Housing Counseling Technology

Housing Counseling Agencies often incorporate technology into their daily operations and leverage a variety of web platforms to improve efficiency, standardize operations, measure outcomes, strengthen their connection with their clients, and increase the value of the counseling they deliver.

Disclaimer: HUD does not endorse any of the companies or systems mentioned on this page. Counselors should take on the responsibility of researching web platforms, CMSs, and advertising tools before deciding to use them at their agency. HUD also strongly encourages counselors to evaluate web security risks, proper data storage, and safeguarding Personally Identifiable Information (PII) when handling client data.

The products and services included on this page are offered at a nominal cost, or are free of charge, and are currently in use by housing counseling agencies, but should still be evaluated first for overall ease of use and effectiveness. If your agency is using a product or web platform that you feel should be included here, please contact housing.counseling@hud.gov with your suggestions.

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Housing Counseling Services

Online Education can be an effective alternative or a great supplement for prospective first-time homebuyer workshops, in addition to in-person or remote housing counseling sessions.

NewHousing counseling agencies are also encouraged to review the HUD Exchange Income Eligibility Calculator, a self-paced online calculator, that can be utilized to determine income when working in the Community Planning and Development (CPD) programs such as HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME), Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), etc.

Client Management Systems

A Client Management System (CMS) is an online housing counseling application that automates much of the housing counseling process, including client intake, file maintenance, financial and credit analysis, outreach, client notification, and reporting. CMS providers are beginning to provide more options for counselors to interface with clients online.

In addition to this page, Housing Counselors may also be interested in other existing technology oriented pages on the HUD Exchange:

Choosing the Right CMS for You

A good CMS possesses many qualities but some of the best systems share some basic features and functions that set them apart. In general, a good CMS:

  1. Has a user-friendly interface and is easy for counseling staff to learn and use
  2. Allows for easy collection of HUD reporting data and error-free transmission of data from the CMS to HUD’s Housing Counseling System (HCS)
  3. Provides a client facing platform for increased ability to communicate with clients and simplified data collection and case management (In this context, client facing means that the system gives counseling clients access to documents, appointment management, communication systems, and other features so that the system is not only being used for recordkeeping and reporting by the counselor, but also by the clients they are serving)
  4. Is a secure, web-based solution that supports mobile devices and easily integrates with other modules or “apps”
  5. Provides a robust on-boarding process, comprehensive online knowledge base, ongoing training, and reliable support.

Comparing Client Management Systems

A guide to HUD-approved CMSs, published by Housing Action Illinois, provides nonprofit housing counseling organizations a tool to make a more informed choice of what system is the best fit, given each organization’s unique needs and budget. Housing Counseling Agencies may use this guide to compare CMSs and some of the following features:

  • Client-facing features
  • Online web-forms
  • Automated email templates
  • Custom fields and layouts
  • Custom reports and dashboards
  • Ability to integrate with other apps and systems
  • Reliable user support
  • Online knowledge base
  • Ongoing user trainings

Please note that the HUD-approved CMS guide was published in 2016 and may not contain the most up-to-date CMS provider information. HUD maintains an updated list of HUD certified CMS products on the HUD Exchange.

Not sure how to select a CMS or other supplemental technology platform?

There are a lot of existing systems and technology options to choose from, so how will you decide? Read Choosing the Right Technology for Your Organization for a quick guide to selecting a CMS that works for your organization. Be sure to:

  • Clarify your team’s priorities by reviewing your expectations, requirements, and tolerance for change
  • Carefully evaluate your options by asking the right questions of the product sales team
  • Get the most out of a product demonstration
  • Plan for a smooth transition

Considering developing your own system or app?

While many counseling agencies and other solutions providers have chosen to build out their own CMS system for exclusive or public use, this route should only be pursued after a careful consideration and a review of existing CMS products. Read To Build or Not Build an App: Should It Be a Question for Your Nonprofit? for more key questions to ask your organization before deciding to build an app on your own.

CMS in the News

NHRC Meeting: NeighborWorks’ New CMS vs. CounselorMax

During the National Housing Resource Center (NHRC) call on January 10, 2019, NeighborWorks answered questions about the new CMS they are developing to replace CounselorMax. This document answering the questions asked during the meeting provides more information on several aspects of the system such as pricing and migration.

Date Published: February 2019

Spotlight: RX® Office Case Management System

A July 2018 Bridge article Spotlight: RX® Office Case Management System by Indisoft covered the comprehensive RX® cloud-based technology platform helping integrate technology into the housing industry. The most unique feature of RX® is its position as the gateway for housing counseling agencies into the expanding HLP collaborative consortium. Using single sign-on to IndiSoft’s RX® CMS platform, HLP connects housing counselors to residential mortgage servicers, lenders, and other participants nationwide.

Date Published: July 2018

Home Counselor Online™ (HCO) Updates from HPN, HomeFree-USA, NFCC, UnidosUS, and Fannie Mae

An April 2018 Bridge article Housing Partnership Network Announces New Industry Collaboration to Standardize and Integrate Home Counseling Practices covered Housing Partnership Network (HPN), HomeFree-USA, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), UnidosUS, and Fannie Mae about their announcement of a joint effort to develop an exciting new platform for the housing industry that serves the needs of prospective and existing homeowners and renters across the U.S.

A May 2018 Bridge article Home Counselor Online™ – The Next Generation discussed this new dynamic CMS with state-of-the-art functionality, an improved user experience, and the counselors that are guiding its development. The Office of Housing Counseling sat down with Joe Weisbord, a Fannie Mae director who works with counseling agencies; Cheryl Peterson, an HCO product specialist at Fannie Mae; and Lyndsay Burns, director of housing counseling programs at the Housing Partnership Network, to discuss HCO’s retirement and next steps.

Date Published: April-May 2018

CounselorMax Frequently Asked Questions

A March 2018 Bridge article Ask an Expert: CounselorMax Answers Their Most Frequently Asked Questions interviewed NeighborWorks America, owner of CounselorMax, to answer some frequently asked questions about the CMS.

Date Published: March 2018

Electronic Signatures

In an increasingly virtual world, electronic and digital signatures are a valuable alternative to paper disclosures and certificates.

Electronic/digital signatures are a legal alternative to written signatures. The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-SIGN) of 2000 established the legal framework for electronic and digital signatures. Please review your state and local requirements regarding electronic signatures and be mindful of other requirements if another HUD program is involved.

Note: It is the agency's responsibility to determine that its usage of electronic signatures complies with state and local requirements and is secure for clients. Your agency’s electronic signatures and data transfer services do not protect end users from collection, transmission, or warehousing breaches and must be advised accordingly. Integration will also require access and document replication for authorized parties. Clients may not be required to use e-sign applications to access service.

Some benefits to utilizing electronic signatures may include:

  • Increased efficiency (savings in time and cost): Obtaining paper signatures involves time associated with signing, shipping, faxing, scanning, and filing. This process not only demands time from agency staff, but also from clients and can slow down the processes for obtaining signatures on important documents.
  • Remote access and client convenience: Clients are increasingly used to online communications, and electronic signatures save clients the time of finding a copier, scanner, or going to the post office.

Contact your Client Management System (CMS) vendor or other software vendors to understand your electronic signature options. Many platforms offer free or low-cost subscriptions, including the following:


Creating an Engaging Website

When conducting web outreach, there is no substitute for a good client-facing website. A website that is easy to navigate, visually appealing, and provides users with the content they are looking for will bring your clients one step closer to receiving the counseling they need.

Tools to build your website:

Advertising your Message

  • Google Ad Grants
    • Run text ads on Google Search results with $10,000 USD of in-kind advertising every month. Reach new advocates for your cause while saving resources for what matters most.
    • Track online donations, newsletter signups, and volunteer registrations to stay aware of those who drive your organization forward.
  • Google AdWords
    • Utilize graphic display ads, YouTube video ads, text-based search ads, or in-app mobile ads.
    • Target your ads to customers in certain countries, regions or cities — or within a set distance from your organization.
    • Signing up for Google AdWords is free; you only pay when someone engages with your ad, like by visiting your website or calling your agency. You set your own budget, so your costs will depend on what you are trying to accomplish with your online advertising.
  • US Newspaper Library
    • Use the search engine to find the media name and topic of interest
    • Check the publication’s Contact Us section, and contact online or in print to find out who to speak to about press

Communicating with Your Clients

Reaching your clients in their inbox with well-designed and to-the-point messages helps spread awareness about the services your agency offers and lets them know that you are there to help. Many platforms also offer “Forward to a Friend” features that allows clients to make referrals and spread the word about the counseling your agency offers. The following email platforms are easy to use and offer a variety of pricing options that could be right for your agency:

Utilizing Social Media Platforms

Social media helps to reach the masses when, where, and how they are increasingly consuming information, establishing a more trustworthy connection. Utilizing social media can be used to increase awareness of available housing counseling, engage with consumers, and disseminate information to your clients.

Social Media 101 Toolkit

This toolkit teaches HCAs how to effectively utilize social media in order to reach consumers where they spend the most time online.

Date Published: April 2018

Social Media Webinar Series – April-May 2018