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Homeownership: The Great Adventure

August 31, 2021
Tish Allen
Tish Allen

Madison Oliff always had an itch for adventure. When the restless feeling hits, he leaps into a new experience - and garners great rewards. One of his most incredible experiences came in October 2014, when he shook up his lifestyle with a year-long sabbatical in Honduras. There he met Vanessa Sierra, now his wife, and her children.

“It was the perfect match. I needed a family, and they needed a father. We were incredibly happy,” said Oliff.

The family made plans to move from Honduras to Oliff’s beloved New Orleans to create better opportunities for their children, Dario and Brittany, now 11 and 14, respectively. After a flurry of paperwork and approvals throughout a two-year period, the family was reunited in the city, settling into a tiny, 800 square-foot two-bedroom apartment in 2017.

It wasn’t long before the local hotel doorman began to feel restless once again, pricked by the unsustainable living situation. “I knew it couldn’t last. I wanted to provide my family with something we could grow into,” said Oliff.

“I felt like I was stuck and it would be impossible for me to achieve anything beyond renting. I didn’t think I could provide my wife and our children with the space they needed in an affordable way,” said Oliff.

In 2020, the City of New Orleans, along with the rest of the nation, was rocked by the effects of the pandemic. The family focused on adapting to the social change, leaving behind the idea of future planning. Oliff’s best friend bent his ear about buying a home. Oliff at first ignored his friend’s prodding, then reconsidered as the pandemic worsened.

“I wanted to make sure my family was cared for in any situation, especially since they are recent immigrants. Vanessa and I saw a house that we fell in love with immediately. It was the house we needed,” said Oliff.


Homeownership dream became reality for Madison and Vanessa

He launched into the homebuying process by engaging in an online homeowners education course with the Neighborhood Development Foundation (a HUD-approved Housing Counseling Agency) and by partnering with Hancock Whitney.

“Our Community Lending Specialist, Mindy Dinicola, was instrumental in the process. She was so down-to-earth and friendly, it felt like having a friend help me through the experience,” said Oliff. He was impressed with the technology offered by the team, which provided a variety of online resources and tools. “I could be on the job, scanning and signing documents with my phone instead of printing and delivering. It was incredibly convenient.”

As the homeowner journey came at last to the final stages in December 2020, the process hit a snag when an untracked payment adversely affected his initial qualifying credit score.

Mindy leaped into action, advising the couple on their options and reworking Oliff and Sierra’s homeowner application. Her agility saved the sale. The week of March 1, the family stepped into their new home.

“We pranked the kids by pretending to take a tour of the home. Then, at the end of the tour, we said, ‘We’ll take it.’ When the realtor handed us the keys, their jaws dropped,” laughed Oliff.

The couple is now happily settled into their new home after the biggest adventure of their lives, said Oliff. “It’s a huge accomplishment and the realization of a life-long dream,” he said.

Hancock Whitney has helped many families get into the home of their dreams. Many of them thought homeownership was not possible. To learn more about how Hancock Whitney can help you Plan Your Way Home, please visit: hancockwhitney.com/plan-your-way-home.