Are you thinking of making a big move? Maybe you’ve felt stuck for a long time now. You hate your job. You never have time for family. You’re up to your eyeballs in debt. You know you could make a fresh start if you moved. But it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the obstacles in your way.
That’s exactly how Darren and Kenya R. felt. After struggling through years of money problems, a high-stress job, and the hectic schedules of a household of six, it was time to make a change. They decided to leave Illinois to start a new life near their parents in Florida. But moving would require a tight timeline and a difficult home sale.
Find out how Darren and Kenya found the confidence to get their home sold in one week, pay off debt, move closer to family, and save enough money to have a fresh, clean start. And learn how you can do it too!
Four Kids Lead to Hectic Schedules and Hidden Debts
For more than 15 years, Darren and Kenya lived just outside of Chicago and were trying hard to keep ahead of the increasingly active lives of their four kids. “We have a competitive swimmer, a competitive figure skater, a competitive hockey player and a rugby player,” Kenya said. Over the years, the busy schedules put a heavy strain on both Darren and Kenya—not to mention their car.
“Part of the problem with our busy schedule was adding up the bills of always eating out,” Darren said. On top of that, all of the driving around Chicago led to a bunch of expensive car repairs. Somehow, they felt like they never had enough money.
Darren and Kenya were familiar with Dave Ramsey’s teachings on personal finance, having led Financial Peace University at a couple of different churches in the past. However, Darren admitted, “I just sort of stopped trying . . . [and] let everything get away from me. Instead of going and making sure I was budgeting, making sure I was communicating with my wife, [and] making sure I was doing all the things Dave Ramsey recommends to do, I was just ignoring it and . . . making stupid mistakes and stupid decisions. That’s when everything spiraled out of control.”
“I just sort of stopped trying . . . [and] let everything get away from me. Instead of going and making sure I was budgeting, making sure I was communicating with my wife, [and] making sure I was doing all the things Dave Ramsey recommends to do, I was just ignoring it and . . . making stupid mistakes and stupid decisions. That’s when everything spiraled out of control.” — Darren R.
Mom Goes Back to Work at a High-Stress Job and Can’t Visit Sick Parents
Kenya said, “I didn’t have access to our financials . . . there was a lot of hiding of how in debt we really were.” Before she knew it, she had to trade in her life as a full-time mom to go back to work. “I was working at . . . a high-stress job—long hours [60–70 per week] and on call 24/7.”
It was around that time that both Kenya’s and Darren’s fathers in Florida became seriously ill. Both of our fathers were going through some pretty major medical issues,” Kenya said. “I couldn’t get away from work to go see my dad. And because I couldn’t get away from work, [Darren] really couldn’t leave either to go see his dad because somebody had to be there to take care of the kids.”
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Kenya continued, “There were times for me when I would just come home and . . . wish I could just die and they could have my insurance money and just start over because I was so tired of being at a job that was . . . eating away the very essence of who I am. It just did not work for our family. That was the scariest point for me—that I would rather just be gone than be with my family anymore because they would be better off financially without me.”
The Breaking Point: Something Had to Change
Finally, Kenya decided to confront Darren about their struggles. “When you get to the point where you’re so far in debt and so far behind and you don’t see a way out, those confrontations aren’t necessarily just anger—it’s fear,” she said.
Kenya looked at Darren and said, “I don’t see a way for us to work through this together. And I don’t see a way out . . . Something has to change because I’m quitting my job in August. I can’t continue living this way.”
Kenya said Darren heard her. “He understood by how much I was hurting,” she said. “We both really wanted to be closer to our families.” She said they asked, “What was important? Was it driving around the greater Chicago area for competitions? Or was it actually having time as a family? We just decided it was time to make a change.”
The Plan: Sell the House, Pay Off Debt, and Move Closer to Parents
Darren and Kenya considered leaving their life in Illinois behind and moving closer to their parents in Florida. They knew they could pay off their debts and afford the move if they sold their house, which was valued at more than $176,000. Despite money problems, they never stopped making their house payment, which was down to $31,000 of mortgage debt. In other words, they had more than $145,000 in equity (the portion of the house they owned) at their disposal!
They got excited thinking about this bold idea. “We have that equity in the home,” Kenya said. “We can get ahead. We can do this. We can be debt-free. And we can have a fresh start for our family and for our marriage.”
Selling a Beat-Up Home on a Tight Timeline
The only problem was that the house needed a lot of work. “We had bought it as a fixer-upper,” Kenya said. “It needed a new roof, the kitchen needed to be updated, we needed a new carpet, we needed to redo the deck, and the water softener was broken and leaking. We had a leak in the upstairs bathroom that dripped down into the downstairs bathroom . . . it was literally falling apart.”
To complicate things, Darren found a job in Jacksonville with a mid-July start date, and it was already mid-June. They only had one month to sell the house and move a family of six!
On top of all that, this would be their first time selling a home. With their nerves on edge, they knew they needed a real estate professional who could really take care of them.
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Finding a Real Estate Agent Who Actually Cares
First, they met with a friend’s real estate agent. After looking at all the work that needed to be done, the agent suggested putting $20,000–25,000 into the house just to make it ready to sell. But spending that kind of money in their messy financial situation would’ve been ridiculous.
“The last thing we could afford was a [real estate agent] who’s just concerned about their own paycheck,” Darren said. They needed an agent who understood they were in no position to fix the house. They needed an agent who cared to help them get back on track with what Dave Ramsey teaches about personal finance. And that’s when Darren had an idea. “I instantly thought of the ELPs,” he said.
The Endorsed Local Providers (ELP) program is a free resource Dave Ramsey and his team developed as a quick and easy way to find quality real estate agents in any U.S. market. Darren felt he could trust the ELP agents because he knew they had a reputation to uphold—they have to meet Dave Ramsey’s high standard of excellence.
So, they gave the ELP program a try, and that’s how they met an ELP real estate agent named Rose P. She met with Darren and Kenya to talk about their goals, and she understood their financial pain and stressful schedule. Rose told them to price the house low and sell it as is.
“She didn’t give us any false expectations,” Darren said. “She gave us hope without getting our hopes up too high, and [she] gave us confidence to know that we could do it. I know Rose had a lot of other customers with houses more valuable, but . . . it felt like we were her only customers.”
Kenya said, “I think that was the most wonderful thing about her. She understood our situation.”
Rose only asked them to clean out their garage and do what they needed to get their family ready to move. In fact, she even got them tickets to see Toy Story 4 during the home showings.
Kenya said, “My comment to [Rose] at one point was, ‘You’re sort of a [real estate agent] and a therapist, aren’t you?’” Darren added, “She was looking out not just for our house and not just after our pocketbook. She was looking out after us spiritually and emotionally. I’m sure she was probably even praying for us.”
“She didn’t give us any false expectations,” Darren said. “She gave us hope without getting our hopes up too high, and [she] gave us confidence to know that we could do it. I know Rose had a lot of other customers with houses more valuable, but . . . it felt like we were her only customers.” — Darren R.
Home Sold in One Week
Rose put the house on the market the Friday before Father’s Day. After a whirlwind of home showings, they received three offers by the following Tuesday and a contract by that Friday. Rose had told Darren and Kenya it might take two to three weeks to sell, but it only took one!
They were able to use the profits of the sale to pay off the mortgage debt, closing costs, and agent commissions. They even sold some furniture and memorabilia to avoid blowing the proceeds on moving expenses. “Everything that we gained from the house has been put aside into savings,” Kenya said. “We will definitely be able to have 20% down on a house and be able to pay cash for a new car.”
Congratulations on your fresh start in Florida, Darren and Kenya! Thank you for sharing your story.
Feel Confident About Your Home With a Good Agent
If you’re facing a big housing decision and aren’t sure how the finances will work out, take some advice from Darren. “It’s never too late to do the right thing or to ask for help,” he said. “We were in a pretty bad spot, and I’m thankful to Rose and thankful to Dave Ramsey and the ELP program that made it that easy to find [a good agent].” Darren said he was especially relieved “to have a resource where I can just go in, type in my information, and be put in touch like that.”
If you want to share the success Darren and Kenya had, find a high-performing real estate agent through our Endorsed Local Providers (ELP) program.