Each member of the OCU team is unique, and that helps us empathize with our members who are also unique. When you can walk in a member’s shoes, you’re more likely to provide the right solution.
For our mortgage borrowers, you might assume their “right solution” is the lowest possible rate. Since interest rates can make or break a family budget, that’s not a bad assumption, but for some of Opportunities’ members, getting a mortgage is a generations-old dream come true.
One of our employees, Prabin Pokhrel, knows how that generations-old dream feels.
Eighty-two percent of first-time home buyers are under 30, so it’s not unusual that Prabin, who’s 26, recently bought his own first home. What is unusual is the distance he traveled to get there.
Born in Nepal, Prabin spent his first 14 years in a refugee camp, living with his family in a house made of bamboo with a tent on top. When he came to Vermont, he focused on a goal – buying his own first home. His first step was a college degree. Well, actually, his first step was the ultra-complex FAFSA application, but once he had that mastered, the four year Economics and Business degree was relatively easy.
I thought Prabin worked hard until I interviewed him for this blog post. I was wrong. Prabin works incredibly hard. While most of us are pretty beat around 5:00, his day is just beginning.
He doesn’t just work for us full-time, he also works for the Howard Center full-time.
A typical day looks like this: Prabin arrives at Opportunities at 9 AM, meets with families shopping for a home, coaches them on how to fill out a mortgage application (cue the FAFSA experience,) educates them on little-known grants and loan programs that can make their purchase more affordable, talks to realtors about homes in a member’s price range and eventually passes applications on to our loan processors. After he’s put in a full day, he heads home to South Burlington for a quick dinner. He then arrives at Howard Center at 9 PM where he’s on call until 8 AM as a House Advisor. That’s right. He works 19 hours a day.
But that’s not all.
Prabin also plays competitive cricket. Last summer, he spent his vacation playing against other cricket teams in Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. His home team practices during the only time he has left… Fridays and Saturdays at Ft. Ethan Allen. (Look for the red jerseys.)
Prabin still finds time to help his family and friends in the Nepali community prepare their personal tax filings. He’s not a CPA and he doesn’t charge for this, but he knows his way through a 1040 as well as he does a mortgage application.
People trust Prabin. He’s proven reliable to his friends and customers. One realtor, also a refugee, signed off on an email to Prabin like this: “Looking forward to working with you on helping (names deleted) purchase their first home. As a first generation immigrant myself, transactions like these are especially dear to my heart!”
That’s not your typical realtor but then Prabin’s not your typical mortgage originator.
Members of the Nepali community and borrowers of color naturally find their way to Prabin. He often hears, “I was looking for someone like you.” Vermont Young Professionals of Color recently invited him to join a panel discussion where he opened some eyes to the fact that “20% down payment is not always necessary.” Systemic racism has taught us that many helpful programs aren’t as well-known as they could be.
Helping people navigate the complex path to homeownership takes patience. Our members feel they have a coach and an advocate and don’t have to navigate this path alone. There’s a lot to learn and by talking to Prabin.
Someday, Prabin wants to own property he can rent out. It’s easy to picture him being the good kind of landlord, the kind you can trust. Some lucky tenants will not only get a safe, stable place to live but also a landlord who might throw in some free advice on buying a first home.