Mindsets, like habits, can become indelible, lifelong truths. That is unless something occurs to interrupt that perpetual loop. Occasionally, the shift in perspective or habit change occurs when the old way of thinking or behaving becomes too painful or unpleasant to withstand. This is precisely what happened to Okima Blanks, whose way of life was dramatically improved when she experienced a life-changing shift in her mindset.

Okima had lived in rental properties in the Charlotte area for much of her adult life. Initially, she focused on “just providing a suitable place to live” for her and her children. They lived in an apartment for years before renting a house large enough to accommodate the growing family. As is usually the case in any city experiencing explosive growth, rental costs were skyrocketing, often outpacing income increases. In her 40’s at the time, Okima began to feel the cost-of-living “pinch,” and her mindset began to shift from being content with a temporary “roof” to wanting to live with permanence in a home of her own.

The path wasn’t easy. Not knowing where to start, Okima set off on a search for assistance. During her quest, she encountered multiple roadblocks, such as having an income too high to qualify for some programs or a debt load that exceeded the requirements of others. But she persisted, digging deeper to find other avenues to affordable housing. “Through my online research, I found DreamKey Partners,” she recalls. “I met with a counselor and took advantage of the homeownership education classes they offer. It was eye-opening. I wish I had learned these things sooner in life – in school or from my parents.”

Okima absorbed invaluable lessons about how credit can work for you or hinder you, how to best approach paying off debt, saving money and managing a budget, and all of the tools essential to becoming a successful homeowner. Armed with new knowledge, she worked closely with her DreamKey Partners’ counselor to set goals and develop a plan to qualify for financial resources. “It’s so important to have someone in your corner when you’re buying a home—someone you can trust to look out for your best interest. My counselor held my hand and reassured me when I was feeling discouraged,” Okima remarks.

After two years of diligence and working with the resources made available through DreamKey Partners, Okima secured $40,000 in down payment assistance and qualified for a mortgage. She was shocked to discover that not only was she purchasing her first home, but her mortgage was going to be $800 per month less than what she was paying in rent. “I only wish I had learned these lessons earlier in my life and stopped throwing money away toward rent,” she exclaimed.

Today, Okima proudly lives with her family in a four-bedroom home in the Midtown area of Charlotte. Moving away from a renter’s mindset means she now has the freedom to decorate her home inside and out without restrictions. She especially relishes her time with her family, watching movies or enjoying their favorite pastime of dominos and board games.

The benefits of Okima’s successful move to homeownership go far beyond the four walls of her house. “I’m leaving my children a legacy. I’m passing down the knowledge and tools I learned during my journey, as well as the security of a place they can call home even after I’m gone,” she says. “I want young people to have the mindset that they can achieve homeownership. And they should start early.”

And that, Okima, is a life lesson and priceless legacy indeed.