Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Buying a home? Get help from a local housing counselor

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has launched a new online tool for consumers to find housing counselors.

What are housing counselors?
Housing counselors throughout the country can provide advice on buying a home, renting, defaults, foreclosures, and credit issues. Housing counselors can offer independent advice, often at little or no cost to consumers.

The new tool includes the following features:
  • Shows consumers their closest options: The tool uses a search box and mapping function to show the consumer the ten closest counseling agencies to their zip code.
  • Provides contact information for HUD-approved counselors: The tool only draws on information from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) official list of housing counselors.
  • Displays services offered by counseling agencies: When counselors are listed, the tool shows the consumer which services are available there, such as rental housing counseling, pre-purchase counseling, or default resolution counseling.
  • Lists the languages offered: For those consumers who would prefer to receive housing counseling in a language other than English, the tool lists the languages that each housing counseling agency offers.
Why the new tool?
The CFPB’s new mortgage rules (effective January 2014) require mortgage lenders to provide applicants with a list of local housing counselors. Consumers should receive the list shortly after they apply for a mortgage so they know where to get help when deciding what loan is best for them. Lenders may fulfill that requirement by using CFPB-developed housing counseling lists, which are available through this new tool, or by generating their own lists using the same HUD data that the CFPB uses to build its lists. For more information and links to the new mortgage rules, visit the website.

For more online consumer information resources, visit the library's Recommended Websites page and check under Consumer Information.

~ Alison, Electronic Resources Librarian

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