First-time homebuyers, who find the thought of buying a house daunting, can get help from the Virginia Cooperative Extension, which offers a seminar to arm people with the knowledge they need to get through the process with their nerves intact.
Mary Anne Bryant, the manager of the Financial Education Program, said people ask questions that range from how to get started to what happens at closing.
The biggest surprise people have is learning how expensive home inspections, closing costs, deposits and down payments can be. "A lot of people don't realize how much money it takes just to go through the process. A lot of money is needed up front.”
The initial step in the seminar is to help people determine how much house they can afford. Often people find that they need to increase their income or savings before they can consider home ownership. If people find that they can afford to buy, what they learn at the seminar can go a long way to informing their decisions.
"What we do is help them do a pre-qualification exercise to find out what their payments should be. Then we can equate that to a sales price for them," Bryant said.
Other considerations involved in home buying include keeping a good relationship with realtors, working with lenders and determining what type of loan is best. The class can help with those things, as well.
Bryant said she's confident that those who attend the seminar will be well prepared as they go out house shopping. "Most people leave that seminar and say there were a lot of things they didn't realize they didn't know. Pretty much, by the time they're done, they know what to expect."
The extension also offers a Basic Financial Management class that Bryant said many people might find useful. People who take the class might be looking to plan for their children's college or retirement while some may take the class to help them put their finances in order.
The main thing with any financial plan is to set financial goals, make a plan, put it down on paper and then stick to it, Bryant said.
The extension also offers individual counseling for people who cannot attend the seminars. "We also do financial assessments, which are individual meetings with a counselor to look at income, assets, expenses and liabilities to help determine net worth," Bryant said.