A Place of Your Own: Homebuyer Online Course Gets a Makeover

February 26, 2020, 8:54 am | Suzanne Bartholomae, Laura Sternweis

AMES, Iowa -- Not many financial decisions top the excitement and complexity of buying a home. But no matter how exciting the prospect of owning a home can be, the process of buying a home can be daunting. “A Place of Your Own,” an online home buyer education course from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, helps Iowans be savvy consumers as they navigate this big purchase.

family outside home with for sale sign by Monkey Business/stock.adobe.com.Since 2007, when ISU Extension and Outreach first began offering “A Place of Your Own,” nearly 4,000 prospective home buyers have completed the course. Most of the students are in the process of buying their first home, said Suzanne Bartholomae, extension state specialist in family finance and an assistant professor in ISU's College of Human Sciences.

"Participants have told us the course makes the home-buying process less overwhelming by answering their questions and filling in gaps in their knowledge. For example, before completing the course, they may not have understood that buying a home involves more costs than just the mortgage payment. 'A Place of Your Own' helps them identify the many costs and issues that come with owning a home," Bartholomae said.

"Participants also appreciate that they can complete the course at their own pace," Bartholomae added.

“A Place of Your Own” is available from www.extension.iastate.edu/homebuyer anytime, anywhere, from any computer with internet access. The cost for the course, including the certificate of completion, is $45.

For 2020 ISU Extension and Outreach has updated and redesigned “A Place of Your Own.” The new version includes six lessons: 1) preparing for homeownership, 2) determining your budget, 3) shopping for a home, 4) choosing a mortgage, 5) preparing for closing, and 6) being a homeowner, with additional emphasis on budgeting and credit.

The course meets accessibility standards, provides updated content, and includes new and updated consumer tools. The new navigation and professional voice-over supports participant engagement. In addition, the course continues to meet the performance standards of the National Industry for Homeownership Education and Counseling guidelines.  

“A Place of Your Own” also continues to meet its goal to help individuals be fiscally prepared to purchase a home. Based on course data collected over five years, 80% of program participants said the course was useful or very useful in helping them buy a home, Bartholomae noted.

“This course gave a lot of information on buying a new house versus renting. There are many steps to take and it all takes time. You cannot just rush into buying a house,” according to a participant’s evaluation. “I knew a few things by talking to a realtor and the bank beforehand, but now I have much more useful information.”

Many home loan programs require that potential homebuyers complete a homebuyer course to qualify for a loan.

"The majority of program participants have been referred to 'A Place of Your Own' by a bank and/or financial services company, likely one they are working with to obtain a mortgage. The course helps participants navigate these relationships. They also receive a certificate of completion, which they can take to their lender,” Bartholomae said.

“A Place of Your Own” was developed to meet the need for a convenient, cost effective and timely homebuyer education program. With the course relaunch, participants will continue to be supported as they prepare for purchasing a home. For more information on the course and registration, please visit www.extension.iastate.edu/homebuyer.

Photo credit: Monkey Business/stock.adobe.com

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