If you’re a first-time home buyer, chances are this is a time for both excitement and apprehension for most of us. For many, owning your own home is synonymous with the American dream, but it doesn’t always come easy. Buying a house is a long-term commitment, and a big one at that, so it’s worth it to really do your homework before making a decision. But it can be a confusing process: CFPB, FCRA, FHA – aren’t these acronyms supposed to make things easier to understand, not harder?
If you don’t know where to begin when it comes to this alphabet soup of real estate acronyms, never fear! These laws and agencies were established to help protect home buyers like you. Knowing what they mean for you can be the difference between owning your home or your home owning you! Here’s a quick look at the ABCs of real estate consumer protection for first-time homeowners.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (or CFPB) was established in 2010 by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, in response to the Great Recession that occurred when the real estate bubble burst. It oversees banks, credit unions and payday and installment loan companies, as well as debt collectors, foreclosure relief services, and mortgage-servicing operations.
The CFPB was designed to help consumers avoid potentially predatory loans and excessive fees, so compliance with their regulations is a good thing to watch out for. It can be a big problem for you and your lender if they aren’t abiding by them. Give yourself an idea of what to expect by checking out the CFPB’s many online tools and borrow with confidence!
Enforced by the CFPB, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) secures your right to accurate credit report information. Your credit report is a story that your bank, your credit card company, and virtually everyone do business with can use as the basis of their decision of whether or not to do business with you. It may determine your eligibility for a loan or credit, so you want to keep an eye on your credit score and make sure it’s giving the best first impression possible. Make sure to request a free copy of your credit report from a credit reporting agency once a year (like a physical for your finances!) and report any errors right away. You can also use resources like Credit Karma and get your credit report at your fingertips.
Before the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (or REPSA) was passed in 1974, real estate was like the wild west of equity. Different branches of the real estate settlement process (agents, lenders, and insurers) would give each other kickbacks and all this back-scratching created unfair practices like bait-and-switch. The CFPB is charged with enforcing REPSA, and that means you’re entitled to understand the costs of real estate and where those costs are coming from.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD for short) offers low-income housing to those who need it most, namely the elderly and disabled. Housing Agencies, or Has, are in charge of the housing itself and the HUD provides the funding to make these homes affordable for those on the lower end of the income spectrum. HUD also provides insurance that puts mortgages for housing within reach. Find out if you qualify for this low-cost public housing by contacting your local HUD and HA field office for more information.
The Fair Housing Act (or FHA) works to even the playing field for home buyers, and prevent discriminatory practices against renters or buyers. While the HUD enforces the FHA, you can pursue a case independently through the courts if you believe you’ve been discriminated against in the home-buying or renting process.
The Truth in Lending Act, or TILA, is meant to protect you from paying too much for your loan. It makes providing accurate loan information mandatory, and it doesn’t stop at mortgages and credit card practices, but consumer credit as a whole. It also provides a 3-day window to back out of your loan at no cost to you, to keep you from falling for high-pressure sales tactics.
When it comes to the ABCs of home buying, it’s easy to get a little intimidated, but don’t let these worries keep you from your dream home. You might be worried that you’re too vulnerable to make your homeownership dreams a reality after a financial emergency, but short-term lending can help you stay ahead of your needs and avoid the broke tax.
No matter what age you are or what stage of life you’re in, there’s always more to learn as far as real estate is concerned; growing your financial literacy could be just what you need to get into that house with the picket fence you’ve been watching on Zillow sooner than you thought possible. Just remember to always make informed decisions about your real estate goals, and Happy House Hunting!