Sharing Joy Of Homeownership

Mandy Marksteiner expresses her joy Wednesday afternoon in front of the home she is purchasing through the Los Alamos County Homebuyer Assistance Program. Photo by John McHale/

Los Alamos Daily Post

  • Residents become homeowners with help from Los Alamos County Homebuyer Assistance Program

Sarah Scammell-Downs is a single mother of two and now a proud homeowner in Los Alamos.

With the help of a deferred payment, non-amortizing down payment assistance loan from the Los Alamos County Homebuyer Assistance Program, Scammell-Downs closed in January on the purchase of her new home.

Scammell-Downs shared her long journey on the path to homeownership explaining that for many years she had been receiving a rent subsidy from the Section 8 housing choice voucher program.

“I wanted to become a homeowner but was uncertain as to how this could be done and concerned about giving up the monthly rent subsidy,” she said.

Three years ago, her landlord Ina Acomb introduced her to Executive Director Steve Brugger of the Los Alamos Housing Partnership (LAHS). Acomb hoped that Scammell-Downs could be helped to purchase the home she had been renting from Acomb for the past eight years. 

“When I introduced her to Steve he went above and beyond what anyone could expect and because of Steve and the Los Alamos County Homebuyer Assistance Program, Sarah was finally able to buy the home that she wouldn’t have otherwise,” Acomb said. “It was a good experience and I would highly recommend the program to anyone.”

Scammell-Downs summed up her experience.

“It took time and there were ups and downs along the way, but Steve was super patient with me, and I am just so happy to be a homeowner,” she said.

Sarah Kuhn Hayes and Alissa Grissom also had been renting homes. Both are math teachers who required downpayment assistance from the Homebuyer Assistance Program in order to purchase their homes in White Rock and Los Alamos, respectively.

Hayes teaches 4th grade at Pinon Elementary School in White Rock. She closed on the purchase of her new home on her birthday in December.

“I am so, so grateful for the help and advice I received from Steve Brugger and the Los Alamos County Housing Partnership. I never thought I would be able to own a home by myself, after ending a marriage that lasted 27 years,” Hayes said. “I absolutely love my house, and I would not have been able to purchase it without the down payment assistance.”

Grissom teaches at UNM-Los Alamos and closed on her new home in November.

“The help I received from Steve Brugger and LAHP made it possible for me to purchase a home much sooner than I ever thought possible,” Grissom said. “This was my first time buying a home on my own, and the check-list he provided along with quick responses when I needed to coordinate him, my lender and my realtor made everything easier to manage.”

Longtime resident Mandy Marksteiner will close soon on the purchase of her new home in Los Alamos. This mother of three young children explains how she would not have been able to qualify for a mortgage and purchase her home without the loan being offered with this program.

“I wanted to buy a house in Los Alamos but wasn’t sure if I could afford it because I didn’t have enough saved up for a down payment,” Marksteiner said. “The Homebuyer Assistance Program made it possible for me to overcome that hurdle because they provided me with a loan that covered the down payment. The loan doesn’t have to be paid back until I move. I really appreciate everything they did to make this goal a reality.”

Karl Hjelvik is president of the LAHP, which is the program manager for the Los Alamos County Home Renewal Program and Homebuyer Assistance Program. He said that 17 down payment assistance loans have been made over the last two years, with 30 percent of the clients being schoolteachers or counselors, and another 30 percent being self-employed or retail and service industry employees. He said this program is important for the community and consistent with the mission of the LAHP.

“I am proud to be part of a Board of seven volunteers who are able to do our part to help the community,” Hjelvik said.

Such success stories under the Los Alamos County Home Renewal Program and the Homebuyer Assistance Program would not be possible without the Los Alamos County Council’s financial commitment to this program, and the volunteer efforts of the LAHP Board and the five person Loan Review Committee that meets to review all loan applications made under these programs and makes recommendations to the County manager.

“Los Alamos County Council is proud to continue to strongly support this program and thrilled to hear of these successes in helping provide homeownership for our residents,” County Council Chair Sara Scott said.

Ryan Tatro of Enterprise Bank & Trust is the longest tenured Loan Review Committee member. He spoke about the importance of the program.

“This program is great for everyone in the community,” Tatro said. “It helps good people achieve home ownership and stability for their families while allowing them to live where they work, which supports our local businesses. LAHP and the County have done a remarkable job.”

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