Navigating today's mortgage market

February 29, 2008 2:24:36 PM PST
If you dream of owning your own home, or are worried about your current mortgage, the place to start is at the 2008 Homeownership Fair.(press release)The fair is on Saturday, March 1 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the DuPage County Administration Building, 421 N. County Farm Rd. in Wheaton.

"Don't let fears about the housing market keep you from pursuing the dream of homeownership, DHOC Executive Director Dru Bergman said. "Now could be an excellent time to purchase a home. Interest rates are low and there is a surplus of homes, making this a buyer's market. In addition, there are a number of first-time home buyer programs available in DuPage County."

The DuPage Homeownership Center, a HUD-certified, nonprofit housing counseling agency, and the DuPage County Department of Community Services have teamed up this year and expanded this free community outreach event to provide resources and programs for first-time homebuyers along with information for current homeowners. Senior homeowners are invited to find out about programs and resources that can help them stay in their home and maintain independence.

In addition to over 40 area mortgage lenders, realtors and home inspectors, HUD will be on hand to discuss FHA loans and HUD homes, and local agencies will be available to discuss fair housing issues as well as reduced-interest financing options for households working on a budget.

A number of workshops will be offered throughout the day including Mortgage 101, Understanding Credit, and Shopping for a Home.

"For the first time, we're also offering a Foreclosure Prevention workshop for homeowners who may be concerned about their mortgage," Bergman said. The workshop will be presented by one of DHOC's counselors and an attorney with Prairie State Legal Services."

Since 1991, the Wheaton-based housing counseling agency has been helping families become homeowners in DuPage County through education, counseling and special mortgage financing programs. Its mission is to increase accessibility to and preserve homeownership, with an emphasis on serving first-time buyers and low- and moderate-income persons. The Center is certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide both prepurchase and default counseling. Additionally, DHOC provides reverse mortgage counseling as a member of the HUD-HECM National Counseling Network. For more information, visit or call the Center at 630-260-2500.

Tips for Navigating Today's Mortgage Market

1.) Clean Up Your Credit

Lenders feel that your past track record of paying your bills is the best indicator of how you'll handle your mortgage payment. With the recent flood of foreclosures, lenders are raising their credit standards. You can improve your credit score by

  • Reviewing your credit report for errors (you can get a free copy every year from
  • Making your credit card, car loan and other payments on time
  • Keeping existing accounts open, but not piling up any more debt
  • Avoiding opening new accounts

    (If you're having trouble getting started, a housing counselor can help you develop a plan to clean up your credit.)

    2.) Save for a Downpayment The days of no money down are gone. Most lenders will want you to put at least 5% down.

    3.) Get Organized Make sure you have copies of your pay stubs, bank statements and tax returns, as lenders are getting tougher about verifying your income and assets.

    4.) Comparison Shop for Lenders Start with your current bank and compare their terms with at least two other lenders. Don't focus just on the interest rate ? look at all the fees.

    5.) If You Don't Understand It, Don't Sign It Make sure you fully understand the terms of your mortgage.

    If You Already Own a Home and Are In Financial Trouble?

    Call the Statewide Foreclosure Prevention Network at 1-888-995-HOPE. Phone counselors can help you assess your options and refer you to a housing counselor in your area for additional guidance.


    Get Educated

    Housing Counseling agencies throughout Chicagoland offer free classes for first-time home buyers. In DuPage County, people can contact the DuPage Homeownership Center ( or 630-260-2500). To find a certified housing counseling agency in your area, visit