Pros and cons of investing in gold

By Marcie Geffner -

Up, up and up. That appears to be the direction of U.S. gold futures, which hit a record high of $1,910 per ounce in mid-August on the New York Commodity Exchange, or COMEX.

The opportunity to buy might tempt investors looking for fatter returns than they've earned on certificates of deposit, bank accounts, stocks or bonds. Yet, gold is far from foolproof.

Indeed, gold shouldn't be considered an investment, says Chris Hyzy, chief investment officer at U.S. Trust, the private wealth management arm of Bank of America in New York. Rather, the precious metal acts as a hedge, or a way to try to protect wealth against the risk of loss in such asset classes as real estate, equities and bonds, he says.

Read on: "Pros and cons of investing in gold"

Faith-based lending: a mortgage with a message

By Marcie Geffner -

The proverb that "birds of a feather flock together" might explain why some homebuyers and homeowners gravitate toward so-called faith-based lenders when they want to get a new mortgage.

If you hold deep religious beliefs or respect those who do, you might want to give your business to someone who shares your faith or incorporates religious precepts into his or her business practices.

However, as a mortgage borrower, you should realize that just because a lender shares your religious beliefs doesn't mean he or she can give you a better deal on your loan.

Read on: "Faith-based lending: a mortgage with a message"

Making sense of the mortgage landscape

By Marcie Geffner - California Real Estate magazine

It's a hard letdown for Realtors when motivated prospective home buyers can't qualify for a mortgage, and in these days of super-strict lending guidelines, that scenario happens all too frequently. Buyers are tripped up by inadequate savings, impaired credit, income documentation, lender overlays and higher loan fees, just to name a few of the stumbling blocks.

So why is it so difficult for buyers to get financing? And how can Realtors overcome or change this situation for the better?

Read on: "Making sense of the mortgage landscape" Turn to page 52.

How to succeed by really trying

By Marcie Geffner - California Real Estate magazine

Why do some Realtors succeed while others struggle? The answer doesn't involve magic wands or secret sauces. Instead, successful brokers rely on a clear business strategy and superior execution of basic marketing techniques. Here, three of them reveal how they do it.

Read on: "How to succeed by really trying" Turn to page 50

You're never too old for a mortgage

Ask Michael Becker, a mortgage banker at WCS Funding Group in Lutherville, Md., the age of his oldest-ever mortgage client, and he'll tell you: 97 years old.

"She was lucid, owned her house outright and had retirement income," Becker says. "She was helping out her son."

While 97 might seem old to be getting a mortgage, age is never a factor in a loan approval. In fact, it's illegal for lenders to discriminate against borrowers on that basis, Becker says. That's because age is a protected category within the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, a federal law that also bars credit discrimination based on a borrower's race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status or receipt of public assistance benefits.

Read on: "You're never too old for a mortgage"