- Community Development
Mustard Seed Hill
While the COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses all over the world to adopt a virtual model of operating, Community Ventures had already made a similar transition for one of its primary services.
Community Ventures has a long history of providing housing counseling to potential homebuyers in Kentucky. Through its Homeownership Center, the Kentucky-based community development non-profit transitioned its counseling operation into a new virtual setup in an effort to provide counseling services to a larger number of people. Thanks to the funding of NeighborWorks America, one of CV’s longstanding national partners, the Virtual Counseling Center now offers HUD-Certified housing counseling to clients who complete the company’s online Homebuyer Education course by eHome America. The course is a certified web-based program for prospective first-time homebuyers. Course participants can take the course at their own pace, from any device . Upon completion of the course, participants will receive one-on-one counseling from one of our HUD-Certified VCC housing specialists.
For our clients, the new VCC model of counseling has proven to be a beneficial way to deliver the information these prospective homebuyers are looking for. Ronald Harris, a California resident, is one of the recent graduates of the course and recipient of the VCC’s virtual counseling. “I was not really looking forward to it. My whole life, I’ve gone through this process of trying to be financially prepared for things like buying a house.” While he was reluctant at first, Harris was pleasantly surprised by his experience.
“I actually learned a great deal. It worked for me because the questions throughout the course - I answered honestly. I took time and didn’t rush it because I was doing it online,” says Harris. “It reassured me that we were at the place to be able to buy a home. It confirmed that things I had been doing to save money for a down payment were right.”
Harris has been on the path to homeownership for the past five years. After taking steps to improve his credit, he was feeling affirmed by the results of the course. Upon completion of the course, Harris was assigned to Francia Gonzalez, one of the VCC’s HUD-Certified Counselors. “When I finished the course, I was excited but then, not looking forward to talking to the counselor,” said Harris.
Despite his reluctance, Harris would again be pleasantly surprised by the rest of his experience. “I’m a big customer service person. Francia was great because she was really flexible with us. We were actually looking at houses when she first reached out,” said Harris. “She reviewed everything, and she was able to talk real numbers about our situation, where we are and what we have.”
For Gonzalez, the counseling is just as rewarding, especially with clients like Harris. “I enjoy helping clients who want to learn more about saving money, building their credit, increasing their credit score, and managing their money.” As a HUD-Certified Housing Specialist, Gonzalez sees the impact this service has on her clients. “Teaching clients tips and tricks on increasing their credit scores, showing them how to save money by applying extra payments to the principal of any type of loan they have - these things can easily impact their bottom line.”
Thanks to the course, and the counseling from the VCC, Harris and his partner are in the thick of the buying process, as they continue to make offers on homes in the East Bay’s highly competitive housing market. “I wish I had taken the chance and actually spoke with someone five years ago. Once I got behind the curtain of the mystery of buying a home, I realized I probably could have done this much sooner. The process is not as overwhelming as I thought it was,” Harris adds.
The VCC hopes to demystify the process for all of its clients, showing them that by taking the right steps towards financial health, they can position themselves to purchase a home. “I would recommend homebuyer education to others just because of the information. The information I gained was good, it validated some things, and it taught me some new things as well,” says Harris.
For more information on the Virtual Counseling Center, please contact Lew Whalen by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.