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By: Charlestien Harris

As a HUD-Certified Counselor, I often hear my clients say that they wish they had sought out the services of a HUD-certified housing counselor before they started the process of purchasing their home. I then asked them why, and their response was, “There was so much information that I just didn’t know about buying a house!” So, I thought National Homeownership Month would be a great time to talk about what a housing counselor does and how they can assist a potential homebuyer in the home buying process.

There are three questions that are usually asked about housing counselors:

What is a housing counselor?

A housing counselor is a financial advocate specifically trained to provide information and counseling to potential homebuyers and homeowners. HUD-certified counselors go through training and receive certification from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). A HUD-approved housing counselor is specially trained and certified by the government to help you assess your financial situation, evaluate options if you are having trouble paying your mortgage, and develop a plan to get you back on track with your mortgage payments.

Why do I need to work with a housing counselor?

Working with a housing counselor can be highly beneficial if you’re a first-time homebuyer. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. A housing counselor can help you make a step-by-step action plan to achieve homeownership, including how to overcome common barriers — such as low income, bad credit or no credit, and excess credit card debt.
  2. A counselor can also assist you by identifying the different types of loan products and also help first-time homebuyers secure access to programs such as down payment and closing cost assistance.
  3. They will help you understand exactly how much home you can afford to buy, so you can narrow your search and ensure you buy a home without facing a high risk of foreclosure.

Having a real estate agent is only one part of the home buying experience because typically they may not be familiar with FHA assistance programs. They are generally less involved in the details of the home buying process after a house has been identified.  This is why talking to a housing counselor first when you want to buy a home is so beneficial. The housing counseling session begins by first figuring out if you’re really ready to buy a home and how much you can afford. They also work with you to determine if there are steps you need to take to become mortgage-ready, like reviewing your credit report. That way, you get on a real path to homeownership before you even start looking at properties. They can also offer the eight-hour Homebuyer Education Course. This course is usually a requirement by the lender to complete the loan closing process.

What else does a housing counselor do?

A housing counselor isn’t just there to help first-time homebuyers. Once you own a home, a housing counselor can still provide assistance and support, especially when a homeowner is in trouble such as becoming delinquent with payments or threatening foreclosure.

They can answer any questions you have about home equity and can also provide reverse mortgage counseling to seniors. This is a low-risk lending option for homeowners aged 62 and older. However, you must get housing counseling before you can use it to make sure it’s the right option for your situation. If you’re facing foreclosure, they can help you understand your options for getting back on track or find alternative housing if you should have to exit the home. Whether you want to save your home or simply get out of your mortgage with the least financial and credit damage possible, a housing counselor can help you understand the range of options you have. Then they can review your budget to help you find the best option for your unique financial situation.

You can find a HUD certified housing counselor near you by going to Southern Bancorp Community Partners is a HUD-approved counseling agency, and we have four HUD-Certified Housing Counselors on staff.  If you need additional information about other financial topics of interest, please call me at 662-624-5776 or email me at

Until next week — stay financially fit!