By the Georgia Department of Community Affairs
Are you ready to buy a house? Before you begin thinking about paint colors and furniture, it is important to educate yourself on the process. From down payments to warranties to credit scores and more, the home buying process is not a simple as some might assume. Do you know where to begin?
Jamilla Byrd is a Grants Coordinator at the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA), a state agency whose mission is to help build strong, vibrant communities. Providing avenues to safe and affordable housing for Georgia residents is an important part of her position. “It is important for clients to be empowered to make sound decisions for home buying,” she says. “Once we educate, we put power back into the client.” With that in mind, DCA has a network of 19 HUD-approved housing counseling agencies and funds each of these “sub-grantees” to provide access to resources for future homeowners.
Education Through the Georgia Dream Homeownership Program
The Georgia Dream Homeownership program is one particular DCA program dedicated to empowerment and education. Homebuyer education is required for all approved Georgia Dream program applicants. Various options exist, such as one-on-one counseling, workshops and online classes, which tend to be free or available at reduced costs. For example, eHome America is an online course for Georgia Dream applicants who choose this option. Others who select counseling have access to an individual who can help guide them through the process and answer questions about the essentials, such as interest rates, credit scores and documents. Additionally, studies show that people who complete homebuyer education are less likely to default on their mortgages and gain special first-time homebuyer programs and mortgages.
“HUD has a required uniform system of housing counseling,” Byrd explains. “Anyone receiving down payment assistance is required to take some form of education.” She adds that gaining knowledge about purchasing a home illustrates the importance of the three major Ps:
This involves setting logical, realistic goals and developing credit awareness. Byrd says, “Once you understand the components of credit, you can understand it on a higher level.” By navigating the process, individuals are able to make well-educated decisions and build wealth in the process.
Byrd notes that she and her teamwork to help buyers know their mortgage options, fair lending laws and the tenets of fair housing. She says, “It’s important to understanding this as a consumer.”
Not only is it important for people to learn how to purchase a home, but it also is imperative that they receive information on how to protect it. Avoiding foreclosure is essential for this, Byrd says.
Tracey Turman, DCA’s Housing Outreach Coordinator, reveals that owning a home is a sound investment for individuals and families moving to Georgia. Therefore, the education process incorporated into the Georgia Dream program provides both short-term and long-term benefits for those who are approved and move forward in the process. “The education portion is essential to the home buying process,” she emphasizes. “Buying a home is one of the most important decisions a person can make. Therefore, our team works diligently to provide a comprehensive experience that will result in an engaging, fulfilling and worthwhile process for each approved applicant.”
To begin the process, those interested in the Georgia Dream program must contact an approved participating lender, which can be found online at gadream.com. DCA works with these lenders, as well as the HUD-approved counseling agencies, to guide the client from the beginning of the process to the closing table. The standard loan for eligible home buyers is $5,000. The Protectors, Educators and Nurses (PEN) program provides $7,500 for those who work in public protection education, healthcare or the military. According to Turman, “The company you work for, not the actual position, is the determining factor for the PEN program.”
A minimum credit score of 640 is required, and income and purchase price limits must be met. Debt-to-income ratios also are taken into consideration. Once the home buyer education requirements are met, there is a seven- to 10-day compliance review. In addition to working with a real estate agent, applicants can expect to close within 45 to 60 days from start to finish.
As Byrd concludes, “The Georgia Dream program has existed for decades. Homeownership is fundamental to quality of life. Therefore, we encourage those with a goal of having their own property to contact our team in order to get the keys to success.”