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August, 2000 Newsletter

+++++++++++ August 10, 2000 +++++++++++++++++++

Mortgage Rate Update: Steady as She Goes
Recent Site Updates: New Search Function
This Month's Tip: Buying a Home Online

Welcome to the August edition of the Home Buyer's
Information Newsletter. So far this summer, home
buying activity has been quite a bit stronger than
had been forecast. New home sales were down a bit,
but sales of existing homes continue to be stronger
than anticipated. Although interest rates are still
higher than they were a year ago, they have stabilized
recently and many buyers have decided to make a move
now, rather than to wait and run the risk of facing
rates on an upswing.


Mortgage Rate Update: Steady as She Goes

Early August has found rates for 30 year fixed mortgages
steady in the 8% range or a bit less. This is good news
for those that have been in a wait-and-see mode, but we
have seen reports from a number of analysts who are
recommending that now is a good time to lock in. Plus,
we have seen no evidence of stabilization in housing
market prices (they keep headed in one direction--up)
which means that even if there is a bit of savings in
interest rate, all of that and more could be given back
in price increases. You can always refinance a mortgage
if rates go down, but if you pay more for a home because
of waiting, that money is gone forever!
For more information on mortgages, visit the
Recent Site Updates: Search Function
As the Home Buyer's Information Center continues to
grow, the amount of information available increases. With
this in mind, we have added a search function on the home
page. Hint: For best results, when you are searching
for a concept (for example "closing costs" use quotes
(" ") in your search.
You can always find out "
Whats New" at the Home Buyer's
Information Center.
One of the first tasks involved with buying a home is
getting your finances and budget in order. An important
component of that process should be an analysis of your
credit report. You can get a free copy of your credit
report (plus a free 30 day trial of their CreditCheck
Monitoring service) from ConsumerInfo.com.
You can
get your free credit report here

This Month's Tip: Buying a Home Online

There is little doubt that the Internet has had a major
effect on the Real Estate Industry in the last few years.
Information that was previously unavailable to consumers
(such as Multiple Listing information) is now freely
available online. Mortgage comparisons, a process that
once took many hours of hard work, now can be accomplished
in a matter of minutes.

Like much that is involved with the Internet, though, home
buying online has the potential for both a very efficient
process (a time saver) but also an inefficiency trap (a time
waster). There are some home buying processes that are
ideally suited for the web, and others that can't (or
probably shouldn't) be there. Buying a book or CD online is
a pretty straightforward process--you get the information
you need and click "BUY" to purchase it. Buying a home, due
to the level of information needed, is something entirely
different. Recent statistics from the National Association
of Realtors found that although 37% of home buyers used the
web to search for homes, only a tiny 4% actually found the home
they eventually bought on the Internet.

Understanding what you can do--and be effective at--on the
Internet and what you can't do--or be effective with--will help
to simplify the process.


Get Information on the Process

We're biased, we admit, but we believe that The Home Buyer's
Information Center has the largest collection of information
and tools that can assist the home buyer. Our checklists,
information sources and resource links can simplify the home
buying process (and take much of the fear out of it!)

Make Comparisons

The availability of detailed information online has probably
saved consumers tens of millions of dollars over the last few
years. Where it once was commonplace to deal with a single
source (for example, a lender) and accept whatever was offered,
it is now possible to get comparisons quickly and easily from
the comfort of your home or office. More comparisons equates
to more competition for your business and generally a better



Locate an Agent
This is especially helpful if you are buying your first home
and do not have contacts in the Real Estate industry or if you
are relocating to a new area. Many Agents (and most Real Estate
offices) maintain their own web sites, which can give you
information on service area, experience and philosophy. A good
Agent is worth their weight in gold for finding and evaluating
available homes.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you approach the process backwards (meaning
that you find an Agent by locating a property first) the Agent
that you will find will represent the seller, not you.
Finding and Selecting an Agent

Get Pricing Information
Prior to the popularity of the Internet, getting pricing
information (previous and current sale prices and statistics)
involved a long and drawn-out process at the local courthouse,
searching for records. Now, in most states, consumers have
access to the same information available to Agents. If you
have a specific house address, you can find out prior sales
prices as well as county assessments and comparable sale
prices in the neighborhood.
Determining Value


Tour a Home
Yes, there are "virtual tours" and videos that are sometimes
available online, but there are a couple of problems with their
application. First, they often take an eternity to download and
view. Second, the view is a biased one--you only get to see what
the seller WANTS you to see. A home is more than a collection of
pictures. It is a combination of setting, location and more than
anything else, "feel." Your time is usually better spent actually
looking at homes than wasted on watching poor quality video
presentations or "walkarounds." If you are represented by a
Buyer's Agent, they often can get you more of a feel of a property
than a few pictures would ever be able to do.

Finalize the Mortgage

Although much of the mortgage process (comparisons, pre-approvals
and applications) can be done online, you'll still need ink and
paper for at least the final mortgage commitment letter.

Settlement and Closing

The U.S. Congress recently passed the Digital Signature bill,
which allows, with certain safeguards, online "signatures" to
carry the same validity as a penned signature. Digital Signatures
as part of normal practice, though, is probably a couple of years
away. For now, you will still need to close and settle your
home purchase in person--which is probably a good thing since
you will have more opportunity for questions and clarification
should you need it.

Don't overestimate what can be done online. Buying your home is
not like buying a book, trading stock or even purchasing a high
ticket item like an automobile (where all new cars of a certain
make and model are exactly the same). A house is an investment
that becomes part of your personality--it has to have the right
feel as much as have the right numbers. Take advantage of the
many resources that are available online, but when it comes time
to make real housing choices, get out and enjoy the process.
It truly can be an exciting experience!

Further information and resources
Determining Your Needs and Wants

Finding a Home


As always, if you have suggestions for improving the
site, or topics you would like to see addressed in
this newsletter (or, if you have used the Home Buyer's
Information Center to successfully purchase a home),
drop us a quick line or access our feedback page.

A special thanks to all those who have written to let us know
that they have found the Home Buyer's Information Center a
helpful resource in their buying process.

Have a great month of August!

The Team at the Home Buyer's Information Center

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