First time homebuyers may find homeownership an exciting prospect. However, the homebuying process can have you navigating the travails of mortgage applications, budget issues and listing agent searches.
If you need housing advice, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has certified housing counselors to assist first time homebuyers with counseling services.
Housing counseling is one of the federal government’s programs for helping homebuyers and homeowners by providing guidance or making recommendations through the housing-related services that HUD offers such as homeownership, renting, foreclosure, mortgages, and credit issues.
Knowing your housing counselor
As federal government employees, the majority of housing counselors are professionals who work full time and enjoy benefits aside from having a good compensation and job security. They work in an office setting so you can always contact a housing counselor in local offices and get the advice you need. Housing counselors also work during normal business hours with only a few exceptions so they are pretty reachable.
Most housing counselors have undergone professional training and granted certification by HUD since housing education programs provided by educational institutions are rare. HUD imposes housing rules and regulations, both on the federal and local level, where housing counselors are easily familiar with.
How housing counseling works
As HUD gives support to a nationwide network of Housing Counseling Agencies (HCA), you can guarantee that HCA’s counselors are trained and approved to supply you the necessary tools and resources so that you can make responsible choices in tackling your housing needs taking into consideration your financial circumstances.
Housing counseling agencies are spread throughout the country and offer free or low-cost advice. HCAs participating in HUD’s Housing Counseling Program are not allowed to charge consumers for specific housing counseling services. As a housing counseling recipient, you are not required to pay for these services.
Becoming a HUD Housing Counselor
HUD provides a series of programs and services to homebuyers and current homeowners, where one of them includes home counseling. To become a HUD housing counselor, you must obtain training and be instructed with HUD’s current rules and regulations. Agencies that participate in programs run by HUD also offer training programs for aspiring housing counselors. Certification is granted to those who qualify, as well as scholarships that cover most of the training expenses.
Aside from HUD, potential housing counselors can receive certification from other professional organizations. For example, the National Association of Housing Counselors and Agencies (NAHCA) presents an all-inclusive certification, and four supplementary specialized certification levels in homeownership, tenancy and agency and administration. NAHCA’s Certified Professional Comprehensive Housing Counselor certification calls for a bachelor’s degree and work experience, or a combination of six years of education and experience. As a NAHCA candidate, you must complete a training course and pass an exam in order to earn a certification.
There are also other state-specific programs that offer training for housing counselors such as the Association of Housing Counselors. The HUD website lists down an array of state and local training programs.
HUD-endorsed organizations like NeighborWorks provides coursework in various topics that include the basics of lending, compliance of state and federal regulations, methods of education and introduction to housing counseling.