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When will it ever end? Uses for the Internet, I mean. We've all witnessed email and buying movie tickets online, but even one of the most boring activities on the world wide web - applying for a mortgage - has added another advantage. Helping service men and women overseas apply for mortgage loans.

Those who serve in the Armed forces have their priorities. They're protecting our freedom. But they're also people. People with mortgages, credit cards, car payments and so on. Just a few years ago if someone stationed in the Philippines wanted to refinance their mortgage it would consist of WorldWide Overnight Packages, expensive International telephone calls and layers upon layers of missed communication. Not to mention the differences in time zones. But now anyone with Internet access can close a loan at current rates just as easily as someone down the street. Mostly.

First, remember that it's so much easier to get a mortgage than it was just a short time ago. With online applications, mortgage calculators and email there really is less, if any requirement for a borrower to ever meet face to face with a loan officer. Now, the soldier can log onto the Internet, compare rates, select their lender, document their file and close a loan without having to go to a mortgage office. For that matter, without having to ever speak with the loan officer at all!

Elizabeth Apple is a Sr. Loan Officer with SouthTrust Mortgage's Internet division. Her job is to take loan applications from the borrowers who apply online. Recently, a soldier stationed in Korea applied for a refinance loan. For those keeping score, when it is 10:00 in the morning for Elizabeth, it's midnight in Korea. Hardly a time to call and ask for a bank statement. But of course, email takes care of all that. Elizabeth arranged for the appraisal, opened title, approved the loan and set a closing date. But wait; don't we still need signatures for the loan?

Yes, we do. Many times people who are away from the States for any extended period assign a person to act in their behalf on legal matters. The Soldier in Korea arranged for his brother to have Power of Attorney before he left stateside. Not a bad deal, right? No Power of Attorney? Many times the borrower can sign closing documents when witnessed, notarized and sent back to the lender.

This isn't reserved for refinances. The Internet is even more powerful when service men and women are actually buying a home. Now, people overseas can view listings, communicate with their agent, sign contracts and apply for financing just as easily as if they were in the next room. Mostly.

Just a few short years ago, such transactions would have been nearly impossible simply due to the geography between lender, Realtor and borrower. But Internet-enabled transactions have helped far beyond “check your credit report” and are helping people in ways nearly unthinkable in the mid-90s. Wild isn't it?

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