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Shop around for title insurance

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- A recent legal settlement between the federal government and a title insurance agency is drawing fresh attention to one of the murkiest, least understood and costly items you get charged for in a real estate closing: title insurance.

You are hardly alone if, like many buyers and mortgage borrowers, you didn't shop for the lowest ...Read more

Protect yourself against rising risk of mortgage fraud

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- Fraud in connection with home mortgages is on the rise, ranging from little white lies about the intended use of the property all the way up to much more sophisticated schemes.

But what, you ask, does this have to do with me? Maybe more than you think, especially if you end up on the wrong end of it and have no clue about what's ...Read more

Tax overhaul plan poses big unknowns for homeowners

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- If you've been pondering how you as a home owner or buyer might fare under the new Republican tax overhaul plan, here are a few points to consider.

Although the tax proposal got fattened up a little over the summer -- moving from a White House "outline" of barely one page to a "framework" now consisting of nine pages -- there's ...Read more

Government cracks down on refi scheme targeting veterans

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- Federal officials plan to crack down on what they view as predatory lending schemes -- reminiscent of the toxic practices seen during the housing boom -- targeted at thousands of veterans nationwide who have VA home loans.

The abuses involve serial refinancings that generate hefty fees for lenders and loan brokers but leave ...Read more

Protect yourself against lasting damage from Equifax theft

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to Equifax news, Ken Harney is writing this column for this week and taking off next week's column instead.

WASHINGTON -- The catastrophic theft of 143 million consumers' personal data from national credit bureau Equifax could cause financial grief for years for homebuyers and mortgage applicants.

The odds are that some of ...Read more

Wells Fargo accused of unwarranted "rate lock" fees

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- Wells Fargo & Co., the controversy-battered big bank, has a new problem -- this time directly affecting mortgage applicants. Last week a first-time home buyer filed a class action suit against the company, alleging widespread abuse of a procedure well known to most mortgage borrowers: Interest rate "locks."

The suit alleges that ...Read more

Appraisal-free home sales draw mixed reviews

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- Would you welcome the option to buy a house but not have to pay hundreds of dollars for an appraisal?

Are you kidding? Sign me up, you might say. Who doesn't want to save $500 or $700 for someone to confirm that the price you and the home seller agreed to makes sense? Appraisals are mainly for lenders, right?

If an appraisal-free...Read more

What's it take to be in the home equity elite?

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- Americans readily gossip about home values -- "Did you hear the crazy high price the house down the street sold for?" "Did you hear how little our neighbors were forced to take on their sale?"

But people are much more reticent when it comes to home equity, which is not surprising: Prices and assessed values are public information....Read more

'Co-marketing' arrangements put Zillow in hot water

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- You're probably familiar with the online realty marketing giant Zillow because of its voluminous home sale listings and its controversial "Zestimate" property valuation feature.

But you may not know this: Zillow is in hot water with the federal government over alleged violations of anti-kickback and deceptive practices rules. ...Read more

Fannie and Freddie stick with outdated credit scoring

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- If you've been waiting for the long-anticipated news that the two dominant players in the home mortgage arena -- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- finally have decided to overhaul their outdated credit scoring systems to expand homeownership opportunities for a broader range of consumers, sorry. Your wait just got a lot longer.

There ...Read more

Freddie Mac pulls plug on low down payment loans

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- One percent down on a new home loan? Zero down? Generous gifts of thousands of dollars from mortgage companies to help you swing the deal?

If any of these sounds attractive to you, here's a little sobering news: One of the country's two largest mortgage sources is eliminating them.

In a surprise move, giant investor Freddie Mac ...Read more

Mortgage approval could be easier than you think

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- So what does it take to get approved for a mortgage to buy a house this summer, whether you're a first-timer, planning to move up or downsize? Maybe not all that you think.

For most people, the key requirement is that you've got the right package of stuff -- acceptable credit score, down payment, financial reserves, debt-to-income...Read more

Court penalizes Quicken in appraisal case

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- Quicken Loans arguably has the mortgage industry's squeakiest-clean image -- named by J.D. Power as No. 1 in home loan customer satisfaction for seven years in a row and No. 1 in loan servicing for three years straight. It also has a reputation as a technology innovator, witness its heavily advertised and popular "Rocket Mortgage" ...Read more

Tax overhaul plans in summertime slow motion

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- If you're a tax-savvy home owner, buyer or investor, you might be wondering: Hey, what's going on with that big tax code overhaul bill the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress have been promising to deliver?

There's been plenty of news about health care legislation -- the other blockbuster Republican campaign plank -- ...Read more

CFPB cracks down on 'credit-repair' companies

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- You've almost certainly seen or heard pitches for "credit repair" services promising to clean up your credit problems, reduce your debt, or even raise your credit scores by 100 points or more.

Come-ons like these can be especially seductive for people seeking to buy a home and apply for a mortgage who have negative items in their ...Read more

A new way to estimate your home equity

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- Do we really need another Zillow Zestimate-style online gizmo to tell us what a computer model says our homes are worth? Probably not. There already are scads of real estate and mortgage websites that offer some type of automated home valuation feature, such as Redfin,, Chase Mortgage, RE/MAX,, Bank of America...Read more

Are home appraisals always necessary?

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- Do we always need an appraiser to tell us what a house is worth? The two biggest sources of mortgage financing in the country -- Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae -- think not.

With no formal public announcement, on June 19 Freddie Mac began phasing in its plan to transition to appraisal-free mortgage for certain loan applications. ...Read more


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