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Let’s say your car breaks down and ends up needing a transmission overhaul. Unless you’re a car mechanic who specializes in transmission work, odds are you wouldn’t try to fix things yourself. Such an undertaking would be completely overwhelming. Where would you start? What would you look for in diagnosing what needs to be repaired? What specialized tools would you need, and where would you be able to access them? The smart move here would be to seek professional help and look for quality work at the lowest fair price.
Buying your first home is a similarly complex and potentially overwhelming undertaking for most of us. How do you know you’ll be able to qualify for a mortgage and afford the monthly payment? How will you successfully compete for the limited supply of available houses on the market? And how will you know if you qualify for any special programs or down payment assistance programs? Similar to our car repair example above, the smart move here is to seek professional help.
Happily, such help is readily available from HUD-certified homeownership advisors embedded in nonprofits and community-based organizations across our state. And the best news is, this help is free and available to anyone regardless of income or other factors.
When you enlist the services of an independent homeownership advisor, you’ll 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. (It’s also important to take a HUD-certified homebuyer education course, a topic covered in last week’s installment from the Minnesota Homeownership Center.)
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.”
Rucker recounts helping several of his coworkers who didn’t think homeownership was possible for them. “These people – a single mom, a single dad, a family with five kids – they all went from an apartment to owning, while paying less and having more stability. Sometimes the process took several years, but they stayed the course and succeeded. They never gave up on their dream.”
Rucker’s enthusiasm for his work is common among his fellow homeownership advisors. Linda White, an advisor at Model Cities in St. Paul, says she provides not only information and access to social and economic prosperity, but also hope. “Hope for the future; hope for a daughter’s education; hope for a family’s stability in homeownership; and hope for a lifetime of transformational wealth and health.”
The bottom line is, buying a home is likely one of the biggest financial transactions you’ll ever undertake. And it’s a transaction that can be navigated on your behalf, for free, by professional homeownership advisors.
To enlist the help of a professional homeownership advisor near you, go to HOCMN.org/HomebuyerAdvising.Homeownership is possible. We can show you how.
For more information on the Minnesota Homeownership Center and its advisor and education services, visit www.HOCMN.org.
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