With the Framework course now a prerequisite for Fannie Mae’s new HomeReady loan, many counseling agencies are wondering what it might be like to partner with us. Here’s the second in our series of in-their-own-words partner stories.
At the Cleveland Housing Network, counseling in financial literacy usually precedes homebuyer education. Between the two, CHN educates 1,200 people a year. They’ve been using the Framework homebuyer education course since October 2012 and recommend it to all clients with homeownership goals. CHN is also widely known for its Lease Purchase Program, which is now being replicated across the country.
CHN’s Jeanne Morton, director of community resources, tells their story below and in this downloadable one sheet (for easy sharing).
How does CHN use Framework?
“We view Framework as a complement to our program, the self-study side of things,” says Morton. “We present the course as an elective right at the beginning, as something to complement your studies, or as something you can do on your own, with CHN as the complement.”
CHN is also using the Framework course in its Lease Purchase Program, by which low-income families lease a home at an affordable rate with the option to gain significant equity upon purchase after 15 years of responsible residency.
“We spend five years working with them prior to their purchase,” Morton says. “We don’t need to offer them additional education, but the course keeps them engaged in between our meetings with them. They come back in asking more questions. It feeds their knowledge and creates more of a conversation.”
Why did CHN decide to partner with Framework?
CHN had been trying to figure out how to make its own educational materials accessible as a webinar when Framework came along, Morton says.
“We wanted to use online education, because we knew it was an issue for some people to get here for a class, and to make time for it,” she says. “But we didn’t have the capacity to develop something ourselves. Why reinvent the wheel? We knew this was something we could offer them that people could do in their own home, on their own time, and we knew it was quality.”
“We’d looked at other online courses,” she says, “but Framework was the first course we actually liked. Most others required quite a bit of reading. We knew our clients probably weren’t going to choose to learn that way. When we saw how interactive Framework was, we knew they would feel more comfortable with it. That’s our way of doing things anyway. It just fit our personality here.”
“Everybody has a different pace, and everyone learns differently,” she says. “I think that’s one of the biggest challenges of classroom learning. Framework gives people the ability to move on when they’re ready and to study on their own if that’s better for where they’re at. I myself would be a person who would opt for doing it online.”
The revenue split wasn’t a consideration, she says. “Anybody at CHN will tell you I’m always for revenue. Any time you offer it to me, I’ll find a way to get it from you. But to me, the course is quality added to what we do. I wanted to make sure people had access to quality education whether they came to us or not.”
What was the transition to Framework like?
“We had no problem whatsoever getting started,” Morton says. “It was pretty easy. I’m not an IT person at all, and I didn’t think it was that complicated. The interface for the staff wasn’t complicated either. It’s been three years, and we’ve never had any real issues. That I know of, we’ve never had a customer call with a problem. Well, I think one student had a problem signing in.”
What about losing counseling clients to online education?
“We all kind of took a step back at first and thought about whether Framework was infringing on our customer base,” says Morton. “But we figured there was an audience out there that wasn’t going to use us at all for homebuyer education. They were more likely to just go online and see what they could find out.”
And what happened?
“Instead of waiting for people to come back to us,” she says, “when we get a certificate notification from Framework, we call the homebuyer and ask if they have any questions. Most of the time they have questions about individual credit and things like that, and they do want to talk to a counselor. They didn’t realize how much they didn’t know, and now they know what to ask.”
“I feel like it's a good way to give people a better understanding of the value of counseling,” she says. “They might never have taken the time to meet with us before. Framework is actually enhancing our customer base.”
Thoughts on Framework's new partnership with Fannie Mae?
“When we first started using Framework, we tried to reach out to the bankers, lenders, and real estate agents we work with to let them know about this great option,” Morton says. “I got good responses from them, but I got the sense that they were hung up on the cost. Does it go in closing costs? Does the bank pay for it? It’s that whole mountain of red tape that you go through at those places. This is why I am so excited that Framework is working with Fannie Mae, because it takes it off of the individual bank and makes it more universal. I think that’s really smart.”
“In my mind, the relationship with Fannie Mae improves our own credibility as well,” she says, “because we’re offering something that Fannie Mae is requiring for the HomeReady loan, and we’re seen as a partner in all of this.”
How does your future with Framework look?
“We’d like to use Framework more for our lease purchase audience, but not everything is relevant to them,” Morton says. “They don't need to find a realtor, they don’t need to shop for a home. We do some of our own lending, but our ultimate goal is to prepare them for a mortgage. We’re in discussions with Framework about tailoring the course to their particular needs.”