The lack of qualified home-buying information available to borrowers is often blamed as the reason for the housing crisis in 2008.
That is no longer the case.
Ten years later, the rise of online homebuyer education courses is helping borrowers better prepare for their first mortgage. Homeowners that participate in homebuyer counseling are 67% more likely to remain current on their mortgage payments than those who simply “wing it” the first time they buy a home.
Some lenders require a certificate of completion from a homebuyer education course with the loan application, but even if the course isn’t required, there is plenty to learn before shopping for a new home.
I’ll review some of the top online home-buying courses and the subjects they cover. It doesn’t matter which one you choose, so long as the agency or course is approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). There are about 2,000 agencies in the HUD database.
Online Homebuyer Courses
You can receive homeowner education and counseling (HEC) in-person at a housing counseling agency, but most people find it much more convenient online. Courses often take several hours, so having the ability to pause and restart the session on your own time will make things easier.
Four of the more popular online courses are HomeTrek, eHomeAmerica, Framework and Alliance Credit Counseling. Here’s a look at the costs and strengths of each program.
(4.7 / 5)
HomeTrek is a nine-chapter course with a multiple-choice assessment. A 70% or higher grade on the final assessment earns a certificate of completion that can be printed or emailed to lending agents immediately. The course is offered by InCharge Debt Solutions, a nonprofit member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), and can be taken on desktop and mobile devices.
- Budgeting and saving for a home
- How much home can you afford?
- Mortgage process
- Resources for homebuyers
- Credit reports and how they’re scored
- How to improve your credit for homeownership
- Disputing information on your credit report
- Explanation of the role of inspectors, appraisers and realtors
- Pros and cons of homeownership
- New responsibilities of homeownership
(4.4 / 5)
EHomeAmerica partners with over 500 housing agencies. EhomeAmerica provides the course materials, and the local agency provides counseling if needed. Their course claims to teach you more than you need “exceeding national industry standards.” It is available in English or Spanish.
- Steps of the home buying process
- Preparing for the expenses of homeownership
- Financial management of homeownership
- Post purchase tips
(4.0 / 5)
Framework provides an easy to use, interactive and engaging course with seven lessons. You’ll need to pass each lesson quiz with an 80% average to earn the certificate of completion, and you have three tries for each lesson. The course was designed for mobile and is available in English or Spanish.
- How much house can you afford?
- How to fix or improve your credit
- How to choose a real estate agent
- Shopping for a mortgage loan and the closing process
- Roles of professionals involved in home purchases
- What to include in your offer
- Home inspection basics
Alliance Credit Counseling
(3.8 / 5)
Alliance has a low-cost guarantee and will match any price with a $5 refund if you find a lower rate elsewhere. Their course teaches realistic planning and how to set optimal goals through videos, interactive modules, animation and pre and post assessments.
- How do I know if I’m ready to buy a home?
- How do I begin to buy a home?
- What is the maximum mortgage I can afford?
- How to select the right real estate agent
- What to look for in deciding on a community
- How to find out about local schools and community resources
Each of the four courses has its own benefits, depending on what you are looking for. HomeTrek is the quickest, easiest way to get a certificate of completion. Alliance Credit Counseling is the cheapest. EHomeAmerica has a very comprehensive course if you want to learn a lot about the buying process, and Framework offers a unique style of teaching with multimedia components to supplement the traditional material.
Besides offering a very competitive price, HomeTrek is the most user-friendly course available. It offers videos, easy-to-read content and the ability to re-take quizzes until the material is mastered.
However, staying engaged with the teaching material is more important than which course you choose. The right course for you should be the one that best helps you achieve that goal.