This article is part of The Northside Chronicle’s Homebuyer Guide 2023. View the full guide, here.
(StatePoint) Buying a home can be intimidating, whether this is your first time or you’ve been around the real estate block before. The good news? You don’t have to go it alone. If you’re looking for a trusted partner throughout the process, working with a housing counselor can help prepare you for homeownership.
If you’re not sure what a housing counselor does or whether this service is right for you, consider these insights from Freddie Mac: What is a Housing Counselor?
Housing counselors are trained, independent professionals who are available to offer advice, listen and help you make informed decisions based on your financial situation and needs — often at little or no cost. Their job is to help you navigate the homebuying journey and ensure you’re financially prepared for long-term, successful homeownership.
What Services Do They Provide?
One of the primary roles of a housing counselor is to prepare you for homeownership through workshops and one-on-one counseling. The counselor will start by asking you questions about your income, credit and savings to help determine if you’re ready to buy and how much you plan on spending. Similar to a conversation with a potential lender, the more organized and prepared you are, the more productive your conversation will be. Once they understand your current financial situation, they will:
• Provide guidance on down payment options and local down payment assistance programs.
• Help you understand the features and costs associated with the various types of mortgages available.
• Teach you important financial skills, such as planning your budget and building, maintaining and improving your credit.
• Advise you on the role of your real estate agent and lender.
It’s important to know that housing counselors can be there for you beyond the homebuying process. For example, if you are facing financial difficulties and struggling to pay your mortgage down the line, a housing counselor can offer financial guidance and work with your lender to help you avoid foreclosure.
How Do You Find a Housing Counselor? Although finding a housing counselor can be as simple as running a search online or calling a hotline, it’s important to carefully consider your options. Unfortunately, scam artists abound, preying on home buyers and struggling homeowners alike. Here are three ways to find a legitimate housing counselor:
• Reach out to a HUD-certified housing counselor at one of Freddie Mac’s Borrower Help Centers or Borrower Help Network for free assistance.
• Search for a HUD-certified housing counselor in your area on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website.
• Call the national HOPE hotline at 888-995-HOPE or visit its website at 995HOPE.org. This hotline is free and available 24 hours a day.
For more information about preparing for and sustaining long-term homeownership, visit My Home by Freddie Mac.
Buying a home is one of the largest financial decisions you can make. Having a trusted expert in your corner means you don’t have to go it alone.