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Mortgage Rates Tumble In Late November

After rolling along near the six percent mark for weeks, mortgage rates dropped toward the end of the month. According to Freddie Mac, borrowers could find 30-year, fixed-rate financing at 5.83 percent plus .6 points in late November -- about the same range seen in July.

How low is 5.83 percent? Imagine that you borrow $200,000 over 30 years. At seven percent the monthly cost for principal and interest is $1,330. At 5.83 percent the monthly cost tumbles to $1,177 -- a reduction of more than $150 a month, or $1,800 a year.

One result of low interest rates is record home sale levels nationwide. The National Association of Realtors reports that "state existing-home sales activity in the third quarter was the highest on record, with 48 states and the District of Columbia posting increases from a year ago." A number of states have seen annual sale increases in excess of 20 percent -- Nevada is up 37.6 percent.

Now may also be a good time to look at other loan products. Fixed-rate 15-year mortgages can be had for as little 5.17 percent while "start" rates for adjustable-rate mortgage (ARMs) are as low as 3.72 percent, both with .7 points. ARM rates and payments, of course, may rise or fall in the future.

Timely Gifts

There always seems to be a time or event where gifts are both appropriate and appreciated, celebrations such as birthdays, holidays, housewarmings and other occasions. Alas, it's not always easy to give gifts -- that lovely plant we all admire may well cause someone else to itch.

What to do? Here are three winners in all price ranges that most people will greatly value:

  • Tools. Yup, you gotta have 'em and what's nice is that in recent years manufacturers have been bundling sets in a variety of configurations, everything from a few items for emergencies and small repairs to complete sets that even experienced shop owners will enjoy. Prices range from bargain-basement to Fifth Avenue. Look for utility, durability, packaging and safety.
  • Emergency lights and radios. These are great to have around the house, devices that can be hand-cranked to provide light and news at the very time they are most needed. You can get lights and radios separately, but combo devices have a certain attraction. The good news is that if a household already has such a device more will always be welcome.
  • Everyone has a need for kitchen storage, the more the better. A nice set of glass or ceramic storage holders can hold everything from cereal to pasta -- and with a nice sense of style and decor as well.

    One-Price Mortgage/Closing Combos

    The complexity of mortgage financing and refinancing has long been something of a national joke, good fodder for late-night television and humor columnists. But some lenders are now moving toward a simple system of mortgage pricing, something that may interest borrowers.

    With one-price financing the lender offers a loan with a single interest rate, say six percent. There are no points, no origination fee, no transaction fees at closing and no increased loan amounts. The lender pays the transaction costs and the borrower pays a somewhat higher interest rate to cover the lender's expenses. Borrowers also pay prepaid items at closing, costs such as money set aside for taxes and property insurance.

    To compare one-price mortgages/closing packages, look at such factors as the annual percentage rate (APR), closing costs (different costs may be covered or not covered under different programs) and the total amount borrowed. Get a good faith estimate of closing costs from each lender and look at lock-in agreements with care: Do they include the loan rate, points, origination fee and list the closing expenses to be paid by the lender? For details, speak with lenders to see how offers compare.

    Mobile Homes Up 2,700 Percent Since 1950

    If it seems as though mobile homes have become more common, it's not an illusion. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, "the number of mobile homes in the country increased strikingly since 1950, going from just over 300,000 to nearly 8.8 million in 2000 -- an increase of about 2,700 percent."

    The report, "Structural and Occupancy Characteristics of Housing: 2000," said South Carolina and New Mexico had the highest proportion of mobile homes, about one-in-five. Florida was the numerical leader with more than 800,000, followed by Texas at more than 700,000.

    Other highlights from the report:

  • More than one-in-four of Nevada's homes were built between 1995 and March 2000, the only state that topped the 20 percent mark. Neighboring Arizona (19 percent) and Utah (17 percent) were second and third.
  • About 60 percent of all housing units were single-family, detached homes. The average household size of these units was 2.8 occupants, compared with an average of 2.6 occupants for all occupied housing units.
  • Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Michigan had the highest proportion of single-family homes, about 75 percent each.
  • Hawaii and New York topped all states in the proportion of housing in buildings with five or more apartments; about one-in-three of the housing units in these states were multi-unit buildings.

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