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");document.write("Mortgage Firms Help Hurricane-Stricken Borrowers
Buying a house is a life-changing process that requires lots of upfront financial planning.

When looking for a home, keep certain factors in mind, including your financial situation, types of available loans, your credit score, the price of the house and your down payment so you can navigate the process smoothly.

Your Financial Situation
Before you buy a house, make sure that your monthly budget can handle such a large expense.

");document.write("Senior Deciding on Whether to Downsize
Question: I am an 86-year-old widow. I own a townhouse with stairs, which are becoming difficult. I must dip into savings to pay taxes and insurance. I might need those savings for a nursing home some day. I'm thinking of selling and buying a less-expensive condo with costs I can manage with my retirement income. But now I hear that renting and investing may be better than buying and building equity. But rents are high, too. Any thoughts?

Answer: It's impossible to "call" the market and know when it will top or shift.

For the time being, renting is less expensive than buying a home, from the perspective of starting with nothing.

");document.write("How to Determine if Refinance Makes Sense
Question: What is the worst mistake made by borrowers looking to refinance?

Answer: The most common mistake -- it might or might not be the worst -- is assuming that if the monthly payment savings arising from the refinance cover the refinance settlement costs within a short period, such as a year or two, the refinance will benefit them.

What makes this rule of thumb wrong is that it completely ignores the impact of the refinance on how rapidly the borrower will pay down the loan balance.

");document.write("What FHA Reverse Mortgage Changes Mean
My email inbox has recently been crowded with messages from seniors who are anxious about impending changes in the home-equity conversion mortgage program. Many of them are wondering whether they should try to finalize a HECM before Oct. 2, when the changes go into effect.

The bad news is that, by the time they read this, it will be too late for many, if not most. To close a HECM before the terms change, the lender must record a Federal Housing Administration case number, which they cannot do until they receive a certificate from an approved counselor indicating that the senior has been counseled. The senior who follows the usual procedure of contacting a lender before doing anything else will run out of time because the lender will give her a list of counselors, leaving it to the borrower to make the appointment, get counseled and return to the lender.

A possible way to short-circuit this process is for the senior to contact a counselor on her own, which they can do on the Department of Housing and Urban Development website. This could cut two or three days from the process.

");document.write("Reverse Mortgage Rush as Costs Set to Rise
A rules change that will raise fees and reduce loan amounts for reverse mortgages apparently has created a nationwide rush to get new loans completed before the reforms take effect Monday, Oct. 2.

Agencies providing financial counseling needed for such loans have been swamped, and a leading industry group has appealed for waivers and extensions so more borrowers will qualify under the old rules.

"Our industry is currently inundated," said Julie Martinez, a reverse mortgage housing counselor at the nonprofit HomeStrong USA housing agency in Rancho Cucamonga, California. "We have an enormous influx of calls and requests for appointments that's unprecedented."

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