Panel Discussion Video Transcript: Housing Counseling
Housing Counseling Panel Discussion
Live Video Event Transcript
Homeownership is a big decision and a long-term commitment. Housing counseling can provide the right tools for current AND prospective homeowners to make responsible and sustainable choices through educational assistance. Pre-purchase counseling not only helps inform decisions about the purchase transaction AND ongoing responsibilities of homeownership but also provides financial benefits. In an ever-changing market, it’s important to know what tools and services are available to you. Joining the conversation today are Ibijoke Akinbowale, NCRC’s Director of Housing Counseling and Jasmine Brewer, Executive Director of Making Change.
Question: Can you explain what housing counseling is for people who don’t know?
Jasmine: [Housing Counseling is an] Unbiased party that is trained who can give people good information. Housing counseling’s goal is to help people and housing counseling doesn’t receive any benefits from doing so except the benefit of being able to help others.
Ibijoke: The only unbiased opinion that a homeowner or prospective homeowner and any person in a housing-related transaction can receive. It’s education on your consumer rights, consumer products, loans offerings. It can extend as far as information around prevention of homelessness, rental counseling, homeownership pre-purchase, and reverse mortgages. It’s essentially a broad scope of housing-related matters from experts that receive training from HUD and other federal partners, and private institutions.
Question: Why is housing counseling so important?
Jasmine: There’s a lot of information about housing counseling that people don’t know like financial literacy. As consumers and clients going about their day-to-day, there’s information that you could miss, such as the American Rescue Plan Act. Housing Counseling can help point out information that will benefit you that you might not have time to look for on your own.
Ibijoke: Consumers that receive housing counseling were able to save nearly $200 a month in monthly mortgage payments. These experts are a pipeline to consumers and fuel the national agencies and Congress about what consumers need and what’s working in the field. Housing Counseling can really help to advocate for some of the resources and programs like Jasmine mentioned. Housing Counseling has helped people navigate and find resources to help them financially. The benefits are endless.
Question: Who does housing counseling benefit?
Jasmine: I don’t think there’s anyone that couldn’t take advantage of Housing Counseling services because what I’ve been able to observe is how much things change and shift and there’s new information that’s constantly coming out. And even if you knew what was happening last year for homebuyers or renters, that’s changed this year. So it’s definitely a benefit for just about anyone.
Ibijoke: I couldn’t agree with you more, Jasmine. I think as a field we are pushing to be holistic in our approach and design. So that’s inclusive of financial literacy and those early entry points like how early can students benefit from receiving information on homeownership or navigating student loans or IDA and savings/development accounts. For folks that have purchased homes, how do you maintain it? What does it mean to be a good homeowner? Do you have to refinance? I think as a field we’re focused on the full lifespan of housing and what it means. Housing counseling is for everyone and it works at different phases; it just depends on your goals.
Question: What about repeat buyers or buyers that have not purchased in a while?
Jasmine: One of the things that we do as we’re working with clients like those who’ve worked through the foreclosure crisis, is to take them back to the basics of rebuilding credit and getting some other items in order. There’s a lot of background and advocacy work that happened in the space of working with local community banks who would then be more meaningful in their local markets by providing mortgages to their LMI communities.
Ibijoke: Things really do change in the market over time. Just yesterday FHFA released information on the inclusion of rental history in the underwriting process. That’s a significant leap for consumers that are traditionally unbanked or struggle with the existing credit box. That’s something that will help moving forward in making homeownership a larger possibility for a lot of Americans. More than anything, Housing Counseling is to be a supportive aid and to help guide consumers to their goals with the most relevant training and information available.
Question: What kind of help does a housing counseling agency provide after the homebuying process?
Jasmine: There’s post-purchase counseling that we offer to clients. Once you become a homeowner, we go through what happens after buying a home like home maintenance, understanding your property taxes, and escrow—all these other pieces that are part of this long-term commitment to homeownership. We absolutely do offer post-purchase counseling. That even includes that your budget will change, you’ll have other expenses that you didn’t have previously as a renter and to be honest, I think that that’s something we forget about.
Ibijoke: I think the time that we are in has created more counseling services than we offered before. Our industry previously had been focused on foreclosure; [Now] we are invested in a number of counseling services and modalities from rental and a number of post-purchase options that Jasmine had mentioned. I know people are even more interested in working closely with landlords as a result of a lot of the rental counseling that’s taken place. There’s a host of services that are available throughout the lifespan of a person’s housing interest.
Question: How do people go about finding a housing counseling agency in their area?
Jasmine: The HUD.gov website. There are some agencies that do provide housing counseling that are not HUD-approved but for HUD-approved agencies, you can certainly find that on HUD.gov website under housing counseling services
Ibijoke: NCRC certainly has a list of agencies that we can recommend for folks that are interested in receiving those in the markets that we oversee. You can shoot me an email at HCN@ncrc.org and I can make that list available to you. We can also help refer you to counseling to agencies in markets that we may not cover as well.
Question: How has COVID impacted the work housing counseling agencies do? Relationships with clients?
Ibijoke: COVID has certainly changed the nature of the work that we do. As a field, we expanded services and deepened our bench a bit. Agencies worked quickly to respond and move to a remote and online process so that it would not disrupt the need for counseling as it still remained very prevalent for communities and to a rental and a homeownership space as well. Housing counseling really did rise to the occasion to serve and fill the gaps in their communities. They’re providing COVID-19 testing and setting up mobile locations for that and Wi-Fi hotspots so that their clients can submit mortgage information over to their servicers. They really did fill the gap when it comes to this pandemic and continue to do so and have found a greater connection in being able to provide services remotely with their clients.
Jasmine: I agree, another thing that I saw more of is that it really strengthened the relationships with other organizations locally in each area. In many ways, I know that the clients really felt comforted and really relied on the fact that I can call this trusted agency to be able to follow up. The fact that this field is continuing to operate in such an effective and efficient manner really highlights just how important and relevant that this work is for the communities that we’re working in across the country.
Question -What is the best piece of advice you can offer to an agency or a potential buyer?
Jasmine: I’ll tackle the ones for clients. This is whether you’re aiming to become a homeowner, are already a homeowner and you’re working through the adjustments, or you’re a renter or looking to secure housing, or you have everything else in order but need to work on your finance. Make sure you’re educating and equipping yourself with tools to be able to make the progress to reach the goals that you have outlined. That’s the goal of the housing counselor that you’re working with. They help you organize and prioritize.
Ibijoke: I’ll tackle the agency perspective in saying that the best thing you can do for this field and for the clients that you represent is to continue to tell their stories. This pandemic is certainly not over; we continue to rally and advocate for the importance of housing counseling and remain very proud that the field still exists and that the counselors are still seeking education to be responsive to the ever-changing needs.
Homeownership doesn’t have to be an impossible dream. Housing counseling is a key tool that can help inform buyers on their rights, how to save, what to expect during the homebuying process, and more. Yes, YOU can afford to own a home. Stay tuned for future live events and videos from GROWTH. Click the link for more resources on Housing Counseling including our mortgage calculator.