Financial resources in a time of economic crisis

It’s been about two years since the National Association of Realtors launched its financial planning and assistance wing, the Center for Realtor Financial Wellness, and just in time to find its footing for the coming global recession.

The center offers Realtors financial help in a variety of ways, such as assistance with taxes, strategies for investing, tools for budgeting, and more, and has amassed a collection of webinars in just a few years and made them available to view on demand.

Laying the groundwork over the last few years has positioned the program to adjust quickly to the pandemic with COVID-19-specific programming and virtual seminars to take the place of live events originally planned for later this year.

NAR Director of Member Development Kasey Stewart said the center grew out of an idea that originally aimed to help provide education and support for Realtors investing in real estate.
A survey of membership at the time, however, revealed that half of Realtors were not saving for and were not prepared for retirement, Stewart said. She emphasized that, because real estate brokers and agents usually work as independent contractors and often are not provided the same financial help and resources as other kinds of employees, the center’s work is vital to many members’ long-term monetary security.

“We try to cover the full spectrum of financial issues that independent contractors face,” Stewart said.

Brittany Schanck, financial wellness manager with NAR, said the center doesn’t take a cookie-cutter approach but rather tailors its assistance to the needs of each individual member seeking help. Brokers help their clients make what is often the most important financial decision of their lives, but who helps them in their financial journey, she asked.

The center was beginning to increase its notoriety earlier this year, holding its first live event on March 4 with the Bay East Association of Realtors in California, where the center offered sessions on good financial habits, investment strategies and retirement planning. But the first in-person event would be the center’s last for the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus pandemic. Like everyone else facing this new reality, the center had to pivot and focus on providing information about coronavirus-related issues and holding virtual events.

Programming quickly focused on helping members understand various aspects of the federal stimulus package such as the Payment Protection Program, Stewart said. She advised members who are new to the program to visit the center’s web portal at and complete a 10-question assessment to determine where they are in their careers and overall financial security. They then can begin to set financial goals and find a clear path toward achieving those goals.

One of the best parts, Stewart said, is there’s no cost. “We fund it through member dues,” she said. “We just want to help them. It’s truly a benefit.”

Additional financial resources are available on NAR’s website, and from AgentEDU’s free business plan template.

4 Programs for Buyers Without a Big Down Payment

As buying a home is the biggest purchase most people will ever make, buyers will look to you, their agent, to help them navigate the complicated world of financing their home. For many buyers, finding the required down payment money is the most difficult part of the process. For others, it may be more helpful to find a program that allows them to borrow without putting a lot of money down. Fortunately, there are a number of assistance programs for homebuyers that can help to lower the substantial upfront costs of purchasing a home. 

Let’s take a closer look at some financing programs you can recommend to buyers who might not have a large amount saved for a down payment:

1. Federal Housing Authority Loans

FHA loans offer the opportunity to borrow money with a low down payment (as little as 3.5 percent) and still access competitive interest rates. Also the federal program won’t penalize your buyer for having a low credit score. In order to qualify for this type of loan, your buyer must: 

  • Have verifiable income
  • Be able to afford the housing payment and any existing debt
  • Save at least a 3.5 percent down payment
  • Have an established credit history
  • Have a FICO score of at least 580 to 640
  • Purchase a home that does not exceed FHA loan limits

2. Veterans Administration Loans

VA home loans help service members, veterans, and eligible surviving spouses become homeowners. These loans are provided by private lenders, such as banks or other mortgage companies. The VA guarantees a portion of the loan, thus enabling the lender to provide your buyers with more favorable loan terms. In order to be eligible for a VA loan, one of the following criteria must be met:

  • Served 181 days of service during peacetime
  • Served 90 days of service during wartime
  • Served 6 years of service in the Reserves or National Guard

3. Rural Development Housing and Community Facilities Program

Lesser known than its counterparts, this program is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture and is designed specifically for lower-income individuals who either live in a rural community or plan to move to one. This program helps buyers by providing a cash subsidy to borrowers or by guaranteeing a no down payment loan, known as a Section 502 loan. 

In order to qualify for this type of loan, however, there are a few stipulations that must be met: the home must be 1,800 square feet or smaller, it must be the buyer’s main residence, and the borrower must meet certain income eligibility requirements.  

4. State, County and Local Programs 

There are also other down payment assistance programs that can be obtained at the state, county, or even local level. These assistance programs most often come in the form of either a grant or a loan that is known as “silent seconds.” A silent second is a no-interest loan that also doesn’t require a monthly payment to be made. 

To help your client find and secure these types of programs in your area, you can turn to State Housing Financing Agencies. These entities are chartered by the individual states and were established to help local residents secure affordable housing. AgentEDU can point you in the right direction for finding market data in your area.

To learn more about how you can better manage the sales process for your clients, sign up for our course Preparing Homebuyers to Buy today. 

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