Buying a home is one of the biggest financial transactions most of us will ever make. It’s also a complicated process, with many important choices and decisions involved along the way. Yet this doesn’t stop people from diving head-first into house hunting without the right tools or knowledge to ensure success. In the end, success may be achieved. But there is an easier, and smarter way.
We’re talking about professional, HUD-certified homebuyer education and advising.
When it comes to homebuyer education, the Minnesota Homeownership Center’s Home Stretch© workshop is among the best offerings out there. The regularly updated curriculum, newly refreshed as of May 1 to include input from past participants and aspiring first-time buyers, is approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Those presenting the class earn HUD certification as professional homebuying educators. Topics covered include Managing Money; Understanding Credit; Preparing to Apply for a Mortgage; Finding the Home that’s Right for You; Making an Offer; the Purchase Closing Process; What New Homeowners Need to Know; and more. Home Stretch presents the full story of homeownership, including its history of racism, its wealth-building and stabilizing impact today, and the opportunities for all of us facilitated by equitable access to owning one’s own home. Participants learn in a peer-to-peer environment and get to share the experience with others seeking the same goal.
The Home Stretch workshop stretches for eight hours, often divided into smaller chunks. And it’s designed with an eye toward keeping participants enthusiastically engaged. Outside experts, including local real estate agents, mortgage lenders, home inspectors and others, join the instructors for real-world discussions. And students leave with a host of resources to continue helping them into the future. Participants who have taken the class consistently rate it highly, with 93 percent of 2021 respondents eager to recommend the course to others.
June is Homeownership Month. And that means many Home Stretch workshop providers are waiving the usual $40 class fee. Providers offering free classes this June in the Twin Cities include African Economic Development Solutions, CAPI USA, Mni Sota Fund, Model Cities, Neighborhood Development Alliance, NeighborWorks Home Partners, Project for Pride in Living, PRG, Urban League Twin Cities and Washington County CDA. In addition to English, free classes are being offered in Amharic, Oromo, Somali and Spanish. Advance registration is required, and a full list of class offerings, both virtual and in-person, is available online at HOCMN.org/HomebuyerEd.
Homebuyer advising is another tremendous resource, and pairs excellently with homebuyer ed. When you enlist the services of an independent Homeownership Advisor, you benefit from sitting down with someone who speaks your language, shares your background, has an office nearby and cares about helping you to evaluate homeownership for yourself.
First off, you’ll explore your financial readiness. The advisor will do a soft-pull of your credit report to see your credit score. Based on that, you’ll either move on to mortgage pre-qualification or spend some time working to improve your credit score. The Advisor also will explore special loan and down payment assistance programs you may be eligible for. And as you move on to working with a Realtor®, the Advisor will remain in your corner ready and able to answer any questions or deal with any complications that may come up along the way.
Let’s take a look at the Homeownership Advisor profession through the eyes and experiences of Henry Rucker, lead homeownership and financial coach at Minneapolis-based Project for Pride in Living (PPL).
Rucker is a strong believer in the transformative power of wealth creation and transfer to the next generation, which is one of the greatest benefits of owning your own home. He started his career in banking, but eventually transitioned to financial coaching and advising which he saw as an avenue to help more people than he would have been able to in his original field. “Day to day living can be super stressful if your finances are in disarray,” Rucker says. “But once you understand how finances work, how credit scores are determined and how budgeting is important, much of that stress can go away. Getting control of your finances allows you to achieve big goals, including homeownership. You can garden, your kids can play in the yard, and you can feel proud that you own something that can be passed along to them later in life.”
A full list of organizations offering professional Homeownership Advisor services can be found online at HOCMN.org/HomebuyerAdvising.
In the end, knowledge equals power. Educated consumers make informed decisions, and set themselves up for successful, and sustainable, homeownership. And the complicated home buying transaction can be navigated on your behalf, for free, by a professional Homeownership Advisor from your community.
For more information on the Minnesota Homeownership Center and its advisor and education services, go to www.HOCMN.org.
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