For 24 years, the Virginia Cooperative Extension has been helping people get ready to buy houses. The Extension’s goal is to prepare people through its Financial Education and Housing Counseling Program for the trials and tribulations that some encounter in the home-buying process.
Mary Anne Bryant, the financial program manager with Prince William County’s Cooperative Extension, said one of the biggest things people can do before trying to buy a house is to learn how to manage their money. People who attend the Extension seminars, which are held two times a month, will learn about matters such as debt-to-income ratio, closing costs, and how to find a good lender or realtor.
Getting finances in order usually comes down to budgeting, Bryant said. The Extension’s financial planning counselors help with that, too. “It’s a big thing to help people get a budget in order so they can start putting money away in savings or look at where they’re spending money now and maybe do some things that can improve their financial picture.”
Bryant said the Extension also has two counselors who are prepared to help people who find themselves in foreclosure proceedings. “We help them work with the banks to get a loan modified so they don’t lose their house.”
Workshops, seminars and clinics offered by Cooperative Extension include:
- Financial Assessment Clinic
- Individual Long-Term Counseling
- Foreclosure Prevention Counseling
- Reverse Mortgage Counseling
- Post-Purchase Counseling
- Rental Workshops and Counseling
These classes are free and taught by volunteers, who take eight weeks of training to prepare them to teach others.
“The evaluations that are done at the end of each class are really positive. The input that we get when the classes are over is that the participants really feel more prepared to do what they need to do,” Bryant said.
Bryant also said the extension is interested in talking to people who might be interested in helping out. “We’re gearing up for our education program, and we’re looking for people who want to help people with their budgets; people who are interested in helping people get their finances order.”