What Homebuyer Counseling Can Do for You

As Louisiana temperatures rise and summer showers fall, we are drawn indoors — but what value does that indoor space hold for you? Recent data shows that nearly half of Baton Rouge residents rent their homes, while fewer and fewer people feel they are in a position to make the commitment to owning a home.

As part of our celebration of National Homeownership Month, we chatted with certified homebuyer counselor Sonja Smith about how to make owning a home feasible in Louisiana. “The biggest — and most frequently encountered — obstacle for most prospective homebuyers is actually quite simple to overcome,” Smith says. “Fear is what prevents most renters from entering into the purchasing process, but homebuyer counseling can provide education to eliminate that nagging fear.”

During our chat, Smith discussed the fears potential homebuyers experience and the range of benefits offered by homebuyer counseling.

Why is education so crucial to the purchasing process?

Homebuyer counseling is incredibly important to the process because purchasing a home is a big investment — maybe the biggest investment that a person will make in their entire lifetime. Homebuyer counseling provides a smoother transition into homeownership.

There are so many fears and misunderstandings regarding the home buying process. People are understandably hesitant to engage in such an enormous purchase. There’s always a fear of bad credit, or purchasing above your means and having to deal with massive consequences down the road. But that’s exactly the purpose of homebuyer counseling. We can show you the feasibility of owning your own home and how to plan now to prevent the possibility of delinquency or default, because it only takes one hiccup.

Where can Louisiana homebuyers find resources?

The best place to obtain homebuyer education. During the class, participants will receive knowledge and sound advice from key members of the homebuying team, including a realtor, lender, home inspector, an insurance agent, and a representative from a title company. You will meet people who many may not realize are even who are involved in the process and be able to and clearly understand the role of each one. It’s truly a step-by-step walk through the entire home buying process.
We also offer individualized counseling to help you figure out what you can do to improve your credit score or to create and maintain a healthy budget. We’ll show you grants and other government resources that are available to help mitigate the upfront costs, such as closing and down payment assistance. You can find your local counselor and sign up for classes through the national office of Housing and Urban Development.

And of course you’ll encounter people who can reassure you, from professional and personal experience, that you’re on a great path. I tell my class participants all the time that I bought a home as a single parent. Anything is possible if you take the time to learn about the process and make a plan to own your own home.

How can homebuyer counseling change a person’s outlook on the process?

Let me give you an example. One of my clients in a homebuyer’s education class came to me for one-on-one counseling. His credit score was great and his debt-to-income ratio was on target, but he was still hesitant. That nagging fear is really difficult to overcome. He wanted to wait a year, but I asked him "Why are you waiting?" It turns out he needed that motivational encouragement just to get him going. This was in December of last year, and in January he purchased his home.

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