As the foreclosure crisis lingers on, it becomes more important than ever for struggling homeowners to have access to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-approved housing counseling agencies. Unfortunately, pressure to reduce federal spending has eliminated federal funding for housing counseling. As talk heats up about a double dip recession and how housing continues to be a drag on our economy, housing counseling becomes more important than ever. Housing counseling must be preserved if we want to fix Virginia’s housing market and boost our economy.
Tax dollars through federal spending from HUD pays for housing counseling agencies throughout the country to provide advice on buying a home, foreclosure avoidance, renting, defaults, reverse mortgages, and credit issues. HOME is one of these HUD-approved housing counseling agencies. Each year HOME helps hundreds of Virginia residents buy their first home or avoid foreclosure.
HUD conducts audits of its counseling agencies which ensures that all approved agencies meet the highest industry standards and federal guidelines. All housing counselors must be certified by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) and employed by a non-profit organization.
HUD funding allows clients to see counselors at HUD-approved housing counseling agencies for free or at a greatly reduced cost. HOME, for instance, offers pre-purchase and foreclosure prevention counseling at no cost. At a time when homeowners have little money to spare, not having to come up with the fee can mean the difference between trying to make it on their own and seeking help from professionals.
Counselors working for HUD-approved housing counseling agencies speak with hundreds of homeowners a year. Such frequency allows them to learn how to best work with various mortgage lenders, each of which has its own preferences and procedures. Knowing what strategies have worked for others helps counselors know how to best advise clients on all of their viable options—whether it be seeking a short sale, modification, repayment plan, deed-in-lieu of foreclosure, forbearance, letting the home go, bankruptcy, etc. Housing counselors with HUD-approved agencies keep up on the latest state and local governmental foreclosure assistance programs and can let you know for which you may be eligible. For more information on the services HOME provides, please visit www.phoneHOME.org.
A recent report noted that homebuyers who received pre-purchase counseling were less likely to default on their home loan and more likely to prepay their mortgages. Tactics and scams stripped families of their homes and equity. Housing Counseling is the solid tool that not only helps families hold tight to their investment, but also ensures economic stability for Virginia
Virginia must find ways to continue funding housing counseling. Given the Congress’ partisan warfare over spending, our local and state governments must step up and find innovative ways to preserve this effective investment in housing. and public resources are not enough anymore. The major financial institutions must also take responsibility and support housing counseling programs. Housing counseling is a smart investment for banks and mortgage companies because these counselors prevent unnecessary foreclosures and help home owners get sustainable, quality loans.