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:
1. 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 homebuying myths, such as that a 20% down payment is needed when, in fact, there are programs that require much less.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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 homebuyer. 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 homebuying process.