HomeReal EstateBuyMeet the Newest Brownstoner of Bedford Stuyvesant Aspiring to Inspire

Meet the Newest Brownstoner of Bedford Stuyvesant Aspiring to Inspire

Potential young home buyers are often faced with a stark reality; the market is not a hospitable one, and in some cases, it can be downright savage. While some analysts believe the market is tenable, others point to mortgage prices as a signal to hold off on investment. While housing markets across the U.S. are seeing a very slight increase in affordability, the current market is not one to be trifled with.

A few weeks ago, the team at CitySignal profiled The 44th Annual Housing Tour hosted by the Brownstoners of Bedford-Stuyvesant, an organization with more than 40 years of experience uplifting and protecting the communities of Black Bed-Stuy. As the tour continues through its end date on December 11th, I spoke with Shayla Mulzac about her experience as a young home-buyer and first-time renovator. In our conversation, we talked about the future of Bed-Stuy and the Brownstoners as well as her journey with the renovation, gathering some useful tips for future homeowners and renovators in the process.

The Newest Brownstoner of Bedford Stuyvesant

“This year’s tour is going well!” Shayla was proud to announce, “but people can continue to buy tickets up until December 11th. That’s when the link will no longer be available.” Mulzac estimates that at the time of our interview, the Brownstoners had received approximately $4000 worth of ticket sales.

“We do this every year except 2020, of course; prior to 2020, we always did it in person. I’ve been in a home that’s been participating in the tour […] at least since I was seven years old.” She went on, “As a child too, I used to think these homes were so beautiful and the owners were such people I would look up to like ‘Omigod one day I definitely want to own a home and be able to put my home on the tour as well; so I’m glad we’ve come to this space, you know?”

Homeownership is a focal point of the Brownstoners of Bedford-Stuyvesant’s mission, especially for Mulzac, who has been at the core of the movement since a young age. She went on to speak about why that mission matters more than ever before,

“I am technically on the outskirts of Bed-Stuy. We’re trying to figure out how to preserve the life of the organization of the Bed-Stuy Brownstoners because, due to gentrification and people getting older, the lifeline of the org is dwindling. People are getting older, moving out.”

“I’m actually the youngest member [of the Brownstoners], so if there’s no one to follow me, how is the life of the organization going to sustain itself? So that’s an unfortunate situation.”

She clarified, “Not many brownstoners end up losing their homes,  but everybody’s situation is so different. The point I’m trying to make is that the organization may not have many more years of membership because in Bed-Stuy, not many of the homeowners are Black anymore, and many of the people moving in are not black homeowners.”

This is evident in the fact that in 2000, around 75% of Bed-Stuy identified as Black, while in 2015, that number is only about 50%. This transition is helped along by Urban Renewal, Blockbusting, and natural migration.

The Brownstoners of Bedford-Stuyvesant considers themselves to be a “Hands on organization,” and with their 44th Annual Housing Tour, “Preserving Our Legacy, While Embracing Our Future,” they further their mission which includes ‘helping to revitalize the Bed-Stuy community through building a strong base of Black home-owners in the area.” Bed-Stuy, a historically Black neighborhood, has seen a major shift in its demographics in recent years, with Black homeownership at a historic low. Outside real estate investors have moved into the area, buying homes en-masse to be repurposed as apartments, business space, or other building developments; to many, this is a tell-tale sign of gentrification.

“I’m actually the youngest member [of the Brownstoners], so if there’s no one to follow me, how is the life of the organization going to sustain itself? So that’s an unfortunate situation.”


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A post shared by Shayla Mulzac (@shaylamulzac)

Three Tips for Young Home Buyers from a Young Home Buyer

As a young home-buyer fresh off a hundred-thousand-dollar renovation, Shayla was fully prepared to share point-by-point advice she had for others who wanted to do the same.

“You know, I get asked [for tips] a lot actually, and everybody’s situation is so different.” Shayla reiterated, “Depending on location, what type of home to purchase, whether you’re married or not; so many different variables to buying a home that’s different for everyone. But I think I realized three things that are kind of standard no matter what your race, age, etc; it may vary, you may have more if you’re a particular age, but, I believe these are three things that really make homeownership easier.

Go “Turn-Key” or Go Home

“Whether it’s a condo, coop, two-family home, three-family home, apartment building complex, anything, If you don’t want to do a lot of renovation, get something that’s “turn-key.” Turn-key means that you can walk right in, and it’s newly renovated and doesn’t need any work or very minimal repairs. You can walk in, move your stuff in, move your renters and your tenants in – that would be an ideal situation.”

Renovating a home can be expensive, time-consuming, and a potential money-sink for first-time homeowners, and Shayla recommends avoiding it if you’re not comfortable with the process.

“It’s different from person to person, so it varies a little bit; if someone my age wanted to get something that’s brand new it’s going to cost way more than a fixer-upper. That’s how the factors become different and people do what works for them, but it would be ideal if you didn’t have to go through all those renovations; because I just finished a renovation process and it’s just a headache.” Mulzac was beginning the process of renovating her home during 2021’s annual housing tour, having completed it in time to be featured this year: She’s fresh off the experience.

How much money do you need for closing costs and renovations? Money is the name of the game

“My second tip is if it’s not turn-key and you have to go through renovations, have money in the bank. People who are my age, my friends, ask too, ‘so how much should you bring to the closing table? How much should I have in my savings?’

Shayla looked to her own renovation process for an answer, further elaborating, “Now that I’m a year past closing, I give people my real raw numbers, so they have a better idea of the ballpark I guess.” Mulzac began renovations in January 2022 after closed 2 months prior in November of 2021. Looking at her credit card statements, Shayla shared that she had spent approximately $85,000 throughout the process with her own home.

“So it’s safe to say if people want to get into the renovation process, I‘m thinking at least $100,000 in your account. If you’re going to be renovating, doing floors, doing fixtures; you just want to be comfortable. You don’t want to be stretching your last penny up until foreclosure, and you haven’t even really moved in yet. So let’s just say 100k just to be safe.” The process can be deceptively expensive, she went on, “Furniture, like couches and chairs and microwaves and countertops and tiles; everything costs so much money.” Mulzac was quick to add that the $100,000 she recommends having at the ready doesn’t include money for closing, down-payments or closing costs, “that’s something else, a whole ‘nother branch on this tree that you could get into.”

Build your community before building your home

“If you don’t have a lot of money in the bank,” Shayla continued, “I would recommend having a team that will do work for you preferably for free, or for super super cheap.” Again, Shayla noted the difference in situations across the board for potential renovators, offering her own as an example “For me, my dad, he owns a lot of property in Brooklyn. He has contractors on different projects around Brooklyn, he does big projects. He’s ten times bigger than me.” Shayla utilized some of those resources in the process of her own renovation, smartly cutting costs.

“Not everyone has that opportunity or that privilege or that resource, but if they do, ideally have someone do some work for cheap, a handyman, maybe a task rabbit, someone who wants you to win.

Mulzac stressed the importance of having the support of a team or the community, filled with people you trust. “Someone who’s not going to try to get one over on you, run your pockets up, that’s my third recommendation; having a team that’s really invested in you. Maybe it’s your parents helping you out, maybe it’s your handyman who can do some things for free. Have a team that’s willing to see you win and invest into it with you to help you out, because it can be so expensive.” But again, everyone’s situation is very different;

“Everyone’s lean-on person is different, their team is different, their tribe may be different, but you should have something, someone willing to go to bat for you.”

Surprises and Challenges of First-Time Renovations

Full-scale renovation is not an easy feat, and Shayla had her own fair share of surprises and challenges to overcome during her own process.

“Honestly, I’m thinking – I didn’t know how much work needed to be done behind the walls. So when I first did a walkthrough, the first tour of the home, everything looked so perfect, everything looked so beautiful. Nicely furnished and it wasn’t even staged, it was all real furniture from the people who lived before – of course they took all of those things with them but it just looked nice! I thought there’s no way a lot of work needs to be done.” But Shayla soon made a sobering discovery.

“As soon as I started moving in, I didn’t start living there till August. So I closed in November, then in December and January my dad and I are feeling out the place, seeing what’s right and what’s wrong; we realize that so much work needs to be done! And you may not know these things if you don’t have a team. For example; outlets. It’s ideal to have outlets in certain places; by your bed, behind a picture frame, where you want to mount a Tv. Certain things you want that make sense to make your house a home, those come up.” But that was barely the worst of it according to Mulzac.

“There was a rat infestation on the first floor, under the floor.”

Luckily, rodent complaints are down from last year in Bedford-Stuyvesant so hopefully this will be a worry of the past for her.

“Just a lot of things, our tenants space downstairs didn’t have a closet; if I want to rent that out to a tenant at a maybe higher rate I should fix that up, put a closet down there, put a washer and dryer down there.”

Shayla went on to expand on the hidden expenses behind the walls, “I installed a washer and dryer, but where the washer and dryer went there was no plumbing for a washing machine in that location; so a lot of things like that came up as I was going through the renovation process, and it all tied back to money.”

Lighting, plumbing, electrical, according to Mulzac every single room had something which needed to be attended to.

Aspiring to Inspire

“The feeling that I did it, the feeling that it’s possible.”

Curious after hearing about all of the challenges that went into her renovation, I asked about what parts of the process Shayla most enjoyed.

“I want to give a good answer, I think my favorite part is the overall satisfaction throughout the whole thing, and that feeling still stands today. It’s the feeling I had at the closing table, and I still have that feeling right here right now chatting with you on the phone. The feeling that I did it, the feeling that it’s possible.”

Mulzac isn’t unaware of her legacy and influence on other potential home buyers and renovators.

“I think the admiration I get from other people, doing it at such a young age, it’s so inspiring to so many others. They’re like, ‘well, if she did it, I can definitely do it.’ I just get a lot of wow from other people. I feel like if I’m inspiring you to do it, by all means, use my story, use my testimony and mold it into your own, do what you need to do as well, whatever that may be, because everyone’s story is different.”

Taking Part In The NACA Program

I asked Shayla if there were any last words of advice she had to offer young home-buyers, and she lit up, adding, “I don’t know if I mentioned it, but I went through a program called NACA. That’s what makes it much much easier. I felt the program itself is very difficult, but what makes it different from trying to buy a home outside the program is that you don’t have to come to the closing table with a whole bunch of money. In the beginning, I mentioned having 100k in your account, and that didn’t include closing costs, and down payment, in the NACA program, you don’t need closing costs and down payments.”


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A post shared by Shayla Mulzac (@shaylamulzac)

 According to their website, The Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (“NACA”) is a non-profit community advocacy and homeownership organization with goals not too different from that of the Brownstoners themselves, that of building healthy, thriving communities in urban and rural areas.

“I came to the closing table with about $40,000 on a $1 million loan; if it weren’t the NACA program I would probably have to come with 20% of $1 Million to the closing table. I highly recommend it; no closing costs, no down payment, my interest rate is only 1%, and I believe the national average is something like 6 or 7%” She’s correct, of course, with the 30-year fixed mortgage rate hovering around 7.08%.

“I felt like it would always happen, though; my Instagram bio has been for like 9 years now “Aspiring to Inspire” I always have an urge to inspire, to be a leader, to be a role model, to promote positive things; so I just knew it was going to happen. I would tell my younger self, “believe in yourself and stay committed, stay committed to it, stay disciplined, and keep going forward. Keep doing it. Keep doing it.”

Tickets for the Brownstoners of Bedford-Stuyvesant’s 44th Annual Housing tour are on sale now and will continue through the 27th of November when the tour ends. Hungry for more of the process? You can check out Shayla’s full renovation below.

Editor’s note: We have updated this article to correct that Shayla’s renovations began in January of 2022 and that the Brownstoner’s last day to purchase ticket sales is December 11th, 2022. 

Josiah Turner

Josiah Thomas Turner is writer and musician based out of Washington Heights, New York. Turner received his undergraduate degree in Drama from the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point before earning an M.F.A. in Playwriting from The University of Texas at Austin. Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Turner trained as a multi-instrumentalist from a young age and spent much of his early years creating and performing music. Josiah’s current interest include animation, video-games and French-Canadian prog-rock.