Learn About HUD-Approved Housing Counseling

The HUD-approved housing counseling program provides housing counseling services and resources to low-income families and individuals looking to own or rent a home. Additionally, the program aims to help homeowners struggling financially avoid foreclosure and address the needs of those facing homelessness. Individuals can even gain advice on salvaging their credit and avoiding foreclosure. Housing counseling teaches current and prospective homeowners and tenants ways in which they can make responsible choices and develop a record of making their mortgage and rent payments on time. 

The program offers counseling to participants in all types of state and federal programs, such as Section 8 housing and Veterans Affairs (VA) programs. If you are looking to rent or buy a new home, you can gain useful advice by reaching out to a housing counselor or visiting a housing counseling agency nearby. Review the following sections to learn about the types of housing advice this program provides and how trained counselors can help you find the right home, including HUD homes for sale. 

Learn About Counseling for Homebuyers

Certified housing counselors provide valuable information to their clients regarding the process of buying a home, including home loans and home-buying programs in their state. Counselors will assess prospective finances of prospective homeowners, as well as their readiness to purchase a home by discussing their income, credit score and current monthly expenses. Homebuyers will develop an understanding of how much they can afford based on a home’s down payment and interest rate. Furthermore, housing counselors will cover the topics below in an effort to help homebuyers shop for a home that they can afford, including homes provided under Section 8 housing.

Understanding the Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects the rights of buyers and renters by outlawing housing discrimination. It prohibits the refusal to sell, rent or finance a home because of a person’s race, color, religion, disability, sex, familial status or national origin. A counselor will empower and inform its clients through the key provisions set by the act so that they can identify and overcome any violations experienced while home shopping. If clients recognize signs of housing discrimination, counselors will equip them with the appropriate knowledge needed to properly file a fair housing complaint. 

How to Shop for Home Loans

If you are buying a home, chances are you will need a mortgage or home loan. Counselors will be able to assist you in shopping, comparing and negotiating with several lenders to find the best price for financing your home. Furthermore, they will provide you with information regarding mortgage regulations and lender disclosures, such as the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) and the Truth in Lending Act (TILA).

If you have credit issues as a result of an illness or being unemployed temporarily, counselors will be able to give you advice on home economics so that you can obtain a loan despite your low credit score or other circumstances. 

How to Use a Homebuyer Assistance Program

HUD-approved housing counseling services will teach you about the homebuyer assistance programs offered by your state and the federal government. You will learn about loans provided by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which insures your loan so that you are offered a low down payment and closing costs. If you are a senior struggling financially, you will learn how elderly individuals older than 62 years of age can convert a portion of their equity into cash through an FHA reverse mortgage. Counselors will guide you step by step on how to meet FHA loan qualifications, as well as requirements for other HUD programs like Good Neighbor Next Door. 

Learn About Home Shopping

Prospective homebuyers will learn how to shop for homes in the housing market, including HUD homes for sale. Counselors will help buyers create a wish list that covers the type of features they would like in their home. This includes differentiating between locations and type of houses, such as a townhouse or single-family home. Homebuyers will use a checklist provided by the housing counseling program that will allow them to compare houses. If a homebuyer is interested in a house that needs minor improvements, housing counseling will be able to direct him or her to home purchase and repair programs. Additionally, homebuyers will receive guidance on how to arrange a home inspection prior to purchasing a home.

How to Shop for Homeowners Insurance

Housing counseling services will provide you with knowledge on the importance of homeowners insurance and ways in which you can lower your rates. In the event of a tragedy, such as a fire or natural disaster, homeowners insurance helps pay for losses and damages to your home. Counselors will teach you how to protect your property and how to find a home that is strong enough to sustain the impact of hurricanes and tornados. This also means finding a home that meets Section 8 housing standards.

Learn About Counseling for Renters

If you would like to rent a home, housing counseling will educate you on housing available through the Low Income Tax Credit program, public housing and Section 8 housing. The Housing Choice Voucher program (Section 8) allows renters to pick from a variety of homes in the private market using a voucher that will pay a portion or all of their rent. Counselors will direct renters to housing options that accept these vouchers and teach them about the Fair Housing Act and their rights as tenants. Based on their circumstances, housing counseling will guide them in obtaining proper housing that fits their needs. For example, those who have a disability and need daily living assistance may be directed to Section 811.

How Housing Counseling Works

Housing counseling services are provided by phone and in person at your local counseling agency. Simply navigate through the map provided by the HUD website or enter your ZIP code to find your agency’s contact information and address. You can also call the HUD interactive voice system or use the smartphone application. The program offers around-the-clock advice from housing counselors for free or at a low cost. However, agencies are required to provide free counseling if you claim you cannot afford the fees. They must also notify you of the fees before providing their services to you. Additionally, you may receive housing counseling if you are homeless or are facing foreclosure and eviction.