July 06, 2015

Counseling Without the Couch: What a Housing Counselor Can Do for You

Housing Market and Planning to Purchase Counseling

Where do you go if you're interested in buying a home but have:

  • no idea how to begin the process?
  • A few dings (or something more serious) in your credit report?
  • questions about whether or not you can even afford a home?
  • concerns about how to avoid swindlers and deals that seem "just too good to be true?"

If you're a young adult, you might feel most comfortable talking with your parents. And that's great – family can fill in a lot of the blanks. If you're more confident, you might go directly to a lender to get your questions answered. Again, there's nothing wrong with that.

But for many people starting down the path of homeownership, their first stop – and best option – is a conversation with a housing counselor.

Counselors are trained to help in a variety of situations – from giving advice to someone who's exploring homeownership for the first time, to helping a future homeowner overcome past credit problems (or lack of any credit history at all). The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development maintains a list of approved housing counselors across the country, and these services are offered free of charge.

Housing counseling works. Research we did a couple of years ago on affordable mortgages that required pre-purchase counseling found that counseling may reduce the risk of a first-time homebuyer becoming seriously delinquent (90 days or more past due on their payments) by an average of 29%. The study also showed that the three most common types of counseling – one-on-one counseling, classroom counseling, and home study via the internet – are all equally effective.

We feel so strongly about the importance of housing counseling that we require first-time homebuyers to participate in a borrower education program to qualify for a Home Possible AdvantageSM mortgage – our new mortgage product that allows for down payments as low as 3%.

And we've expanded the role of our Borrower Help Centers and Network. They're now offering pre-purchase counseling as well as financial literacy education to help potential buyers achieve successful and sustainable homeownership.

Want to learn more? You'll find plenty of resources to get you started by visiting My Home by Freddie MacSM and checking out the information we've collected about housing counseling.

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