Loans and taxes and budgets, oh my.

➼ As the saying goes, “There’s no place like home.” But that doesn’t mean shopping for one is easy. Luckily for first-time home buyers, the Fairmont-Morgantown Housing Authority lends a guiding hand.

“The mission of the Fairmont-Morgantown Housing Authority is to assist low income families in finding safe, decent, and affordable housing opportunities,” says Theressa Nichols, a housing counselor at the FMHA.

For about a decade, the housing authority’s Housing Counseling program has supported that mission by offering education services that help individuals and families who are in the market for a home understand the nuances of the buying process.

“Educating yourself is really important, especially as a first-time home buyer,” says Nichols. “Between getting a good loan, knowing the cost of owning a house and how it affects your taxes, and learning what happens if you sell your property, there are a lot of things people are not initially aware of.”

A couple of the program’s courses and services are particularly popular. The Homebuyer Education course, for instance, is a one-day session that focuses on topics such as credit-building, inspections, and predatory lending.

It’s time well spent. “There are programs that people don’t know about that can save them thousands upon thousands of dollars on the back end just by taking a little more time and doing some research,” says Nichols.

The FMHA doesn’t just want to help buyers understand what they’re about to go through—it also wants to set them up to be successful homeowners. That’s why the housing authority also offers a four-hour Non-Delinquency Post-Purchase Education course that teaches students about maintenance, home repair, refinancing, and more.

For former student Ella Belling and her partner, Lance, the courses offered by the FMHA were instrumental in helping them realize their dream of becoming homeowners. The couple enrolled in the Homebuyer Education course in February of 2015 and found themselves buying by October of that same year.

“The class and our housing counselor gave us the confidence and guidance to make that happen,” says Belling. “We wanted to be educated on whether we could afford a home, thought we might get discounts or financial incentives for taking the class, and thought they might know about first-time home buyers’ programs and would have recommendations for types of loans.”
From learning about mortgage options and closing costs to hearing from guest speakers who were realtors, bankers, and housing inspectors, Belling said the course proved beneficial. She encourages others to sign up. “We especially think it would be helpful for those who might need credit help or financial guidance,” she says. “It helped reassure us that we were in a good place financially to buy a house and determine what we could afford.”

The Fairmont-Morgantown Housing Authority serves six counties in north central West Virginia: Harrison, Marion, Monongalia, Preston, Taylor, and Wetzel. Courses cost $100 per family.

written by Kaylyn Christopher

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