Web Chat: Online loans make for easy shopping

The mortgage market is not dead yet.

Although rates are back up near 1996 levels following a four-year dip, there might still be time to get in while the getting is good.

With the advent of e-commerce, Internet site owners have made finding and procuring home loans easy work for first time buyers as well as seasoned veterans.

Gone are the days when potential buyers would slink into a savings and loan, hoping the bank didn't know about this unpaid bill or that outstanding debt for mail-order compact discs.

Nowadays, it's a much different game. Lenders are more willing to take a chance on customers with credit problems, and competition for customers has reached a new level. Here are some lender's sites.

www.getsmart.com: A good source for information about home mortgages. The site teaches financially inept users how to juggle financial options while trying to prepare and execute a home loan.

Under the "debt consolidation" link, the site takes the user through a questionnaire, asking about types of debt, income and savings. Then the site comes up with a plan for consolidating debt into a single payment.

www.loanapp.com: This site advertises itself as the one-stop shop for a home loan. Just fill out one application and that information is available for review by 400 lenders. Depending on your personal information, the site chooses four lenders who will review and, hopefully, make a reasonable offer to do business with you. All types of home, auto and credit card loans are available on this site.

www.wellsfargo.com/mortgage/: As one of America's leaders in banking services, Wells Fargo has dealt in millions of home mortgages.

Now the bank that has a branch in nearly every urban center is well connected on the Web, trying to make it easier for customers to access their services. As a leader in online banking, Wells Fargo may find a market in rural areas where smaller lenders have always dominated.

The greatest attribute of this site is the overwhelming amount of information about accounting and rate adjustments. Wells Fargo will also likely offer a loan that is competitively priced with other lenders.

www.interest.com: Like many of the others, this site allows users to find a rate at a bank nearby, a plus for shoppers who would like to keep as much of their money as they can in their communities.

Simply click on the state in which you would like to do business, type in the amount that you hope to borrow and click on the search button. The result will be a home loan at a local bank (for Nevada, this usually means Las Vegas).

www.homefair.com: The site with a mortgage calculator. Indicate the amount you expect to borrow at whatever percentage rate and the site tabulates the expected monthly payment. For a 30-year loan at 7.8 percent on $100,000, a home buyer can expect to pay $725 a month.

Other sites worth checking out include:

-- www.bofa.com (Bank of America)

-- www.usbank.com (U.S. Bank)

-- www.calfed.com (Cal Fed Bank)

-- www.chase.com (Chase Manhattan Bank)

-- www.citicorp.com (Citicorp/Citibank)

-- www.bankone.com (Bank One)

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Ideas? Feedback? Contact me at jimscripps@tahoe.com


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