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Mortgage Rates Remain Near Long-Term Lows

As money continues to leave the stock market, bond prices have been strong. The result: Toward the end of July, interest levels for 30-year fixed-rate financing were near 6.0 percent -- part of a steady decline since March. Indeed, for the year rates have been consistently below 7 percent.

Fifteen-year fixed-rate interest rates are now below 6 percent and start rates for adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) have been at 4 percent. ARM rates, of course, can change up or down during the loan term.

100 Years Of Global Cooling

It was a century ago in Brooklyn that Willis Haviland Carrier invented modern air conditioning, a technology which makes hot weather bearable for millions of homeowners.

According to the Census Bureau, 80 percent of all U.S. homes are now air conditioned as are most offices, malls and schools. Indeed, could there be a "Sun Belt" or "New South" without the invention of air conditioning?

While air conditioning is a modern invention, the new technology can also be found in such historic structures as the U.S. Capitol and George Washington's home at Mount Vernon. By controlling the indoor air temperature and humidity, air conditioning helps preserve valuable rugs, furniture and art -- and no doubt makes visitors more comfortable.

Greenspan Speaks: Real Estate Equity Up "Significantly"

Testifying before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs in July, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan told lawmakers that rising home prices are a by-product of "low mortgage rates, immigration, and shortages of buildable land in some areas." As a result, homeowners have more equity they can use to pay off high-cost consumer debt and for other purposes.

Fixed mortgage rates, said Greenspan, "remain at historically low levels and thus should continue to fuel reasonably strong housing demand."

Greenspan said that while the economy has generally been contracting, real estate has been growing.

Real consumer outlays and spending on residential construction each rose about 3 percent during 2001. Meanwhile, the gross domestic product (GDP) fell about one-half percent, a drop that would have been far worse without a strong real estate sector.

Should You Co-Sign A Loan?

If you have cash and credit you may be asked to co-sign a loan for a friend or relative -- or perhaps a first-time homebuyer or a car buyer. While co- signing loans is not uncommon, it is something which should be done with care.

One problem is that if you co-sign a debt under most loan agreements you are responsible for re-paying the entire obligation. Not half, not a part, but the whole thing.

A second issue concerns credit. By extending your credit as a co-signer, you may be less qualified to obtain additional financing as long as the co-signed loan is outstanding. Some loan programs -- but certainly not all -- will not count your status as a co-signer against you if the other party has made the past 12 monthly payments. Speak with lenders for details and among other questions be certain to ask about documentation requirements.

Check loan paperwork to determine such matters as the limits of your liability, repayment terms, plus how and when you will be released from the debt. For their protection, many borrowers have an attorney review all loan documents before signing.

Are You Ready For A Home Safe?

It used to be that in the homes of the rich and famous a walk-in vault not unlike that found in small banks was located near the kitchen. The purpose of such a huge device was to secure the household china and silverware in the event a disaster or attempted theft.

Today a growing number of households may also want to consider having a small safe on the premises, a place to store papers and computer disks. While not a substitute for a safety deposit box in a commercial bank vault, a home safe can nevertheless provide convenience and a measure of document security not otherwise available in a residence.

Home safes, which are available from office supply stores and locksmiths, are intended to be a barrier against theft and fire, but not an impregnable fortress. Here are some questions to ask:

  • How strong is the unit? What are the unit's fire, explosion, and impact ratings? Is it water resistant? How is the unit rated by Underwriters Laboratory (UL)?
  • How much interior space is available?
  • What happens if you lose the key or combination?
  • How is the unit attached to a floor or wall? (A small safe can be carried off....)
  • Can the unit be wired with an alarm system?

    For more information, speak with security specialists and locksmiths.

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