Providing education and advice to older homeowners is the mission of the program I manage, AARP Foundation’s Housing Solutions Center. Unfortunately, many homeowners don’t realize they can benefit from the services we provide; as a result, they often miss opportunities to explore available programs and assistance that might make their mortgage payments more affordable or help them maximize their financial power.
Too many homeowners wait until they are in dire circumstances or faced with foreclosure before asking a professional for advice. However, if a problem is discovered early, when it is small, more options are often available and the steps to resolve the problem are generally easier to manage. In fact, there are five specific times when it makes very good sense to seek the advice of a professional -- before your housing costs become a serious problem.
1. When You Make or Revise Your Budget
Some people revisit their budget annually; others manage their budget less formally. Regardless, if you are trying to make changes in your household budget in order to meet short- or long-term financial goals, it may make sense to consult a housing counselor to see what options are available related to your mortgage to ensure that housing costs don’t inhibit your ability to meet financial objectives in other areas.
2. When Faced With a Major Expense
Medical bills, a major home repair, the need to purchase a vehicle: New expenses can come out of the blue. If there is an unavoidable expense that you are facing that threatens to throw your budget out of balance, it may be worthwhile to talk to a housing counselor. The cost of housing makes up a huge portion of the average person’s spending, and there may be ways to reduce those costs to make room for unexpected, unavoidable expenses.
3. When There Is a Decrease in Your Income
If you lose your job, have a cut-back in hours or a decrease in wages, one of the first steps to take is to get advice regarding your mortgage. Assistance is often available for people when their paychecks are in transition. Input from a certified adviser could help you to better understand how your new income may affect your ability to make your mortgage payments and ease the transition as you navigate the job market and realign your finances.
4. When Your Mortgage Payments Change
Perhaps your mortgage payments have ballooned or your interest rate has gone up. If a substantial change has occurred in your housing expenses, advice from the Housing Solutions Center may be able to help you better understand what you can expect moving forward and give you options to make changes in your mortgage, if needed.
5. When a Major Life Change Occurs
Divorce, the death of a spouse, a disability … all of these things have a major impact on your housing and financial stability. Additionally, these are all very emotional situations in which people often have difficulty seeing their options objectively. Advice from a professional can help you focus your attention on the most important aspects of your housing and financial circumstances. This individually tailored advice can serve as a guide as you move into a new phase in your life.
The housing education and advice provided through the Housing Solutions Center can be helpful to homeowners in a variety of circumstances, not just those faced with imminent foreclosure. All of the services we offer are free of charge and can be accessed through our toll-free number: 855-850-2525. Please give us a call.
Maicie Jones is a program manager for AARP Foundation’s Housing Impact team. Subscribe to Maicie's blog.
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