Stacie Daye spends a lot of time at her kitchen island, creating meals such as Jamaican beef patties, shrimp curry and salads with collard greens, arugula and peppers from her garden.
The kitchen island, with its sparkling granite countertop, is one of Daye’s favorite features in the north Durham house she and her husband Craig purchased in 2018. The couple received guidance on buying their first home through the Duke Homebuyers Club, an employee program organized by Duke’s Office of Durham and Community Affairs.
“I never would have felt ready to make the jump,” said Daye, radiologic technologist with Duke Radiology who rented apartments before purchasing the home.
The Duke Homebuyers Club connects all Duke employees with financial literacy and resources to prepare them to navigate the process as first-time buyers. Sessions are held over Zoom on the second Thursday of every month, covering such topics as budgeting, credit repair, qualifying for a mortgage and working with a realtor. The next meeting is 5:30 p.m. June 10. Any Duke employee can participate in the program.
“Buying a home is a complicated journey,” said Eliza Mathew, a senior programming coordinator for the Duke Office of Durham and Community Affairs. “The club is here to help participants implement positive practices for home buying. We’re going to walk with you on that journey.”
Daye’s house is one of 71 homes that employees purchased with the help of the program since it started in 2013. The program, which has helped 350 employees, began as a way to connect colleagues with home-buying opportunities in Durham’s Southside neighborhood. It has since expanded to focus on home-buying education across the Triangle area.
“Your residence becomes a foundation in which you can express yourself and put down roots,” said Mayme Webb-Bledsoe, an assistant vice president for Duke’s Office of Durham and Community Affairs.
Daye, 44, started planting the seeds for her home ownership when she attended Duke Homebuyers Club sessions in 2017 and 2018. She learned about loans, interest rates and closing costs and started saving by canceling her cable subscription.
She also competitively searched to secure a home loan with an interest rate of 3.5 percent after an initial bank offered 6.5 percent.
“Owning a home is like having an oasis,” Daye said. “I walk through my front door and have this tremendous pride that I own everything in this place. It’s absolutely beautiful.”
Niasha Fray participated in the Duke Homebuyers Club for a year before purchasing her first home in May of 2019. The Homebuyers Club taught Fray about the upfront costs of buying a house, like inspections and closing costs, and how to prioritize her must-haves list for a home.
Fray found a house in Knightdale with an open floorplan and a half-acre backyard. The outdoor space is now home to her 7-year-old daughter’s playhouse and a garden of cauliflower, okra, tomatoes and a lemon tree.
“Figuring out how to buy a home is like navigating a dense forest that you have no idea to get around,” said Fray, a program director for the Duke Office of Durham and Community Affairs. “It’s so helpful to have experts pointing you the way through it.”