Buying a home creates stability, gives homeowners more control over how they live, and provides an opportunity for building wealth that can be passed down throughout generations. While finding a real estate agent whom home buyers trust to be a personal guide through the home-buying process is preferable, sometimes buyers need a little preliminary education to know where to begin. Or sometimes they know there are existing problems, like credit repair or tax issues, that need to be resolved before being able to buy a home.
Many businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies provide a range of home-buying assistance, so where does a service member begin?
The USO Pathfinder Program helps both service members and military spouses locate the resources they’ll need when transitioning out of the military, including support with obtaining housing. The Pathfinder Program offers personal assistance in connecting service members with known resources in the area. The USO also hosts classes taught by local professionals, often educating attendees on their VA Loan benefits and providing an overview of the buying process.
Buyers can learn more about the home-buying process by attending the official in-processing briefings at a new duty station as well. In addition to detailing the on-base housing options, the briefing organizers may invite local real estate or mortgage professionals to display advertisements or speak about local off-base housing options for rent or for sale.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is the federal entity overseeing housing-related topics. For home buyers, HUD provides resources in every state, such as certified Housing Counseling Agencies, through which buyers can learn more about buying a home. HUD also centralizes a list of State Homebuying Programs.
Each state has some version of a Department of Housing and Community Development, a government entity that has the goal of increasing local home ownership. These organizations promote various state- and federally-funded loan, grant, or closing assistance programs, often for first-time home buyers. Some of these grants or programs come with a requirement to attend a pre-purchase counseling course, but classes are also available for anyone interested.
In addition, these federal and local agencies can be good places to start resolving any tax issues that may present hurdles to home buying.
Real estate agents often host home-buyer education sessions as a means to generate buyer relationships. The presentations may partner with a lender or a settlement company to show the full range of services involved in a home purchase and to give buyers the beginning vocabulary they’ll need in order to get comfortable buying a home.
Like real estate brokerages, mortgage lenders also host education sessions to generate home-buyer leads, often focusing on the VA Loan benefit. Mortgage brokers are often well connected with credit counseling services, as helping a potential buyer resolve credit problems creates goodwill and cements a relationship for future mortgage business. Moreover, lenders are aware of the various credit requirements mortgage banks have, so they work with buyers to find a good match for their personal financial situation.
Use your smart consumer skills any time you’re interacting with a course provider or vendor. It is not rude or too forward to ask where they earn their income in this process. Clearly, a real estate broker or mortgage lender hosting a workshop is trying to secure your business, but the lines may be blurred in other situations.
When a military or government entity is introducing you to a vendor providing education, feel free to ask how they get paid. If it’s a real estate broker or mortgage lender, he or she may have paid for the opportunity to present to you in hopes of generating future business. If it’s a certified course provider, it may mean the business receives compensation from the state or federal agency for every student enrolled. Or if the provider is a nonprofit organization, they may have generated income by fundraising or donations, but they may also have an interest in generating business for a commercial arm of their company. There is a lot of free, high-quality information available to prospective home buyers, so take advantage of it with eyes wide open.
By tapping into any or all of the resources mentioned here, you’ll be able to approach buying a home from a place of confidence. Knowledge is power that will help you make informed decisions that can really pay off in the long run!