Some dreams seem to stay locked in a thought cloud for years before becoming reality. Others take shape quickly, snowballing from a seed of hope into something tangible so suddenly it’s almost unbelievable. For Terrin and Chris Abell, winners of the Dwell Well Project’s inaugural $5,000 rent payment, the transition from long-time tenants to first-time Breckenridge homeowners looked and felt a lot like the latter scenario.
“Buying a home in Breckenridge was not on our radar,” shared Terrin. “We had been living with some friends to save up money. Basically we had an agreement with them that they were going to rent out their house to us for two years, and then they would eventually move in.”
Two years came and went, and the Abells still hadn’t found a place in Summit County to call their own.
“We had been able to save money, but not enough. My husband is a ski patroller with Breckenridge Ski Resort and I work for the town,” said Terrin, who is the Youth Programs Coordinator at Breckenridge Recreation Center. “Summit County is a hard place to find money, save money, and have year-round work. It was kind of this joke with our friends back in January. We said, ‘If you ever want to sell your house, put us on the list.’ And it became a reality.”
It all started with a Facebook post of the “too good to be true” variety: a Summit Daily article announcing the opportunity to win free rent for three months.
“[The article said] that the money was for families who are in debt or people looking to buy. Just reading it I thought it was amazing, but we don’t really have a sob story. We aren’t behind on bills and we’ve been really fortunate in our time here,” said Terrin. “It hasn’t been the cheapest, but we’ve never been without a place to live.”
Terrin took a minute to evaluate her story objectively. Yes, she worked with local kids all day. And sure, her husband had been a resident for almost 18 years. But was it enough?
“I kind of threw it under the table and thought, ‘Good luck to whoever wins,’” she said.
That sentiment changed when the clock struck midnight—or more accurately, when Terrin saw a post reminding locals to submit their entries by the end of the day on January 31.
“I was finishing up my work day and threw out our story and just hit send, then said, ‘Okay, I’m walking away.’”
One month later, she would receive a call from Dwell Summit owner Tanya Delahoz confirming that hitting the “send” button was the best decision she could have possibly made. As it turned out, the Abells’ story was more than good enough—it was exactly what the judging panel was looking for.
“Terrin took over a program that was fledgling at the Breckenridge Recreation Center and completely turned it around within months. What was often looked at as a last resort for after-school childcare and summer camps suddenly became the thing that every kid wanted to be a part of,” said Tanya. “Parents throughout Breckenridge saw Terrin’s energy and enthusiasm when it came to our kids and the program she was running. To us, it’s obvious she is a vital part of our town and community. We would hate to lose her due to the high cost of housing.”
For the Abells, three months of free rent couldn’t have come at a better time.
“Tanya called me and I started crying. I had just talked to a mortgage person and we were having some credit issues,” said Terrin. “I thought, ‘This is never going to happen. This house is going to walk away and I’m going to be stuck living in someone’s basement.’ That happened earlier in the day, then Tanya called me later in the afternoon and this weight lifted off my shoulders. It wasn’t one hundred thousand dollars, but it was a glimpse of hope and let us save money to come up with a better down payment. It was this emotional moment.”
The Abells closed on their new place—a deed-restricted home in the Valley Brook neighborhood of Breckenridge—in April of 2019. In every possible way, it really is a dream come true.
“It’s a block and a half away from my work, two blocks from the grocery store, and there’s a bus stop right outside the neighborhood,” said Terrin. “I can’t call it anything other than a God thing because we got chosen for this money and then we had some friends approach us about buying their house, which we bought. Everything just seemed to fall into place.”
As every long-time local knows, building a home in Breckenridge requires more than just brick and mortar. Marketing campaigns promote the idea that people come to Summit County for the winter and stay for the summer, but it was a sense of true community that drove the Abells’ desire to put down roots.
“This is where we want to be. We can see ourselves raising a family here, and all our friends are here,” said Terrin. “Our friends have become that extended family piece and we talk to them more than our families sometimes. It’s really special to see the people who have made it here and think that now we can be one of them.”
Cheers to the next 30 years…and then some!
Founded by Dwell Summit Real Estate, the Dwell Well Project is a giving initiative geared toward full-time residents of Summit County. Our goal is to change the conversation about renting a home in Summit County, Colorado. To learn more, visit dwellwellproject.com