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July 18, 2012

Local experts share advice on basics of home buying

By Mary Beth Almond
C & G Staff Writer

Buying a home can be a scary process, especially if you don’t really know what you’re doing.

You need to make sure you are ready to own property, then you have to have a set budget, pick a team of professionals that is knowledgeable and that you trust, set aside time to look at a variety of homes for the best fit and know how to seal the deal when you find one you like — and that’s just the beginning.

The good news is, those who seek out housing counseling and education before they purchase a home have a significantly higher chance of remaining in their homes than those who don’t, according to two recent studies by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Jean Lakin, extension educator for the Michigan State University Extension, said the housing crisis and accompanying economic meltdown have harmed many in southeastern Michigan.

“We’ve all been through a pretty dramatic homeownership crisis in the past year with the amount of foreclosures that have taken place,” she said.

The MSU Extension, a HUD-certified agency, is doing its part to make sure it never happens again by raising the financial literacy of those in the community through a series of homebuyer education courses outlining every step of the process. The free three-part seminars run every month through November. Most are held from 6:30-8:30 p.m. either at City Hall in Warren or at the MSU Extension in Clinton Township. All MSU Extension staff is Michigan State Housing Development Authority certified as well as NeighborWorks America certified in the area of homebuyer education and foreclosure counseling.

Lakin said people who work with housing counselors and families that go through homebuyer education are much more successful in the long run in their home purchase.

“Our goal in homeownership has always been to make sure that people understand all the aspects of the transaction. It’s not like going to the store and buying a TV. It’s a little bit more involved than that,” she said.

The first seminar — “Are you Ready for Homeownership?” — covers assessing financial readiness, calculating maximum mortgage payments, how to find out debt and credit scores, and figuring out how much one can afford.

“Many times we see people fall in love with a particular property and it’s either too expensive, doesn’t meet their needs, or actually the deal doesn’t go through. My main thing is to try to teach people to be very objective about it because it is a real estate investment,” Lakin said.

The “Working with your Realtor and Other Real Estate Professionals” seminar goes over choosing a home, having a home inspection, making a purchase offer and the basics of a purchase agreement.

Century 21 Town & Country Realtor Joanna Darmanin said choosing the right professionals to work with can really make a big difference. She said a good way to find a quality team is to ask friends and family who have purchased homes for a recommendation.

“The best thing you can do is arm yourself with professionals who have done this many times before, so nothing will really surprise them and no question will be silly. They will be prepared to help you and guide you, and that’s their job,” she said.

“The Mortgage Loan Process” seminar talks about choosing a lender and mortgage, comparing loan costs and mortgage paperwork. Courses on avoiding foreclosure and life as a homeowner are also covered.

The best thing about the series, according to Lakin, is students receive education that is research based and unbiased, as students are not sold any products or services as a result of the classes.

“It is our mission to help people improve their lives through an educational process that allows them to make informed decisions in the home buying process,” she said.

To register for the program, call the Macomb County MSU Extension at (586) 469-7614.