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Understanding the Terminology

A good understanding of the terminology used during the process of obtaining a mortgage will help your experience be a successfull one.

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Mortgages : A How To Guide

What kind of mortgage?

Competition among lenders has given consumers a broad array of choices, but it hasn't made comparison-shopping easy. Mortgages now come in nearly every conceivable combination of interest rate, duration, and fee structure.

Which loan makes the most sense depends on how long you plan to remain in the home and the monthly payment you can afford. If you live in a city where co-operative apartments are common, you will probably have fewer options.

Lenders consider not just the credit-worthiness of the co-op buyer, but the underlying financial health of the corporation that issues the building's shares. The conventional 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has been the perennial favorite of borrowers, and it's more popular than ever as both buyers and refinancers scramble to lock in today's low rates. It offers homeowners the peace of mind of knowing that even if economic conditions cause interest rates to rise sharply, their payments will remain steady.

But in these footloose days, relative...

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How Much Mortgage Can You Handle?

A general rule is that you usually can qualify for a mortgage loan of two to two and one-half times your household's income. For example, if your family has an income of $30,000 a year, you can usually qualify for a mortgage of $60,000 to $75,000.

Lenders use many other factors to determine how large a mortgage they will give you. For example, lenders generally prefer that your housing expenses (including mortgage payments, insurance, taxes, and special assessments) not exceed 25 to 28 percent of your gross monthly income. Other long-term debt (monthly payments extending more than 10 months) added to your housing expenses should not exceed 33 to 36 percent of your gross monthly income. Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) mortgage loan percentages may vary.

In addition, lenders want to know about your employment and credit history. This includes finding out about your job and income and how well you handled and repaid loans in the past. Legal safeguards exist to ensure this information is used fairly. For example, the Fair Credit Reporting Act state...

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Choosing The Right Mortgage

There are two major types of mortgage loans -- those with fixed interest rates and monthly payments and those with changing rates and payments. However, there are many variations of these plans on the market, and you should shop carefully for the mortgage that best suits your needs.

Common fixed-rate mortgages include 30-year, 15-year, and bi-weekly mortgages. The 30-year mortgage usually offers the lowest monthly payments of fixed-rate loans, with a fixed monthly payment schedule.

The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage enables you to own your home in half the time and for less than half the total interest costs of a 30-year loan. These loans, however, often require higher monthly payments.

The bi-weekly mortgage shortens the loan term from 30 years to 18 to 19 years by requiring a payment for half the monthly amount every two weeks. While you pay about 8 percent more a year towards the loan's principal than you would with the 30-year, one-payment-per-month loan, you pay substantially less interest over the life of the loan. Keep in mind, however, that with s...

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Debt Consolidation Tips

Getting out of debt isn't easy, especially if you carry high balances, as many of us do. One strategy is to consolidate your debts into a single, lower- interest interest loan. Finding that loan can be a challenge, though, if you already have a fair amount of debt. So you may find that you have to get creative.

The truth is, you probably have more options then you realize. Traditional "consolidation loans" from a financial institution may not even be your best choice. Instead, you may want to think about:

  • using credit cards
  • a home equity loan
  • a loan from your insurance policy or retirement plan
  • a loan from a relative to consolidate

Each of these options can be extremely helpful or extremely dangerous depending on how you use them. The key when you consolidate is to create a plan that will have you out of debt in three to five years, and to stop adding to your debt!

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Obtain the Best Deal That You Can

Once you know what each lender has to offer, negotiate for the best deal that you can. On any given day, lenders and brokers may offer different prices for the same loan terms to different consumers, even if those consumers have the same loan qualifications. The most likely reason for this difference in price is that loan officers and brokers are often allowed to keep some or all of this difference as extra compensation.

Generally, the difference between the lowest available price for a loan product and any higher price that the borrower agrees to pay is an overage. When overages occur, they are built into the prices quoted to consumers. They can occur in both fixed and variable-rate loans and can be in the form of points, fees, or the interest rate. Whether quoted to you by a loan officer or a broker, the price of any loan may contain overages.

Have the lender or broker write down all the costs associated with the loan. Then ask if the lender or broker will waive or reduce one or more of its fees or agree to a lower rate or fewer points. You'll want to make sure that the lender or brok...

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Home Inspections : What You Need to Know

There are several things home buyers can do to help ensure they’re getting an objective report and that the relationship between the inspector and the real estate agent does not pose a conflict of interest.

Be careful about using an inspector recommended by your real estate agent. Instead, consider asking friends or relatives if they know an inspector they like and trust. But evaluate inspectors on your own. Do not delegate this responsibility to agents, loan officers, or anyone else with a financial interest in the transaction.

You can also ask for a provision in the contract that asks the inspector to assure that he/she has not recently, is not currently, and does not plan in the future, to solicit referrals from real estate agents.

Make sure the inspector or the inspection company agree not to start before the scheduled start time. Make sure that whatever the inspector tells you in person, he puts in writing in the final report. If the inspector states anything about the house that you feel has a significant influence on your decision whether ...

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Home Equity : Do's and Dont's

You can protect yourself against losing your home to inappropriate lending practices. Here's how:


Ask specifically if credit insurance is required as a condition of the loan. If it isn't, and a charge is included in your loan and you don't want the insurance, ask that the charge be removed from the loan documents. If you want the added security of credit insurance, shop around for the best rates.

Keep careful records of what you've paid, including billing statements and canceled checks. Challenge any charge you think is inaccurate.

Check contractors' references when it is time to have work done in your home. Get more than one estimate.

Read all items carefully. If you need an explanation of any terms or conditions, talk to someone you can trust, such as a knowledgeable family member or an attorney. Consider all the costs of financing bef...

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Tips to Help Ensure a Faster Sale in a Buyer’s Market
Jeff_Art2ndSept08 With almost a year’s worth of excess inventory already listed on the market, home sellers this year face some major challenges – especially as we head into the slowest real estate sales season of the year. But it is still possible to generate strong interest in a home and attract buyers for a timely sale, as long as the homeowner is realistic about pricing and takes a few steps to speed things along.

Here are a few expert tips from experienced real estate professionals for helping sell a home despite being in a confirmed buyer’s market:

Price it Right and Revisit the Price Periodically
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Top 10 Mistakes : Home Equity Credit Line
  1. Not checking to see if your credit line has a pre-payment penalty clause. If you are getting a "NO FEE" credit line, chances are it has a pre-payment penalty clause. This can be very important (and expensive) if you are planning to sell or refinance your home in the next three to five years.
  2. Getting too large a credit line. When you get too large a credit line, you can be turned down for other loans. Some lenders calculate your credit line payments based upon the available credit, even when your credit line has a zero balance. Having a large credit line indicates a large potential payment, which makes it difficult to qualify for loans.
  3. Not understanding the difference between an equity loan and a credit line. An equity loan is closed--i.e., you get all your money up front, then make payments on that fixed loan amount until the loan is paid. An equity credit line is open--i.e., you can get an initial advance against the line, then reuse the line as often as you want during the period the line is open. Most credit lines are accessed through a checkbook or a...
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