Friday, January 16, 2009

Refinance at your own risk.

You may not want to pull money out of your house when times are tough. But what if you have to?

Dropping 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages below 5 percent -the lowest levels since the early 1970s - makes refinancing attractive right now. And if you have a decent payment history and enough equity in your home, you may even be able to pull out some extra cash to help you get through a tough patch if you are changing jobs or moving into a lower paying career.

But refinancing can be risky too. You need to know what you are getting into, what's in the fine print, and what the deal potentially will cost if things don't work out. You need to know who are dealing with too. Mortgage rates have fallen, but the opportunities for mortgage ripoffs haven't, says the Federal Trade Commission.

Some of the lenders offering refinancing deals now are the same ones who were lending aggressively when the market was hot. They are preaching probity now and, in some cases, offering counseling to help us with especially knotty problems.

The best way to be sure you are dealing with legitimate counselors is to work only with those who are certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, says Jana Castanon, Kansas City outreach director for the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Midwest.

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