June marks the beginning of National Homeownership Month. The celebration began in 2002 as a presidential initiative and has since brought the dialogue of homeownership and the importance of expanding homeownership opportunities to communities across the country. For more than 34 years, Keller Williams has taken great pride in helping individuals and families across the country capture their piece of the American dream through homeownership.
Last year alone, 1,072,091 individuals and families were able to step into their dream home or sell their property through a Keller Williams agent. Army service members Landers and Shaquania Chappell and their two sons – a Purple Heart family – were one of them.
Landers and Shaquania had been married for just a few months when Landers stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan and suffered serious injuries. What followed was a long and sometimes intense recovery process with a multitude of appointments for fitting his prosthetic and learning to walk again, as well as staying in the hospital and a hotel in Bethesda, Maryland, and renting an apartment.
“It slowly became, if you want to say, normal toward the end of it,” Landers says. “It was hectic in the beginning.” Shaquania adds, “It was very stressful. We had to deal with injuries, the loss of his leg – all in the first year of marriage.”
The couple decided to relocate with their two young sons to Atlanta, Georgia, to be closer to their families and attend college. A friend at Shaquania’s job referred the Chappells to her brother, Tim Murfree, a Keller Williams agent in metro Atlanta. Not long after Landers and Shaquania started looking at houses with Murfree, they found one they liked and were about to put in an offer.
But, around the same time, Murfree learned about the Military Warriors Support Foundation, which works with banks to provide mortgage-free homes to combat-wounded veterans and unmarried Gold Star spouses. Murfree says he had been searching for such an organization because it would give the Chappells the “freedom to be able to manage life and spread their resources to get everything done,” noting that veterans are often balancing many costs like childcare and higher education expenses – and that home prices in this area continue to rise faster than the national average because inventory is tight.
Intrigued by the possibility, the Chappells pulled back from making an offer on the house. “Tim said, ‘Just apply, just see what happens,’” Shaquania recalls. “So we applied. He kept calling and keeping us informed. He didn’t care about his commission, he just really wanted to help us.”
Several months later, Murfree reached out to the Chappells to let them know that the Military Warriors Support Foundation and Wells Fargo had located a home in Conyers, Georgia, in a nice neighborhood with good schools. They said they were interested and soon received a phone call informing them that they had been selected to receive the home mortgage-free.
Pictured above: Landers Chappell, Shaquania Chappell and Tim Murfree of Keller Williams Realty (directly right) with representatives from Wells Fargo, Community Bank and Military Warriors Support Foundation.
“When we were awarded the home, I was filled with emotions,” Landers says. “I cried about it, thanking God that we were able to go through that process. For one, I was able to give my kids something I didn’t have. Don’t get me wrong, I lived in a house growing up. But this house we’re in now – it’s an amazing home. It’s something that growing up I thought I would never be able to afford.”
Murfree, who forwent his commission by connecting the Chappells with the foundation, says that he has always wanted his business to play a role in giving back to the community through working with veterans.
“[As a Keller Williams agent], you’re helping people with their biggest asset and you have the opportunity to work with people and you’re very much responsible for them. You are able to work on a very significant social aspect.”
Throughout the entire process, the Chappells say that Murfree went out of his way to make sure they would be in a home that they wanted and felt comfortable purchasing and took the time to share his insight on all the technicalities that many first-time homebuyers haven’t encountered. And, he still calls at least once a month to see how the family is doing.
“If you’re not a REALTOR®, you don’t know all the things that a REALTOR® knows,” Landers says. “It’s definitely a relationship that you can build for a lifetime if you have the right person, the right agent.” Reflecting on how one single relationship between his wife and Murfree’s sister led to such a big event, Landers says he is so thankful and adds, “I believe God works in mysterious ways.”
Without a mortgage, the Chappell’s are able to invest in their family and education while keeping up with the maintenance costs of their home. Like Murfree, every Keller Williams agent has a story that showcases their commitment to their communities. Stay tuned as we share these stories with you throughout the month.
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Photos courtesy of The Rockdale Citizen