"Best in Business" Award

Bankrate.com earned its sixth "Best in Business" national award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW) for its special package, "Financial Regulation, One Year Later." SABEW honored Bankrate.com in the Feature Category, Digital Division for Large Websites.

The Bankrate.com editorial team is led by editor-in-chief Julie Bandy and managing editor Katie Doyle. Senior editor Steve Pounds oversaw the award-winning "Financial Regulation, One Year Later" package. Senior banking reporter Claes Bell, staff reporter Janna Herron and freelance contributors Marcie Geffner and Katherine Lewis also contributed to the package, which focused on the aftermath of the landmark Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

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The Future of Housing

By Marcie Geffner - California Real Estate

It's no secret that most of California's housing markets have been in a prolonged slump. So what would it take for housing to reverse course and enter a sustainable rally?

The answer involves economic, political and social factors, all of which revolve around an end to the uncertainty that has characterized so much since the national housing crash began.

With that in mind, here's a look at five areas that would make a difference: demand, supply, equity, financing and policy.

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How foreclosures affect buyers and sellers

By Marcie Geffner - Bankrate

If anything is certain about the foreclosure crisis, it's that it isn't over. That fact has important implications, not only for people losing their homes, but also for those planning to sell or buy a home this year.

As of October 2011, some 3 million properties were in foreclosure, headed that way or already owned by banks, according to CoreLogic, an information, analytics and business services company in Santa Ana, Calif.

Approximately 1.6 million of those homes were believed to be within the so-called shadow inventory, a supply of foreclosure properties not yet listed for sale. It's a major stumbling block to a housing recovery, says Mark Fleming, chief economist of CoreLogic.

"It puts downward pressure on home prices, which hurts home sales and building activity," Fleming said in a statement.

Given that prelude, here's what sellers and buyers can expect.

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Save money by paying off mortgage early

By Marcie Geffner - Bankrate

Paying off your mortgage might sound like an ambitious New Year's resolution, especially if you have recently refinanced into a 30-year term. But it's still smart for homeowners to give some serious thought as to how they'll pay off their home loan; if not in 2012, then sometime.

An early mortgage payoff can net substantial interest savings compared to making scheduled payments for 15 or 30 years.

Paying more quickly reduces your housing cost, freeing up that money for other needs and wants, says Ronit Rogoszinski, a wealth adviser at Arch Financial Group in Garden City, N.Y. You'll still be responsible for property taxes, homeowners insurance, and home maintenance and repairs, but your mortgage payment will disappear.

"Once that money can remain in your pocket, you control that money," Rogoszinski says. "It's yours. It's not going to someone else."

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