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Mortgages

Fraud Warning

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum recently issued a consumer advisory to warn Floridians of common mortgage fraud scams.

Financing
Home equity scams come in several variations. Equity stripping occurs when a lender encourages a consumer to manipulate his or her loan application in order to qualify for a greater loan amount. Loan flipping involves lenders who repeatedly encourage consumers to refinance their loans, which may require them to borrow more money and, as a result, accumulate higher fees.

Other scams include baiting and switching, where the lender offers one set of terms prior to the loan application and then pressures the consumer to agree to a different set of terms after signing the application.

Deceptive loan servicing, another common complaint, happens when lenders don’t provide their clients with accurate or complete account statements and payoff figures.

Consumers shopping for a mortgage should consider high interest rates and additional costs that could place financial burdens on them, McCollum cautions. He encourages Floridians to shop around and not to sign a loan agreement if the terms are different than the ones presented when they applied. Consumers should also ask for explanations of any dollar amount, term or condition they don’t understand. If using brokers, McCollum urged, prospective homebuyers should research their credentials to make sure they’re properly licensed and certified.

For more information, see the Know the Law article, “How to Spot Mortgage Fraud” (January 2007, page 12).

Consumers who have complaints about mortgage scams can call the Florida Attorney General’s FraudHotline at (866) 9-NO-SCAM, or (866) 966-7226. Complaints may also be filed at http://myfloridalegal.com.

Florida Attorney General's office provided the following tips to consider when applying for home equity loans:

  • Ask specifically if credit insurance is required as a condition of the loan.
  • Keep careful records of any amounts paid.
  • Check contractors’ references and get more than one estimate.
  • Read all items on the contract or application carefully.
  • Never sign an application or contract with blank spaces.
  • Don’t deal with lenders who pressure you.

Confusing Financing

Did you know? Many homeowners could use some help when it comes to mortgage information. More than three in 10 homeowners (34 percent) don’t know what type of mortgage they carry, according to a poll recently released by Bankrate.com. Furthermore, 28 percent of those surveyed worry about how they’ll afford their payments. The national poll reveals the confusion and anxiety that homeowners are experiencing today.

Another notable finding is that 34 percent of homeowners who have an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) don’t know what they’ll do when their loan readjusts. Bankrate calls that a “staggering statistic” since the adjustment could tack several hundred dollars onto their monthly mortgage payment.

Other key findings of the poll that studied homeowners and renters included these:

  • 36 percent of the surveyed homeowners who have an ARM plan to refinance to a fixed-rate loan when their ARM changes.
  • 28 percent worry either “regularly” or “sometimes” about how they’ll afford their payments next year.
  • 57 percent have a fixed-rate mortgage.
  • 40 percent of the surveyed renters consider affordability the biggest obstacle to buying a house.
  • Just under 12 percent of renters are concerned that their credit rating isn’t high enough to buy a home.
  • 38 percent of renters would avoid an ARM when they’re ready to buy a home.

To view the complete results, go to www.bankrate.com and search “mortgage poll.”

Survey Says
Lasting Improvements

How long do new wood floors last? New stoves? What about a new countertop? A new study from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) attempts to quantify the lifespans of home improvements, acknowledging that many factors—use, maintenance, climate, advances in technology and simple consumer preferences—can affect product longevity.

By polling experts, the survey found that many home components are expected to last for the life of the home, including toilets, wood floors, all types of insulation and fiberglass, steel and wood exterior doors.

Other components have a much shorter life expectancy such as wood decks (20 years, depending on climate), kitchen faucets (15 years), linoleum floors (25 years) and furnaces (15-20 years). Life expectancies for materials included in the study are averages.

Follow the Money

Some of the latest demographic research may lead you to a new market niche: the younger-with-money set. These 18- to 35-year-olds with household incomes of $100,000 or more represent 26.6 percent (6.2 million) of the 23.2 million adults with household incomes of $100,000 or more in the 87 metro areas regularly surveyed by The Media Audit, part of International Demographics.

Among the more revealing homeownership trends of 18- to 35-year-olds with household incomes of $100,000 are:

  • 46.5 percent have homes valued at $300,000 or more.
  • 42.2 percent of men have homes valued at $300,000 or more.
  • 80.7 percent of women own their home, compared with 74.3 percent of men.