Why we put up with rock-bottom CD rates

By Marcie Geffner - Bankrate

Once upon a time in the U.S., people could purchase long-term bank certificates of deposit, or CDs, that paid interest rates of 10 percent or more per year.

That might sound like a fairy tale, but in fact it's true.

In the mid-1980s, five-year CD rates topped out near 12 percent, according to a Bankrate CD rate chart of national averages. Since then, however, long-term CD rates have tumbled so precipitously that investors today can find five-year CDs with rates ranging from less than 0.5 percent to perhaps 2.35 percent at best at some credit unions. The typical payout for a five-year jumbo CD ($100,000 or more) is 1.6 percent to 1.8 percent, a premium of about 1 percent compared with shorter-term CD rates, according to Bankrate's data.

Investors might well wonder why long-term CD rates are so low and why the premium for a longer term is so small. Arlen Olberding, founder of Guidepost Financial Planning in Fort Collins, Colo., suggests some trends that affect CD rates.

Read on: http://www.bankrate.com/finance/cd/rock-bottom-cd-rates.aspx

BPO speedwagon

By Marcie Geffner - California Real Estate magazine

Broker price opinions, or "BPOs," can be an attractive opportunity for Realtors.

Some turn these valuations, which fall between an appraisal and comparative market analysis, into a lucrative sideline. Others say BPOs are a break-even activity, but lead to listings of bank-owned homes or market intelligence that helps them put together other transactions.

Bill De Ridder, broker/owner of Quality First Real Estate in San Diego, has farmed out more than 350 BPOs to approximately 50 California real estate agents since September 2010. The agents complete the assignment and return the information to De Ridder, who forwards it to his clients, which include banks, loan servicers and attorneys representing banks in homeowner bankruptcy cases.

"It seemed like an easy avenue to explore," De Ridder says.

Read on (flip to pg. 22):

How to pay off a mortgage more quickly

By Marcie Geffner - Bankrate

A lot of homeowners want to pay off their mortgages before the end of the loan term. This is especially true for borrowers who want to repay their home loans before retirement. There are a number of ways to accomplish a mortgage payoff.

The two easiest ways to put more money toward a mortgage are to set up automatic payments from a bank account or use the lender's website, explains Jerald Banwart, senior vice president of customer operations at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage in Des Moines, Iowa.

"For those who have a plan to pay off their loan, we will go out and withdraw the money from your account to make your payments … or you can go online anytime on our website," he says.

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Who needs an EMV credit card

By Marcie Geffner - Bankrate

In the year since the first major issuer debuted an EMV credit card for U.S. consumers, a handful of national banks and credit unions have rolled out their own versions. These credit cards, outfitted with microchips for better security and widely used abroad, aren't exactly taking the country by storm.

But the spate of new offerings raises interesting questions for those who have lived EMV-free so far: Who should get an EMV credit card, and how would someone get one?

More than 1.34 billion EMV cards dot the globe, according to EMVCo, the U.K.-based, industry-owned organization that manages the EMV chip standard. (EMV is an acronym for Europay, MasterCard and Visa -- the developers of the standard.) But the U.S. rollout of chip cards has been slow; issuers mostly have offered cards with a magnetic strip.

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Protect yourself from mortgage fraud

By Marcie Geffner - HSH.com

Mortgage fraud might seem like a deliberate, straightforward action: either you did it or you didn't. But in fact, any inattentive borrower could get caught up in a scam and later be accused of fraudulent activities.

That warning comes from Curt Novy, president of Corporate Mortgage Advisors, a mortgage fraud analysis firm in San Diego. Novy says he's seen plenty of dicey situations in the 150 or so fraud cases he's worked on in the last five years.

"There are borrowers who didn't know the mortgage broker was committing fraud," he explains. "They didn't understand there were illegal activities, yet they're under the microscope and may have some liability. Did they know or did they just believe what the broker told them?"

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Occupancy fraud: more risk than reward

By Marcie Geffner - HSH.com

"Do you intend to occupy this property as your principal residence?"

The question, indicated by check boxes on most mortgage loan applications, might seem straightforward. But if you misrepresent your intention, it is a crime known in real estate lingo as "occupancy fraud."

Occupancy fraud occurs when a borrower says he or she plans to live in a home, all the while knowing the property will be rented out, according to Curt Novy, president of Corporate Mortgage Advisors, a mortgage fraud analysis firm in San Diego.

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