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Local Emeryville Business Owner Overcomes Odds to Achieve Dream of Homeownership

2 mins read

The hyper-competitive home buying market can be deflating for prospective buyers. Bidding wars, all-cash offers, home flipping corporations… sometimes it feels like a David vs. Goliath battle.

But every once in awhile, the “little guy” overcomes these odds to emerge victorious. When the buyer is a local Emeryville business owner who has been rooted in the community for decades, victory is especially sweet.

All About the DOGue Salon & Spa owner Lena Swann recently overcame these odds with the help of a local Realtor and a compassionate seller.

Local Emeryville business owner Lena Swann of All About the Dogue Salon
Swann in front of her business on the corner of San Pablo Avenue & Adeline (photo: Christine Mason).

Lena is a single mother, entrepreneur and loyal resident who has been committed to Emeryille for almost two decades (The E’ville Eye profiled Swann and her black-owned business in the Summer of 2020 not long after a wave of looting ravaged the community).

Swann’s loyal clientele helped her salon not only stay afloat but thrive throughout the pandemic. Lena finally felt stable enough with her business to consider buying her first home. The most important criterion for her was being close to her business and the community that she was so connected to.

Lena turned to Christine Mason, a local realtor and client of many years. Christine helped Lena navigate a crazy market, guided her through the many challenges and show her realistic options.

Christine began the process by connecting Lena with a lender. Traditional banks are often unfriendly to entrepreneurs especially during turbulent economic times. Statistically, bank loans for people of color are even harder to gain approval. Christine and Lena worked together and get creative with their financing options.


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Lena’s goal was a single family home close to her business and her community. She dreamt of a home with a garden, a yard for her daughter to play in and perhaps even raise some chickens. Feeling priced out of Emeryville, she expanded her search area.

Lena found something that suited her family just across the border in West Oakland. Not surprisingly, she had to compete against multiple other bids. She was very nervous and felt she wasn’t able to compete on price. Christine reassured her she would do her best, and advocated on her behalf.

The sellers wanted their home to go to a family that would live there and love it as they did. The other bids were investors looking to flip the home without any concerns of the neighborhood’s history. Even though Lena didn’t have the highest bid, the sellers appreciated her story and awarded her the winning bid.

Homeownership is a goal that seems less attainable nowadays with the tandem of a hot real estate market and increasing interest rates. Here’s some good news, California just announced the Forgivable Equity Builder Loan since home equity has proven to be one of the strongest ways for families to build and pass on intergenerational wealth and CalHFA is committed to improving equitable access to homeownership for all Californians.

The Forgivable Equity Builder Loan gives first-time homebuyers a head start on this with immediate equity in their homes via a loan of up to 10% of the purchase price of the home. The loan is forgivable if the borrower continuously occupies the home as their primary residence for five years. The Loan is a forgivable subordinate loan program that may only be used with a CalHFA first mortgage.

Is it your turn to become a homeowner? If so, reach out to local Ascend Realtor Christine Mason by calling or texting her at (925) 900-5288 or emailing her at christine@christinemason.me.

Feature Image: Lena, her daughter, Realtor Christine Mason and friend Lisa hold an Apple Cider “toast” to their new dwelling.

Christine Mason

is a former resident of Emeryville and an Ascend Real Estate Agent. Christine is a board member at California Explorer Search & Rescue and a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) instructor. Christine has a passion for the outdoors including rock-climbing, hiking and camping.

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