Homeownership after Foreclosure with Jess Garbarino


Homeownership after Foreclosure with Jess Garbarino

One of the things I love about having a podcast is that it gives me a great excuse to catch up with friends, with just a few people eavesdropping along the way. Today I’m talking to my friend and Gen X Spirit Animal, Jess Garbarino, Founder of Every Single Dollar, about her journey from home foreclosure to buying a home again without any credit. Her story is an inspiration to anyone who thought home ownership would never be in the cards.

What are we drinking?

Jess — Jamison Ginger Ale

Shannon —  Boda Box Rosé

Podcast Notes

  • In January 2010, Jess decided she wanted to get out of debt.
  • Her grandparents came to the United States from Cuba when they were in their late 30s and paid off $55,000 of their mortgage in one year.
  • Jess was inspired by them and paid off $56,000 of debt over the course of five years, and she became debt-free on March 5, 2015. She started her blog Every Single Dollar later that year.
  • Jess didn’t have student loan debt from her undergraduate degree, but she accumulated $29,000 of debt getting her MBA in Philadelphia. She got her first credit card at age 21 and was always in credit card debt. When she started her journey, her balance was around $14,000. When she moved from Philadelphia, she bought a new car for $13,000.
  • Shannon said the best thing her mom taught her about money was the value of hard work.
  • In 2011, Jess decided to move to Florida to help care for her grandparents. She arranged with her current employer to work on contract. After the work dried up, the economy still hadn’t rebounded, and Jess couldn’t find a job. At this point she had paid off around $30,000 in debt, but she had to decide if she should pay for her condo in Minnesota or the car that she needed to get her to job interviews. She decided to stop paying on her condo.
  • When she got a job, she was already four or five months behind on her mortgage. Around Thanksgiving and her birthday that year, she moved her stuff out of her condo into a storage unit. She bought her condo six years prior, in 2005, for $109,500 and it sold at the Sheriff sale for $35,000 in 2012.
  • After the foreclosure, she slowed down on her debt payoff for about two years and just paid the minimum payments. In 2014, a friend sent out a challenge on Facebook: what do you want to accomplish this year? Jess was reenergized and wanted to get rid of her remaining debt, which was her student loan. She paid it off in about seven or eight months.
  • Jess decided to buy a house this year. She has lived in Florida for seven years and wants to put down roots. She has money for a down payment this time and she financed her condo in 2005 with $0 down. Jess no longer looks at owning a house as an investment.
  • Jess doesn’t have a credit score, since there has been nothing to report to a credit agency for a few years. To buy the house, she had to do manual underwriting. Since it hasn’t been seven years since her foreclosure, she is doing an FHA loan. Manual underwriting is a process where the lender has to look at everything in your finances. She had to give them several years of tax returns, W-2s, proof of rent payments, proof of utility payments, explanations of why she didn’t have a lease at her grandparents’ house, why she received a large deposit in her bank account, etc.
  • She got the name of the lender from her realtor.
  • Jess plans to pay the house off quickly. This home is $249,000 and she is putting 10% down. The mortgage should be between $230,000 to $235,000 after closing costs. She hopes to pay it off in five to seven years.
  • Jess likes to have goals. After she paid off her debt, she thought “now what?”. It took her a long time to spend money on herself.
  • Her income is now at least two to two and a half times more than what it was in 2005, and back then she was approved for a $240,000 mortgage.
  • Everything you do financially can be undone. You can still get a mortgage if you are within seven years of a foreclosure.
  • If you have blemishes on your credit report, the best way to make them less noticeable is by behaving. Show lenders that you have figured it out by showing a pattern of regular payments. Everybody makes mistakes!
  • The biggest reporters to credit agencies are credit card companies.
  • Jess will be closing on her house within the next few weeks.
  • She has learned that she is more capable than she gives herself credit. She has the tools available to hustle to make her payment, if she were to lose her job.
  • Everything is fixable, short of death. What are you afraid of?
  • If you say no to help, you are denying the opportunity for others to be charitable.

TAKEAWAY: My biggest takeaway is what I always say at the gym – anything you do financially can be undone, and in Jess’s case, even a home foreclosure. The biggest thing you have to do is show people, and yourself, that you learned your financial lesson and all will be forgiven in time.

Random Three Questions 

  1. If you were to start a company, what would it be?
  2. If you were on death row, and it was your last night, what meal would you order?
  3. What is a show you are binge watching or love to binge watch?

Connect with Jess

Blog: Everysingledollar.com

Facebook: Every Single Dollar with Jessica Garbarino

Instagram: @jessicagarbarino

Twitter: @jessgarbarino

If you’d like to get your finances back on track after a setback or in general, I hope you’ll reach out to my team at the Financial Gym. We are working with clients on all different types of journeys and, if you’ve ever thought about joining, there’s no better time than now. We have a number of summer promos for individuals and couples, so go to financialgym.com to sign up for a free warm up call to find out more.



  1. This was such a great episode! Thank you, Shannon and Jessica. I am in the preliminary stages of seeking a mortgage after going through a short sale in 2012 and living with no credit score pretty much since then, so I can relate to a lot of what you discussed. It’s great to hear that manual underwriting is not a myth!

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