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Free housing counseling can help you buy, remodel your home

By Eric Bjella

and Pat Beaty

As a man, I (Eric) tend to do things the hard way. I don’t read instructions thoroughly and rely on trial and error until things eventually work out. Usually, there are pieces left over or I’ve had to spend more money than I intended!

But, when it comes to buying or remodeling a home, the stakes can be high. The good news is that you don’t have to go it alone and you can learn a lot along the way. A NeighborWorks certified housing counselor can help you prepare for purchasing or remodeling a home or provide other personal financial advice such as helping you create a household budget or fixing your credit. Or, maybe you need help avoiding foreclosure on your home.

We’d like to introduce Julie Galligan, our longtime, HUD-certified housing counselor!

Since joining NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor in 2001, Julie has provided expert housing counseling to hundreds of families and individuals in Grays Harbor, making a genuine impact on Harborites and our community as a whole.

She wears many hats around here and it’s likely that you or some friend or relative on the Harbor could benefit from the free housing counseling that she offers here at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor.

That’s right, free!

NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor is a nonprofit organization. When we give advice, our goal is to help our clients, not to sell something. All housing counseling services are free and there are no income criteria to access them. People of all income levels can benefit from Julie’s expertise in housing issues.

Our goal is to provide decent, safe, sustainable and affordable housing opportunities for the Grays Harbor community. Our motivation is helping more people find solutions for their various housing, home maintenance and budgeting needs.

While a few of our services cost money – for instance, construction management – most are free and we are up front with any costs or fees.

Preparing to buy a home

Even though housing prices are high right now, they have started to come down some. Julie says that if you are hoping to buy soon, it’s a great time to prepare for your future purchase.

“It’s a good time to start so you can take the online home-buyer course and get it out of the way,” she said.

The nationwide course called e-Home America takes about eight hours of online work. While this online course costs $50 (also available in Spanish), Julie’s time and assistance are free. Completion of the course may give the borrower access to lower rates or other loan options.

Either before or after taking the online course, NeighborWorks will provide clients with a packet that includes a checklist of items to gather up before meeting with Julie.

Once those items are gathered, she will set up a phone call or Zoom meeting to go over your current finances.

“Some examples of items on the checklist are income statements, bank statements, and monthly bills listed,” she said.

Once she gets an idea of the overall financial picture, Julie can help determine next steps with the goal of purchasing a home or finding financing for home repairs in mind.

“If someone needs to work on paying off debts or clean up their credit, I can help them organize the best way to do that in preparation for buying a home.”

“People can also use this counseling time to see what you can afford so you can be looking in the area you need to be financially,” she said.

Things change over time, so even folks who have bought a house before are welcome to meet with Julie. She understands that the buying process can seem complex with lots of jargon and figures to consider and she has a way of explaining things clearly to clients.

Having an outside person who works with the industry daily is a great asset when you are preparing to buy a house. You may be wondering how long the counseling lasts.

“If they are credit and financially ready, it could be a matter of just them making an offer on a home, so maybe a week or two from the time they see the counselor.

“However, if they have credit or financial issues, it could take longer to get those resolved,” Julie explained.

Also, “if someone I seeking a rehab loan, they may have never worked with contractors before and it can be overwhelming for them. We can help walk them through that process too.”

More information about eHome online

The course is very comprehensive, and convenient. It is also required to be eligible for many of the best and affordable lending programs, available through your local lenders or NeighborWorks.

This eHome Home Buyer Education is available nationwide on the internet. We are the host counselor for most of Western Washington and issue the certificate upon completion of the course. We will do our best to help you all the way to homeownership.

Created by Community Venture Corp and NeighborWorks America, this online course is recognized throughout the country as being one of the best home buyer educations out there.

You can complete the course at your own pace, at the time that’s convenient for you, in the privacy and convenience of your own home, or anywhere there’s an internet connection, even on a Smartphone!

The course certificate is accepted by USDA, Washington State Housing Finance Commission and other lenders that require it for some of their first-time home buyer loan products.

At the successful completion of this simple but comprehensive course, you will receive a certificate of completion that will make you eligible to apply for down payment assistance and first mortgage funding, although this does not guarantee they are available at the time you apply for your loan or that you will secure them. As you will learn, there is plenty to know and prepare when becoming a sustainable homeowner.

Avoiding Foreclosure

In addition to helping people get into a new house, Julie can also help people stay in the house they have by avoiding foreclosure.

Mortgage default counseling is intended to be a foreclosure-prevention program. Julie helps clients organize the information their lender requires in order to discuss their options and, where possible, to negotiate your situation with your mortgage company (or other creditors as necessary) making every effort to avoid foreclosure and stabilize your housing situation.

If keeping up with the mortgage has been a struggle, people should contact her sooner rather than later to help strategize how to keep their home.

Landlord or tenant issues?

While she is not an attorney, Julie also has expertise and experience in helping tenants and landlords.

“If you need landlord-tenant counseling, I can discuss your situation and determine the next step you need to take in order to exercise your rights under the Washington state Landlord Tenant Act,” she said.

Clients’ reactions

Julie said that often people leave meetings with her relieved that a plan is being developed to meet their goals.

“I often hear from clients that their credit wasn’t as bad as they thought it was. And, I’ve often seen people surprised at how much they can spend on housing,” she said.

To see if you could benefit from housing counseling services, e-mail Julie at or call (360) 533-7828 Monday through Thursday

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