Minnesota homeowner
Brima Caulker and his family moved from Sierra Leone to the U.S. in search of a better life.

Couple finds joy as first-time homeowners

A Minnesota couple never thought they could own a home in the U.S. until they discovered yourFirst MortgageSM, a new Wells Fargo program designed for first-time homeowners.

March 16, 2017

Brima and Monica Caulker’s children broke into song when they first saw their new home.

“It was clear how utterly happy they were,” said B.J. Hansen, their real estate agent in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. “What really hit me is how much they embraced and appreciated the privilege of owning a home. It was so heartfelt — something I’ll never forget.”

Sierra Leone native Brima Caulker and his family enjoy their new home in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. (3 minutes)

The Caulkers bought their home less than two years after moving from Sierra Leone to the U.S. in search of a better life. Brima Caulker is an electrician in the iron mining industry; Monica Caulker, a patient advocate at an assisted-living facility.

With only modest savings, the couple never expected to be able to buy a home, especially in the U.S. Their outlook changed, however, after they met Hansen and Tim Bymark, a Wells Fargo home mortgage consultant. Bymark reviewed their financial information and determined that the Caulkers qualified for a low down payment home loan from Wells Fargo through the yourFirstMortgageSM program.

yourFirst Mortgage
Brima Caulker meets with Tim Bymark, a Wells Fargo home mortgage consultant.

“They were a great fit,” he said. “A lot of people think you need 10 to 20 percent down to purchase, but this program — and the Caulkers — proved that you don’t. They had good credit, steady jobs, and enough money in their savings to make it happen.”

More than 18,000 customers have been approved for loans totaling more than $3.9 billion since yourFirst Mortgage was introduced in May 2016, said Brad Blackwell, head of Housing Policy and Homeownership Growth Strategies in Wells Fargo Home Lending. A critical element that has fueled the program’s success is offering customers an interest-rate discount for taking a homebuyer education course, he said.

Wells Fargo worked with credit experts such as Fannie Mae and the Self-Help affiliate of the Center for Responsible Lending to create a home loan that would help people of modest means navigate the path to homeownership, Blackwell said.

“Our commitment was to create something that meets the customer’s need for simplicity, clarity, and affordability in a mortgage,” Blackwell said. “Ultimately, we want the dream of homeownership to be more than just a dream, especially for the millions of hardworking families who have never been able to own a home.”

Minnesota homeowner
Monica Caulker with her son, Joel.

Brima Caulker said Wells Fargo “gave us hope. And Tim always took the extra time to talk to us, any time of the day. He helped us through the process. I know he’s very busy, but he always acted like we were his only customers.”

When closing day came, Monica Caulker wore a colorful, traditional Sierra Leonean dashiki dress to commemorate the occasion.

“This is how we celebrate the greatest moments of our lives,” she said. “We don’t know how to ever thank you enough.”


Note: A version of this story also appeared in the 2016 Wells Fargo Annual Report (PDF).

Contributors: Richard Burnett and Larry Strong
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