It was meant to bee

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Early in June, Rita Murphy and a neighbor donned their beekeeping suits and headed out to the tree where a swarm of bees had alighted. They shook the branch once, and a group of bees fell on them. They shook it twice, and more bees clustered around. On the third try, the queen bee found her way into the waiting hive, and the bees slowly followed.

“It’s kind of like being at a birth, the energy [of a swarm finding a new home],” Rita explains.

And like their bee swarm, Rita and her husband, Ed Havard, found their home four years ago, when they became first-time homebuyers working through the Champlain Housing Trust’s Shared Equity Program.

Rita and Ed both grew up in New York, and met while in college in Syracuse. They married and traveled around before settling in Vermont in 1991. They and their son lived in rentals for many years, but when their Burlington landlord decided to sell their home in 2011, they decided it was time to look for a place of their own – one where they could stay for years, build equity and paint the walls whatever color they wanted.

At first they tried the traditional route, touring homes for sale with a realtor. However, they soon found that homes in their price range either needed of a lot of work or were small and not in the location they hoped for. Discouraged and running out of time, they took a different tack – they sat down and imagined instead what they would love to find. Their dream home: one in Charlotte, by the lake.

During that busy summer, they moved out of their Burlington apartment and began housesitting for friends who were temporarily out of town. Coincidentally, those friends owned a CHT Shared Equity home.

“It was kind-of a miracle how it all happened,” Rita says. At her friend’s urging, she went on the CHT web site and saw a property in Charlotte advertised. She immediately was drawn to it.

The couple attended the one-hour Shared Equity Program informational meeting, then the all-day workshop which gave them “realistic and honest” advice and practical steps. They quickly went through the rest of the process (“we were really motivated!” Rita laughs) so that by the end of August they were ready to buy.

When they purchased in 2011, the median home price in Charlotte was $430,000, a price that was way out of reach for Rita and Ed. Through the CHT program, however, they were able to purchase their dream home at an affordable price and now have an affordable mortgage. After CHT’s down payment grant, the $190,000 market price of the home was reduced to just $141,000, the amount they had to mortgage.

They moved into their house in the end of September, on the same day that the friends they had been housesitting for returned from their trip.

“It’s our first home, our starter home, our second home, our vacation home, our retirement home,” Rita says. “It was meant to be.”

And one of her first projects as a homeowner: painting a wall orange. Rita and Ed – and their bees – had found a place to call home.