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Arnita DeShields always knew she would own a home one day — she just wasn’t sure how. Her credit was in the 300s, her student loan debt had piled up, and as a teacher, she had to navigate periods of unemployment when her classes weren’t running. Still, she never gave up on her dream.

By the fall of 2021, Arnita had lived through every kind of rental nightmare: mice, a leaky roof, difficult neighbors, and neglected repairs. It was time to find a safe, stable home for her and her college-aged son. She remembers telling her last landlord, “I know there’s a home out there for me, and I’m going to find it.”

Around that time, a news article about Landis flashed across her phone. “I thought it looked interesting,” she says. But there were a lot of rent-to-own programs on the market, so she did her research. “I sent through questions about my credit being poor, and they got back to me right away. I compared programs, and this felt like the best fit for me.”

Once approved, she hit the ground running. Arnita paid down her credit cards and student loan, and steadily raised her credit score. She says the guidance of her Landis coach, Noah, was a huge motivator. “He was always available. I know I’m not the only one, but he made the time. He encouraged me and said ‘you’re not by yourself’.”

But Arnita didn’t want her hard work going into the wrong house. “I wanted a home on a block where people cared about their properties and I didn’t get that sense from the places we were looking in Philly.” Never one to settle for less, she hopped in her car and drove to see listings outside of the city on her own.

That’s where she found it: a 3-bedroom, 1.5-bath townhouse with a garage and basement equipped with a washer and dryer. It checked all her boxes. “The neighborhood was peaceful and very diverse and the people were very friendly,” she says. Plus, there was plenty of room for her son, Joseph, when he was home from college.

Landis bought the home in cash on Arnita’s behalf, and she got to move right in. “I was included in the process at every step. I was invited to the walkthrough and the closing. My son cried, I cried,” she says.

Today, Arnita is happy, comfortable, and increasingly close to owning her home. With help from two down payment assistance programs referred to her by Landis, she should be ready to sign the paperwork in less than a month. Joseph calls it a “milestone” achievement, saying “my mom’s come a very long way. She’s been through a lot, so to see her buy a home, I was relieved.”

Arnita says it’s not just her financial situation that changed through the experience — it’s her mindset. “Now I’m thinking more about who I am and not settling. I want to be six-figured.” Considering her perseverance, it’s only a matter of time.

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