Homeownership Counseling agencies offer many services to homebuyers, including pre-purchase homeownership counseling. They will guide you through the process and help you decide whether or not you are ready for homeownership.
Baltimore City Office of Homeownership incentive programs, including Live Baltimore's Buying into Baltimore incentive, require one-on-one homeownership counseling from a city-approved agency. You will need to present your homeownership counseling completion certificate from that organization to earn your incentive. To earn a certificate, you usually need to attend one (or more) group classes and an individual session. Each agency has its own specifications, which may include more classes or a small fee to cover materials and/or a credit check. Contact them for more information.
Many of these agencies also offer other services, such as post-purchase education, default and delinquency counseling, community outreach, and credit and budgeting classes.
If you are looking for a housing counselor in Baltimore City, please click here for a list of eligible homeownership counseling agencies.
If you are looking for a housing counselor outside of Baltimore City, please click here for a state-wide list.
If you reside in Washington, DC and would like to get your certificate there, please click here for a list of Washington-area HUD-approved agencies.
Frequently Asked Questions about Homeownership Counseling Certificates
Can I walk-in, or do I need an appointment?
Most agencies will ask that you pre-register for their group classes, at which point you can also make an appointment to see a counselor one-on-one. Please call the agency directly for their preference.
Is there a cost?
Each agency determines whether there is a cost for their services. Most charge no fee, a nominal administrative fee ($5), or will only charge a fee for pulling your credit report ($15 - $20). Ask about this information when you call for an appointment.
Can I get a certificate in Baltimore City and buy in Baltimore County?
If you are not sure where you will buy a house and are looking at different jurisdictions, be sure to tell your housing counselor when you make your appointment. Some jurisdictions will accept a homeownership certificate from another county; others will not. If you are considering both Baltimore City and Baltimore County, contact the Harbel Housing Partnership Program, as they work in both jurisdictions and may be able to help you negotiate the specifics of both.
Do I need a homeownership certificate to buy a house?
No. But we highly recommend homeownership counseling, especially if you are a first-time homebuyer or you have concerns about the homebuying process. Buying a home is the biggest investment you’re going to make in your lifetime. Being smart about it -- by educating yourself with a counseling program and asking detailed questions to your real estate agent and mortgage lender – only makes sense. Additionally, if you are hoping to take advantage of Baltimore City incentives, you must obtain a homeownership certificate.
What if I need help with my credit before I consider buying a home?
Most homeownership counselors can help with budgeting; you do want to call and ask before setting up an appointment. You may also consider talking to Consumer Credit Counseling Services (CCCS) of Maryland and Delaware. CCCS is an accredited nonprofit agency that helps people resolve their financial problems. They provide free budgeting and credit review assistance and also have a debt management program. Check out their website www.cccs-inc.org for resources or call them: 1.800.642.2227.