In a Jam? Maybe a Housing Counselor Can Help

Mar 19 2020

This is part of our ongoing series on mortgage relief options and how to handle your loan in a crisis.

There are lots of things we wish we knew before we started baking – coating things like fruit and chocolate chips in flour before adding them to the mix to get an even cook, for example.

Turns out, finding an advocate to help you through a new process, whether it’s baking or buying a house, can mean the difference between being a contestant on “The Great British Bake Off” or ending up on “Nailed It.”

But while there are plenty of food shows to help your amateur chef skills, knowing where to find support during the homebuying and owning process is not as common. We assure you, though, support is out there! Below are tips to find your Mary Berry in a housing counselor.

What is a housing counselor or advisor?

Housing counselors and advisors provide trusted, unbiased guidance through the entire homebuying and owning process. They can answer questions, connect you to other resources (like down payment assistance or closing cost programs) and generally help keep you moving toward your goal of happy homeownership.

  • 46%

    of recent first time homebuyers agree that in buying their first home they could use/could have used an independent advocate to coach them through the process of homebuying and owning

    Source: Framework Homeownership National Survey 2019

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides government-approved housing counselors – though legislation is underway to require all housing counselors to be HUD-approved. Similarly, these are trained professionals who offer guidance, particularly during times of crisis and loss of income. Topics like preventing foreclosure, protecting your credit, buying a home and other issues are all within these counselors’ expertise. The department also sponsors housing counseling agencies throughout the country, which offer free or low-cost services in multiple languages.

How can a counselor help you?

A counselor can assess your situation and circumstances to identify options and prepare you to talk with your mortgage company. Here are some of the services they offer:

  • Help on credit issues
  • Assistance with completing a loss mitigation application
  • Working with your servicers on your behalf
  • Finding and explaining down payment assistance programs
  • Explaining the terms of your loan
  • Determining if it’s time to refinance
  • Listing the documents you’ll need to gather for any given process
  • Providing information about local resources

What do you need to prepare when you reach out?

It’ll be helpful to gather your basic financial and loan information before you call. This may include your mortgage statement, monthly debt payments like a student or car loans or credit card payments, and your income details.

Be prepared to explain your current situation and explain why you may have (or already are having) trouble making your mortgage payment. Your mortgage company will need to understand the reasons you’re having difficulty so they can find the right solution for you.

Additional Resources

Final note: Try not to panic if the process to resolve your mortgage payment troubles takes some time, even a few months – this is normal.

If you’re especially nervous during the Coronavirus crisis, keep in mind that federal housing agencies are halting all foreclosures while we all navigate through these uncertain times.

Keep calm and check out our post “FHFA Suspends Foreclosures and Evictions! What Does it all Really Mean?” for more info.

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