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Friday, September 18, 2015

A happy ending for trashed house donated to Habitat for Humanity

New homeowner Teddy Tessera, donor Mary Ann Elliott, and Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Jon Smoot speak to supporters at the Winery at Bull Run.
The Annandale house that had been donated to Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia after a previous resident totally trashed it has a new owner.

Teddy Tessera had been looking for an affordable house for some time and was thrilled to learn he beat out about 50 other applicants for the townhouse at 4537 Garbo Court. He and his father, Asgedom, have been living there since July. They were introduced at a Habitat for Humanity fundraiser Sept. 13 at the Winery at Bull Run in Centreville.

4537 Garbo Court
The house had been donated to Habitat by Mary Ann Elliott, a former defense contractor who started a charitable foundation. Elliott had originally purchased the house for a homeless woman and her four children.

Not only did the woman not pay the utility bills, but she completely destroyed the house, Elliott says. “I was overwhelmed by the deterioration.” It was infested with cockroaches, ruined by water leaks, and there were holes in the walls. Elliott eventually had the family evicted and donated the house to Habitat.

Once the house was totally fixed up – it had to stripped down to the studs – with much of the work done by volunteers, Habitat put it on the market for $350,000. Habitat sought a buyer that met the group’s criteria – an income less than 80 percent of the area median and the wherewithal to make monthly payments on a fixed-rate mortgage. The mortgage payments will support other Habitat projects.

Tessera, an accountant who works for the City of Alexandria, clearly qualified. Originally from Eritrea, he’s been in the country for 14 years and supports his 80-year-old father, who doesn’t speak English. He had been renting an apartment in Arlington and had been looking to buy a house for some time but wasn’t able to find anything affordable in this area.

Habitat has built or rehabilitated 92 houses in Northern Virginia and is the only group in the area that focuses on home ownership for lower-income people, says Executive Director Jon Smoot. People might find it hard to believe that someone with a good job can’t afford to buy a house, he says, but that can be the case here, which has some of the highest average housing prices in the country.

“Affordability is a relative term,” Tessera says. He had put money down on other properties but was shut out when others were willing to pay $5,000 above the asking price.

Tessera likes the fact that Garbo Court, in the Cavalcade community, is so close to a bus stop on Ravensworth Road. He was touched by Elliott’s story, he says, and promises to take good care of the house.

Elliott’s story is a remarkable one. She calls herself “a country girl who made good.” She is an eighth-grade dropout who got married at 14, had three children by the time she was 22, and was a widow at 32. She started working in sales for a satellite communications company and in 1991 founded Arrowhead Global Solutions Inc. (now known as Harris CapRock Government Solutions), which grew rapidly, and by 2005, had $100 million in revenues.


  1. What a heartwarming story :) I wish Mr. Tessera and his father many happy years in their new home.

  2. Congrats to the new residents. But I'm stunned that anyone would destroy a home the way that woman and her brats did! Talk about no good deed going unpunished. Some people are just trash. There is no other word for it.