Fannie Mae HomePath Partners with Framework to launch program for first-time homebuyers.Full Article
Fannie Mae’s decision to make Framework a prerequisite for its new HomeReady loan is a big push toward industry-wide integration of homeownership education into the buying process. And that’s a win for everyone who cares about smart, sustainable homeownership. Including, of course, counseling agencies.
But Framework, and often online education itself, is new to many counseling agencies. What’s it like to partner with Framework? We thought we should let our partners speak for themselves. So today, we kick off a series of in-their-own-words stories. First up: the Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership.
The Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership (INHP) has four locations in the city. The nonprofit’s Homeownership Preparation Program includes monthly one-on-one counseling and a series of three courses, the last being homeownership education. In 2014, more than 2,400 people entered the program. INHP has offered online education since 2011, switching from eHome America to Framework in September 2014. Today, a majority of INHP clients choose the online option.
INHP’s Rob Evans, vice president of homeowner and community development, tells their story below and in this downloadable one-sheet (for easy sharing).
How does INHP use Framework?
"We view homebuyer education as the last missing piece," says Evans. "People enter into our program with credit barriers or other barriers; they don’t qualify for a mortgage. We meet with them one-on-one for up to 24 months and take them through a series of classes. Homebuyer education is the culmination, when a family is just a few months away from being able to qualify for a loan. They know their budgeting, they’ve cleaned up their credit. Now they’re ready to put all the pieces together. They can actually use Framework the way it needs to be used."
"Other folks are referred to us by one of our lender partners and just need the required homebuyer education," he says, "but the vast majority go through our program, and Framework is that final step."
How did INHP decide to partner with Framework?
Evans says that the hardest part of becoming a Framework partner was making the decision to do so—it took two years.
“We spent many, many hours reviewing Framework and thought it was the best tool for the families we serve,” he says. “But I'm not an expert on adult learning, so we hired an educational consultant. She said that when it came to adult learning methodologies, interactivity, et cetera, Framework provided a much better learning opportunity and overall better experience. If you're going to use an online tool—and I think it’s important to have one nowadays—you should absolutely have the best available.”
Revenue wasn’t really a consideration, he says. “Our revenue split is smaller with Framework, but the lost revenue would not make our housing counseling program self-sustaining anyway. We'd still be losing money on counseling in general. We’re not using any staff time managing the course; it’s an automated system."
“In the end,” he says, “the decision was incredibly easy: it was about providing the best education. If we’re trying to achieve a better-educated consumer who’s prepared for homeownership, then it makes absolutely no sense to me to choose money over the best learning opportunity for our customers.”
What was the transition to Framework like?
INHP was making the switch just as 252 Indianapolis families, through a Wells Fargo and NeighborWorks America program called Neighborhood LIFT, were receiving down payment assistance that required homeownership education.
“It was not the best timing," Evans says. “We cut over to Framework a week before the event, and we were very concerned that we would have technical challenges.”
They didn’t: “We had our director of IT and our director of marketing working in concert with Framework. Framework provided links and had staff for any technical assistance we might need. We were expecting hiccups, we really were. But there were no major issues at all. It was seamless. Our staff found the course very easy to interface with."
Co-branding was a big help in terms of customer confidence, he says. “Framework allows us to present the course as INHP’s homebuyer education, 'powered by Framework.' It’s a different message than just going to a random website people have never heard of. That was another nice feature.”
What about Framework's new partnership with Fannie Mae?
“Most of our 16 lender partners—local, regional, and national financial institutions—will be using Fannie Mae’s HomeReady product," Evans says. "We can make loans ourselves, but about 75 percent of our families choose a lender partner product. So we’re preparing a communication reminding our lender partners that HomeReady requires Framework and that we’re a local Framework partner."
"Framework's relationship with Fannie Mae gives us an opportunity to engage our lender partners in a different way, to strengthen those relationships, and to expose their families to our system in a different way," he says. "I think that’s an important piece of this.”
A year after the switch, how are things going?
"From a customer service perspective," says Evans, "Framework has been very responsive. Our staff has enjoyed working with them. Any issues they’ve reported have been taken care of very quickly. And Framework continues to update the product—with the proper TRID information, for example. It just gives you peace of mind."
"We don’t get a lot of feedback from our customers," he says, "but the fact that we don't hear anything is good news—it means that the technology is working. More and more customers are choosing the online option. Our community partners who refer customers see Framework as a valuable tool, and our staff is more comfortable with the online option now, so they are more likely to offer it. They have confidence in Framework."
To learn more about partnering with Framework...
- Download the partner story one sheet for easy sharing
- Read other partner stories:
- Watch our brief overview video
- Email us at partners@FrameworkHomeownership.org