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15-year mortgage recipients are better risks

Here's a smattering of positive facts about 15-year mortgages and the people who have them, all courtesy of a study by the Mortgage Information Corp. of San Francisco:

- Borrowers using 15-year mortgages are more likely to have excellent credit scores than those who take out a 30-year loan.- The serious delinquency rate for borrowers with 15-year mortgages is less than half the rate for 30-year loan borrowers.

- The financially sophisticated 15-year borrowers are more likely to refinance than those with 30-year loans.

- Among those with 15-year mortgages, 44 percent have a balance of $100,000 or less compared with 31 percent of those with 30-year loans.

"In order to afford the higher monthly payment (of a 15-year mort-gage), the borrower will generally have either ample income or a manageable mortgage balance," MIC said.

- In the second quarter of this year, home ownership reached 65.7 percent, the highest level since 1980, according to the industry publication, U.S. Housing Market Conditions, quoted in GMAC's Market Commentary. "Fueled by interest rates below 8 percent and consumer incomes still strong relative to home prices, the housing market remained robust, despite a dip in production and sales," the report said.

- A good mortgage calculator can be found online at (http://www.dreamhomeloan.com.) The site, sponsored by Pacific Guarantee Mortgage, doesn't have much else of interest, except good graphics. No loan rates are available at the site yet and the information under the cute graphics is of minimum use. But with the calculator, you can figure out how much house you can afford with various down payments, or how much you will pay monthly for a house, or whether it's smart to refinance.

- If you have an elderly relative who needs help with daily chores, you might be interested in a free 15-page consumer guide to finding an assisted living residence. For a copy, call 703-691-8100. Ask the receptionist for the guide. If you get stuck in voice mail, push zero and eventually you'll get someone to help you. The place doesn't seem too well organized at this point.

The brochure was prepared by the Assisted Living Federation of America, which says that more than a million Americans are living in assisted housing now, with most of them frail and elderly at an average age of 83.

- Here's a good reason to keep your credit record clean so you can get the best mortgage terms and be an "A" borrower rather than a subprime borrower, known in the lending industry as "B" and "C" prospects.

"According to recent reports, a borrower who takes out a $100,000 subprime loan can pay one to three points more than a conventional borrower, one to three times more in fees and pay $50 to $150 more per month than a borrower with a conventional 'A' quality loan due to a higher interest rate," says James Johnson, CEO of Fannie Mae, the big secondary mortgage company.

Johnson also told an industry conference that lenders should work harder to get more borrowers on the "A" list.