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Pre-Purchase Homeownership Counseling Demonstration and Impact Evaluation

Research funded by Abt Associates and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Center researchers are participating in a study to measure the impact of pre-purchase housing counseling on a range of outcomes for first-time homebuyers.

Project Overview

The center is participating in a research effort led by Abt Associates and funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to understand the impact of pre-purchase homeownership counseling on a range of outcomes for low-, moderate-, and middle-income first-time homebuyers.

Center Executive Director Roberto Q. Quercia is principal investigator joined by senior research associate Lucy Gorham.

Pre-purchase counseling and education offer many potential benefits. Informed consumers are expected to be more selective in choosing homes and mortgages, improve their overall financial situation and experience lower levels of mortgage delinquency and exit from homeownership long-term. Pre-purchase housing counseling may also play an important role for households who experience a foreclosure and are preparing for a new home purchase.

However, despite the widespread use of housing counseling, these benefits have been difficult to document. The absence of conclusive empirical evidence regarding the effectiveness of pre-purchase housing counseling is detrimental to policy discussions about federal support for housing counseling and the value of counseling requirements.

This study represents an important effort to measure the impact of pre-purchase housing counseling using experimental evaluation methods. Whereas many of the previous studies have been limited by small sample sizes and non-experimental designs, this evaluation will recruit a large sample from 28 metro areas across the United States for an experimental impact evaluation in which study participants are randomly assigned to a control group or to one of the following modes of pre-purchase housing counseling:

  • Remote Counseling: Online education plus telephone counseling.
  • In-Person Counseling: Group education workshops plus in-person counseling.

These modes of housing counseling reflect the most common types of pre-purchase housing education and counseling currently available.
In addition to a general exploratory approach, the evaluation will include a confirmatory analysis of the project’s most central outcome, the 60-day delinquency rate measured approximately 36 months after home purchase.  For this one confirmatory outcome, researchers will compare the pooled sample of remote and in-person counseling participants to the control group to understand to what extent pre-purchase housing counseling has an impact on individuals’ outcomes.

The impact study is supported by rich implementation research, which will help explain why observed impacts might have occurred.


The UNC Center for Community Capital conducts research and policy analysis on ways to make financial services work better for more people and communities.


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