For first-time homebuyers looking for information or a guide through the complicated buying process, the best option is a conversation with a housing counselor, according to a blog post from Freddie Mac on Monday.
For those buyers who have no idea how to begin the process, might have less-than-perfect credit, might have questions about whether or not they can even afford a home, or concerns about how to avoid being cheated by those deals that seem "to good to be true," Freddie Mac recommends the best course of action is visiting 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)," Freddie Mac wrote on its blog. "The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) maintains a list of approved housing counselors across the country, and these services are offered free of charge."
Counseling may reduce the risk of a first-time homebuyer becoming seriously delinquent by an average of 29 percent on affordable mortgages that required pre-purchase housing counseling, according to research from Freddie Mac. The study also found that one-on-one counseling, classroom counseling, and home study via the Internet, which are the three most common types of housing counseling, are equally effective.
In order to help buyers achieve successful and sustainable homeownership, Freddie Mac is offering pre-purchase counseling and financial literacy education on its expanded Borrower Help Centers and Network. There are also resources available on housing counseling on Freddie Mac's new My Home website, just launched last month.
Freddie Mac is not the only government housing agency that is more widely publicizing the benefits of housing counseling as of late. In early June, HUD announced the launch of a new website, hudhousingcounselors.com, that is designed specifically for HUD-approved housing counseling agencies. HUD's site offers a wide range of free online training for housing counselors designed to help prepare them for the upcoming mandatory HUD-certified counselor examination. Topics covered on HUD's website include responsibilities of homeowership and tenancy, avoiding foreclosure and eviction, fair housing, and financial management.