Frequently Asked Questions about Homeownership
Q. Why should I come to the Hawai'i HomeOwnership Center?
A. The Center offers members the tools and knowledge they need to become informed consumers and successful home buyers. 9 hours worth of Homebuyer’s Education courses provide an overview of the home buying process and what lenders expect (online education also available). Counselors help members address their obstacles to home ownership. The Center continues to provide educational opportunities and counseling after the purchase to ensure your success as a home owner.
Q. Can you help me if I’ve owned a home in the past?
A. Yes. We provide assistance to everyone who wishes to purchase a home or wants to be educated about the purchase process.
Q. Are there any income limits to your services?
A. No. Membership is open to everyone, regardless of income.
Q. How much do I have to pay?
A. The one-time membership fee of $60.00 entitles our members access to individual coaching and all educational offerings. Live classes can be repeated at no charge – however, an additional fee is required to take the online class.
Q. Are you a real estate agent? Do you make loans?
A.We are not real estate agents but work with them. Our affiliate, HHOC Mortgage is licensed to originate mortgage loans but our education & counseling clients are not obligated to use this service.
Q. Do I make enough money to qualify for a mortgage?
A. Classes and counseling will cover mortgage qualification as well as planning to address barriers to getting a mortgage (if applicable). For those with low income, in can be possible to buy a home. However, some low income families may need assistance programs in order to purchase a home. Assistance programs are not always available – members of the Center can consult with their counselor when they are ready to start shopping for a home and ask if any assistance is available to them at that time.
Q. How much can I borrow?
A. Lenders look at the buyer’s income and debt to determine how much a family can afford to pay for housing. This amount is based on a percentage of the family’s gross income and takes into consideration the monthly payments on long term debt. The percentages used vary from loan product to loan product. Actual affordability will vary based the loan product and the buyer’s financial situation.
Q. If I have a lot of debt will this affect how much I can borrow?
A. Yes. One of the biggest obstacles facing many home buyers is too much debt. Your monthly debt is taken into consideration when a lender determines the mortgage amount for which you qualify. Our counselors will show you how to determine how much debt is too much and, if necessary, help you develop a debt reduction plan.
Q. Can you fix my credit for me?
A. No, only you can improve your credit. However, the Center can help you through the process. Habits that improve a credit score is discussed in the Homebuyer’s Education Classes. Counselors will help you apply the knowledge from class to your own situation.
Q. Do I have to be married to qualify for a mortgage?
A. No. Getting a mortgage depends primarily on the borrower’s ability to repay the loan. It is illegal for lenders to discriminate against people based on marital status or gender. You can qualify for a mortgage with people you are not related to.
Q. How do I find out more about your program?
A. You can call our main phone line: 523-9500 (Oahu) or 877-523-9503 (toll-free). Orientation sessions are scheduled at various locations. You can also use our Online Orientation.
Q. What does your program offer?
• Homebuyer Education classes (live sessions and an online version)
• Individualized Counseling
• Workshops – you can invite your friends & family
• Refresher classes
• Post-purchase counseling/services
Q. Is there a benefit to receiving a homebuyer education certificate
(issued after all classes are completed)?
A. Besides the value of the information received during class, the certificate of completion fulfills lending and home purchase assistance program requirements for homebuyer education (the online education classes are approved by USDA).
Q. What do you mean when you say you offer a “lifetime membership?”
A. Members of the Center are members for life – services are available to them before, during, and after the home purchase. Live classes can be taken as many times as you want
and members of the same “buying unit” do not have to take the classes together. To take the online class, a small fee is required.
Q. What if I only want to take homebuyer education classes?
A. Some people have opted for that and you can register to only take classes. If you choose this option, you will be contacted by one of our staff to register you for the classes. However, we have found that having individualized and confidential counseling is critical for most people in the home buying process. Speaking to a counselor to apply the class concepts has been an important piece to successful homeownership. If you initially only wanted to take the classes and change your mind, all you have to do is submit your counseling documents and you will be scheduled for an assessment. One counseling session is required to receive the homebuyer education certificate for those utilizing the online classes.
Q. How often are your classes?
A. We offer them in 5-6 week cycles primarily on Saturday (classes are held more frequently if client demand requires it). Oahu also has some classes on weeknights due to a higher volume of people becoming members on that island. Each island has different options and your assigned counselor will sign you up for the sessions. The online classes are meant to accommodate those in rural areas as well as those whose schedules do not allow them to utilize the live sessions scheduled.
Q. I am in escrow and am required to attend homebuyer education classes – can you help me?
A. Our “live” classes will fulfill the homebuyer education class requirement. We do our best to accommodate people needing the certificate in time to meet their closing deadline, however we HIGHLY RECOMMEND signing up immediately after finding out you need the classes so we are more likely to be able to help you. The online education class may support your need to take classes within your required timeline – however, it is important for you to check with the lender or organization that is requiring it to ensure online education fulfills its program guidelines
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