Partners are the KEY! The home buying process is one in which a local network of partners is critical. In the beginning of my career as a housing counselor, I spent many hours in the community establishing a network of partners including lenders, realtors, title companies, insurance agencies, appraisers, home inspectors, etc. explaining the services I provide to clients at NO COST. I presented to them how our partnership provided a WIN-WIN scenario for all parties concerned, specifically, for the mutual clients we serve. I had the advantage of being the only housing counseling agency in my area that provided up to 24 months of one-on-one counseling to enable the clients to become “mortgage-ready”. These partners invite me to speak at their weekly sales meetings to share my services and the first-time homebuyer assistance programs available in this area. These same partners are invited to speak specifically to their role in my Homebuyer Education Class. I receive many referrals from both lenders and realtors who are working with clients who need some very specific help with their credit in order to become a new homeowner.
The majority of my work consists of pre-purchase counseling and homebuyer education which includes in-depth credit and budget counseling. A Housing Counselor must be willing to “Go the extra mile” and build a local network of partners in the housing industry in order to stay informed of underwriting requirements and changes related to specific loan programs for Moderate and Low-Moderate Income families. This information is vital to provide the client with accurate advice to help them qualify with the lender of their choice. It is the responsibility of the counselor to educate each client with all the options available to them regarding all loan types, down payment assistance programs, and other forms of Homeownership assistance such as Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher and USDA Rural Development Direct Loans; thereby, empowering them to make wise informed decisions.
It is through these partnerships, that many clients have been saved the embarrassment, loss of money, and frustration they could have experienced with the latest Credit SCAM passing through our area. The SCAM artists are very BOLD and they are approaching the partners you are doing business with; therefore, it is important that the partners have the knowledge and trust to refer them to HUD-Approved Housing Counseling Agencies rather than SCAM artists! I take advantage of every opportunity to educate regarding Predatory Lending practices and Credit/Grant Scams.
Fortunately, in my area of the United States, we were not as severely impacted by the foreclosure crisis as the rest of the nation. The majority of clients I have served with foreclosure/loss mitigation/mortgage delinquency needs have been due to the economic recession from the housing crisis (loss of jobs, cut-back of hours, higher costs for fuel and food). We have not dealt with massive amounts of fraudulent and exotic loan products. This has resulted in creative budget counseling and referrals to other agencies that may be able to assist them in this time of need as well as working with their lenders/servicers for options which they have not been informed of by the lender.
I sincerely appreciate the rapid measures the Congress of the United States has taken to address the Housing Crisis in our country. It has been a very frustrating time to be on the “front-line” as a Housing Counselor. There have been many tears shed and many long hours sitting on the phone with clients and servicers trying unsuccessfully to keep them in their homes. I applaud the work that has gone into the investigations which have led to a process in which millions of citizens wronged by “improper procedures” on behalf of the servicing companies will be given a chance for a review and some compensation.
Sheila Reddig is the Homeownership/Housing Counseling Coordinator for the Jonesboro Urban Renewal and Housing Authority Housing Community Development Organization.