By Judd Spicer, California Business Journal.
Easing a process that is a path of stress and struggle, the debut of “First Home Journey” (FHJ) is an educational saving grace for first-time home buyers lost in the time-vacuum abyss of search and purchase confusion.
Founded by certified First-Time Buyer Specialist and Pricing Strategy Advisor Russell Jones, web-based FHJ’s unveiling offers a step-by-step, online education for first-time home buyers via a series of carefully-crafted lesson videos, coupled with a supplemental workbook. The innovative platform launched this month.
The impetus for FHJ (firsthomejourney.org) came via Jones’ experience with a recent client. “She came to me with a pre-approval for what’s called a Community Reinvestment Act loan. I’ve been in this business awhile and I’d never heard of this unique loan,” Jones recalls. “She went through a HUD-certified non-profit, which allowed her to qualify. And I’m thinking, ‘If I haven’t heard of this loan, how will a first-time home buyer come across the opportunity?'”
The self-query planted the key seed for FHJ’s origins.
“If you search online for different types of home loans, you basically get a barrage of results,” Jones says. “And I realized that people are very likely missing out on all their options during what is, for most, a very stressful and overwhelming process. I want to help take the stress out of the journey.”
Seeing the need to alleviate buyer anxiety, disorientation and online searches, Jones began work on scripting and producing FHJ’s 25-plus comprehensive step-by-step video for first-time home buyers.
According to the National Association of REALTORS, first-time home buyers represent more than 33 percent of last year’s market. With economic stability considered, the home-buying market for first-timers is only expected to rise. Such numbers served to compliment Jones’ mission.
“The objective of FHJ is to educate people in a completely unbiased way, through an unbiased source,” he says. “And the concept is to educate and empower first-time home buyers with all the tools they need to comfortably navigate the process.”
In crafting the videos, Jones brings his own tools to the table. Prior to his career as a realtor, he cast a familiar household face during his previous career as a performer, with the bulk of his work coming via television commercials. The jobs provided Jones the opportunity to become a first-time home buyer himself.
Extending an engaging, personalized and trusting tenor to the topic of real estate proved an important aspect in creating FHJ. Leaning on his acting backdrop, Jones knew that, in concert with the education, he’d need engaging content to galvanize the subject matter.
Ranging from 3-10 minutes in length, the videos are arranged in careful, sequential order, ensuring that first-time home buyers learn the process — and the real estate lexicon – in a specific order. Across his career as an award-winning realtor, Jones observed with regularity how first-time home buyers are endeavoring the process with no particular order of events in mind.
Starting the educational series with a video on “Alleviating Fears,” which focuses on worry of debt or market downturn, Jones then turns the page to a “Home Buying Budget” episode, where he walks viewers through how to realistically gauge spending and costs.
FHJ’s supplemental workbook accompanies the videos and was created to assist with follow-along literature. Additionally, First Home Journey membership also grants access to a private, online community where folks can empathetically share first-time home buying experiences and their respective journeys, while asking questions of Jones along the way.
A crucial element of FHJ is keeping member’s information 100 percent private and secure.
“The way for this to be completely unbiased is for me to remove myself as far as any licensed work,” Jones says. “I will not represent any of our members in real estate transactions, nor will I refer people out to realtors, lenders or vendors.”
For Jones, the starring role of realty guide has long usurped the stage of the small screen. Conversely, FHJ’s vast potential to broadly help make dreams a reality for first-time home buyers seems a marquee with boundless stars.
“If I can educate people during the seed of their dream – it will help make the dream more achievable,” he says. “This is very purpose-driven for me. Buying your first house is a big deal. With FHJ, I like the grandness of the potential, to expand the opportunities to be a peak moment in somebody’s life.”
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