Housing counselors are commonly recommended to help homeowners who are having difficulty making their mortgage payments, but these counselors can also provide assistance to would-be homeowners. In fact, working with a housing counselor before you buy can be a good way to get into a sustainable housing situation and avoid making mistakes.
We asked Marietta Rodriguez, president and chief executive at the nonprofit organization NeighborWorks America, to share several ways a housing counselor can help potential home buyers:
- Housing counselors help in assessing whether you’re ready to buy: It may be a good time financially for you to purchase a home, and a counselor will help you determine that. Counselors also debunk home-buying myths, such as that a 20 percent down payment is needed when, in fact, there are programs that require much less.
- Housing counselors review your credit score and help you create an action plan to deal with any discrepancies in your credit report: Weak credit can stall your dreams of homeownership. But a housing counselor can work with you, suggest strategies that can help improve your credit score and get you on the right path.
- Housing counselors can determine how much house you can afford based on your income and other debts: Many people make the mistake of falling in love with a house only to realize later that they can’t afford it. Housing counselors provide you with an idea of how much you can borrow and buy before a buyer begins looking at homes. In addition, a housing counselor can provide information on mortgage programs that fit best with your financial situation. There are a variety of mortgage types and products. Housing counselors provide information on the options available.
- Housing counselors provide information on available down payment and closing cost assistance programs that could help reduce the amount of money you need to have saved to buy a home: Down payment and closing-cost assistance programs make home purchasing more affordable for first-time buyers.
- Housing counselors can help buyers work with other experts: Housing counselors can help buyers find a real estate agent who is familiar working with a first-time home buyer. Housing counselors also can help a buyer get the most out of working with real estate agents, lenders, insurance agents, home inspectors or any of the professionals a buyer encounters during the home-buying process.
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