May 24th, 2013

Couple pleasantly surprised by Indy home ownership opportunities

by Emily Hinkel



Popping the champagne to celebrate their new home

It wasn’t even a year ago that David and Natalie Atwell would have laughed at the suggestion that they could be homeowners. After all, their collective income was barely enough to keep them in their 500-square-foot apartment. Then, much to their delighted surprise, they found out that Indianapolis offers lots of opportunities for low or moderate income families interested in owning a home.

Their first inkling that home ownership might be a real possibility came when they explained to a new acquaintance that they were unfortunately “too poor” to buy a house. They were surprised to hear her cry out in reply, “That’s perfect!” That new acquaintance was Joanna Taft, director of the City Gallery, and she was able to put them in touch with the Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership, as well as local community development corporations. And from that point, things just started falling into place.

When the Atwells met with their realtor, Mark Nottingham, they realized that because of the opportunities available to families in their income bracket, they would actually be better off buying a house immediately rather than waiting a couple years. Natalie shares, “We were in a tiny apartment, paying a lot in rent, and so when we found out there were these big, brand new, beautiful houses, that we wouldn’t have to do anything or lift a single hammer, and that we could have a lower mortgage payment than our rent, we thought, ‘Well, that’s sweet.’” David nods in agreement. “We’re paying half as much for three times the space,” he adds. “And we have grass now!”

Their new home is tucked away in King Park, only a short walk from the Monon Trail—or, as the Atwells refer to it, “their own personal highway.” Right now, they’re busy experiencing all the joys that homeownership has to offer: covering the walls with brightly colored paint, filling the house with art, and planting a garden.

For David and Natalie, the choice to buy a house downtown wasn’t really a choice at all; they’ve always known that they wanted to live near the city, right in the thick of things. “Downtown is just the most strategic place to be,” David explains. “Our jobs are here, our church is here, our friends are here, everything is here. It seems ridiculous to move way out and drive everywhere.” Natalie grins as she adds, “So we can walk or bike everywhere and practically forget that we have cars.”

David and Natalie’s passion for Indianapolis is infectious, and it’s hard not to get excited as they animatedly explain why they love the city. Natalie says:

“There’s so much here, so many little pockets, communities, start-ups, and cute little businesses. There’s more opportunity in Indy to live a local lifestyle than anywhere else, more than people realize, and more than any other city of comparable size. I don’t know of any other city where you can have your own house, with a yard, and be two miles from the center of the city. Indy is the only city that has real neighborhoods this close to downtown.”

Whatever your circumstances, don’t just assume that you can’t afford a house, the Atwells advise, because there are so many resources in Indianapolis for people trying to buy a home. Reach out to the neighborhood CDCs or ask INHP to point you in the right direction. The City Gallery is also always there to help you get started. The real reason these are such great resources, David says, is that “these organizations are not just about infrastructure, but about community and making Indy a better place.” And that’s exactly what the Atwells are about too.