take to prepare for homeownership?

I saved for two years before I decided to look for a grant. I took a course at CCCS of Rochester which helped me explore loan types. One thing the homebuyer course taught me was I learned I wanted to get a conventional mortgage. There was also info on budgetary education, how much to put aside when you’re buying, how much of your income you would consider and the type of house you can afford. It’s all important because listing prices aren’t always what the homes sell for.

Tell us about the buying process—what was your search like?

My agent at Keller Williams was great to work with. We maintained a budget throughout. We didn’t want to go all in on one house or go broke to buy a house. We wanted to have extra money on the side for repairs, in case of rainy day, and an emergency fund.

Fresh out the gate with agent, we looked at houses 30-40k under budget so that if I needed an escalation clause, I had room.

Tell us about the house you purchased.

The house we bought is a really nice house—it needed a little bit of work but was right on budget. It’s a colonial located in Irondequoit. Our realtor noticed that most homes we were looking at were colonials which felt like a family house and appealed to us more than other houses we saw.

We were prepared and knew if this house went over budget, we were willing to let it go; when it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.

What surprised you/what did you learn about the buying process?

Asking price vs selling price, and budgetary things. It’s easier said than done to let go of a house you really want to move into. It’s important to have restraint because you start picturing yourself in the house. You go through the process of losing a few houses to get to the right one.

It took a while to let go of a few houses. But I did recover, and the house I’m in now I’m happy with. It’s okay to feel sad about losing a house, as long as you continue to find the right house. You have to go through the wrong houses to get to the right one.

What advice do you have for other first-time buyers?

Take the grant if you qualify for it. I highly suggestion doing it, not just for the money at closing but for the education. It’s a big process and understanding the process is important so you can make informed decisions as you go. It is such a quick process so the better prepared you are before you start offering on houses, the better decisions you can make.

What are you looking forward to with your new home?

The first thing I want to do: I can’t wait to get into living room and watch Marvel. I’m behind on Miss Marvel and I am Groot.

Congratulations on your new home, Jonathan!


In August 2021, ESL launched the ESL First-Time Homebuyer Grant, a solution exclusively for Black and Latino first-time homebuyers allowing eligible home buyers the ability to earn $10 in grant dollars1 for every $1 saved over the minimum 6-month savings period. This grant seeks to advance racial and ethnic equity throughout Greater Rochester via one of the most important wealth-building tools there is—homeownership.

Learn more about the ESL First-Time Homebuyer Grant

Note: buyers can opt for lesser monthly contributions in exchange for a longer savings period (e.g., 10 months and $105 saved per month) to reach $1,050 saved.

1: Maximum grant amount of $10,500.

ESL reserves the right to change the terms and conditions at any time, without prior notice. The Household also fully understands that the limited funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis and even if the Household meets all of the terms and conditions this does not guarantee that there may be funds available at the time that the Household qualifies. ESL, in its sole discretion, may refuse to honor an ESL First-Time Homebuyer Grant funding request. The Household further agrees that any proceeds, which will not be, or cease to be, used for the purposes approved by ESL will be recaptured and the unused, or improperly used, grant will be returned to ESL. The Household will also acknowledge receipt of a copy of these terms and conditions.