It is exciting to purchase a home, and even more exciting if you think that someone may actually help you make such a big investment. At the same time it is important not to let your emotions lead you to make unwise decisions — especially decisions that cause you to part with personal information or hard-earned cash. Following are guidelines to help you sort out what is true and what is not, sources to trust and sources to avoid in order to seek success in pursuit of the American Dream. We’ll start with the bad news.
The Bad News
Some organizations will tell you that if you give them personal information and/or your cash, they virtually guarantee they will help you get a grant to purchase a home. Keep in mind that a grant, by definition, is money that never needs to be paid back to the grant maker (typically the government, a charitable foundation, or in some cases a private corporation). Unfortunately such grants simply do not exist at this time except in very rare circumstances. Several years ago there were a number of programs that offered financial assistance to home buyers, but those programs are no longer available. That fact hasn’t stopped some organizations from promoting those same programs, and when you are eager to purchase a home it is all too easy to believe what you want to believe rather than what can be proven to be true. Avoid being taken in by heeding these warnings:
Look carefully at the url (web address) of the sites you visit. Only legitimate government organizations can use the extension “.gov.” Consider it a red flag if the initials of a major government agency are followed by “.com” or “.org.” To ensure you are dealing with the real deal, be sure the web address ends in “.gov.”
Some sites tell you that a law has made certain programs unavailable but they then go on to detail those programs so that they look real and current. You may have to provide personal contact information or an up-front fee to get more information. Since such programs no longer exist, the information is unlikely to be useful.
Guarantees create buying confidence; be sure to scrutinize the their wording carefully. A site may guarantee a full refund if you can document that you applied for and did not receive a grant for which you were qualified. Since the eligibility requirements for the rare home-buying grants in existence are extremely strict you probably won’t actually qualify for any real grants, and your money will be gone.
Don’t despair — there is some help out there:
The Good News
The government does offer lots of assistance – though rarely direct grants – to make your dream real. Legitimate agencies exist to help people find, purchase, repair and avoid foreclosure on homes. Most aid falls under the umbrella of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and their website and associated sites are loaded with information and assistance for those who know how to find it. Available resources include but are not limited to:
Counseling in every area of home ownership at little or no cost to clients;
Assistance avoiding foreclosure;
Help getting a lower interest mortgage than you might get on your own; and
Guidance finding additional programs available in specific states.