Reign Harris

Katie ArnoldHome Ownership, Success Stories

When Ms. Reign Harris’s friend told her about Justine PETERSEN she was skeptical. She had purchased a house through a city tax sale and wanted to rehab the property to live in and run a foundation in honor of her son. But she knew she hadn’t established her credit. Her friend who had gotten a loan from JP for her clothing boutique kept telling her it wasn’t going to be difficult, but Ms. Harris was skeptical.

Ms. Harris started working with Franchot Cunningham, a JP Asset Building Counselor with a background in real estate. Franchot talked Ms. Harris through her loan application and helped her understand what was on her credit report. He helped her open a Save2Build loan, which could help her build a small amount of savings and, through monthly on-time payments, establish her credit. She was still skeptical and couldn’t tell if her loan request was going to get a yes or a no. And behind the scenes, Franchot was trying to figure out if JP could get to a yes. He brought the loan to the underwriting committee and the committee recommended a site visit before making a decision.

And then Robert Boyle, Justine PETERSEN’s CEO, called and proposed they meet and walk through the property. The walls were gutted and the roof was off. As Ms. Harris describes it, it wasn’t a “roof with holes, you could stand on the second floor and reach to the sky or land a helicopter down on that second floor.” And believe it or not, the house was in a better state than when she purchased it. The roof, which had slid off and had been resting on the house next door, was removed and after the chimney and one wall of bricks had fallen off the entire wall had been stabilized and secured.

Ms. Harris was feeling overwhelmed and still skeptical: “I’m thinking there is no way these guys are going to touch this house.” Ms. Harris had an architect there, and they started talking about how to convert the two-family into a single-family home. Ms. Harris started describing where the stairs would move and how she’d swap a front window for the front door. Ms. Harris remembers Franchot and Rob saying, “We can see it. We’re going to make it happen.” And after six months of on-time payments on her Save2Build, she was approved for a loan to rehab her house.

With the rehab now complete, Ms. Harris is focusing on running her foundation in honor of the work her son did to support young people and athletics as a coach at DeSmet Highschool. And if that wasn’t enough community support, she’s on a mission to rebuild the neighborhood one block at a time. She helped her cousin purchase the house directly across her which she’s currently rehabbing. When asked the impact the rehab had on her community she explained that as soon as the rehab started, people would stop by and shout out from the car words of encouragement. She thinks because the house was abandoned for so long and how dramatic that roof was really made her work visible. One of her recent proud moments was when a neighbor that’s lived on the block 68 years told her the rehab had inspired his neighbor to rehab his own place—the dumpster had just been dropped off.

Ms. Harris thinks she could not have gotten this loan anywhere else and she credited Justine PETERSEN with being there through the whole process: “they were there every step of the way.” And what it looks like now, Ms. Harris says, “beautiful inside and from where it came from, the outside is beautiful also.”