With the growing interest in real estate purchasing and speculation, more and more lenders are offering "nontraditional" types of mortgages. These include adjustable rate mortgages (ARM) of every shape and size, the more popular interest-only mortgage, and the very dangerous Option ARM mortgage, which can cause the amount you owe to actually increase as time passes. One rapidly growing sector of the lending market is the so-called "subprime" market, which caters to consumers with poor credit records. The subprime market is a profitable one, as lenders offer loans to consumers whose poor payment history targets them as risky clients. Yes, they are risky clients, but the lenders charge fees and interest rates that are high enough to offset the additional risk. People who are interested in purchasing a home should be careful, however, as many people who should qualify for traditional loans are being pushed into higher-priced subprime loans instead.
The subprime market is quite a lucrative one for lenders, who are able to charge higher fees and interest rates due to the increased risk posed by clients with substandard credit histories. A subprime borrower might pay an interest rate that is several percentage points higher than that of a traditional loan, and the fees may include several additional "points" as administrative fees. A point is one percent of the loan amount. This can add several thousand dollars to the closing costs and tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of the loan over the life of the typical 30-year mortgage.
While it is understood that customers with poor credit histories represent a higher risk to the lender, potential borrowers need to make sure that they aren't classified as "subprime" by their prospective lenders. Studies show that up to 15% of subprime borrowers have credit scores that should have entitled them to loans at lower, more traditional interest rates. What this means for potential borrowers is that you should shop around for the best price on a loan and not accept it as fact when a lender tells you that you don't qualify for the traditional rates. The Federal Trade Commission is investigating several lenders who have increased their profits tremendously by steering borrowers who should have qualified for low-interest loans into higher-interest subprime loans, claiming that they didn't qualify for the lower rate.
How can you avoid such problems? Obtain a copy of your credit report. You can obtain one, with your credit score, from any of the three major credit bureaus ? Experian, Equifax, or Trans Union. As a rule, lenders offer subprime rates to customers who have credit scores below 620. If your score is higher than that, you should be able to qualify for a better interest rate. If not, you can either accept the higher rates from lenders, or take time to improve your score by paying off some bills in a timely manner.
?Copyright 2005 by Retro Marketing. Charles Essmeier is the owner of Retro Marketing, a firm devoted to informational Websites, including HomeEquityHelp.com, a site devoted to information regarding mortgages and home equity loans.