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There’s No Place Like (Your Own) Home

October 24, 2012

Glenn Booker

Glenn Booker may very well be a whiz in information systems. But there’s one thing this iSchool professor couldn’t quite calculate—exactly how much “fixing up” was needed in his West Powelton fixer-upper.

But for Booker, every drop of sweat, every exhausting minute is all worth it for the ability to say, “This is mine.”

Booker officially moved into his the 120-year-old, seven-bedroom, three-full-bath Victorian in June. In the spring, he decided to utilize Drexel’s Employee Home Purchase Assistance Program after years of paying rent for an overpriced (and undersized) apartment.

“I was paying over $2,100 a month for a 900-square-foot apartment,” he said. “I really wanted to find something worth investing in.”

Booker heard about Drexel’s program last fall and, since he was house hunting in West Philadelphia anyway, it was the perfect opportunity. After finishing his Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Drexel, he now had the time to focus on the world of real estate.

Finding just the right home, Booker said, proved to be quite an adventure.  “Obviously, with the age of West Philly, there are a lot of homes that are in desperately bad shape,” he said.

But one Powelton Avenue Victorian twin stood out.

“There was this big old beautiful house that had been badly ignored for a while. A lot of its original character was still there—the framing around the doors, the original parlor doors, the marble walls and floor in the entryway. It was obviously a huge gorgeous building at one point and I thought, ‘You know what? It’d be really fun to restore it to its original glory,’“ he said.

Booker admitted that fixing up this home is officially the largest “pet project” he’s ever taken on. Over the past few months, he’s ripped out carpet staples until his fingers were numb, painted ceilings in 100-degree heat, sanded, vacuumed and re-sanded  the floor in his bedroom (the first of nine rooms that need sanding), and so much more.

Buying the home, Booker said, was a major investment and one he couldn’t have made without Drexel’s program.

“Getting this house would not have been possible,” Booker said. “I had very little money saved and I was focusing on day-to-day expenses and getting out of debt these last two years.  I absolutely could not have gotten this house without the Drexel program.”

Drexel’s program offers a $15,000 forgivable loan toward the purchase of a primary residence within a geographic area defined by Drexel. There is also a $5,000 forgivable loan for renovations for  employees currently living in the geographic area. And Philadelphia’s Home. Buy. Now program kicks in an additional $4,000. Additionally, Drexel has a long list of preferred vendors, from mortgage lenders to realtors to home inspectors, who offer fee discounts to Drexel employees.

“This is a huge plus because normally, you have to go out and find all of these vendors on your own,” said Althea Wallace, director of HR programs and events. “It just makes the process easier.”

Wallace added that Drexel employees can get these discounts even if they buy outside the geographic boundaries of the program.

So far, Booker has the master bedroom set up, an office with lots of natural light, a cozy but slightly empty living room and the basics of a kitchen. Down the road, he plans to convert one of the smaller bedrooms into a walk-in closet.

“It’s getting closer to feeling like home,” he said. “I still confuse myself a little bit and say, “Oh wait, this is actually mine?”

For more information, visit www.drexel.edu/hr/benefits/voluntary/homepurchase/ or call Althea Wallace at 215-895-2582.