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1. Have you applied for a mortgage before? (Jean's take: First-time homebuyers can get so overwhelmed by the daunting number of jargon-y documents that they sign without knowing exactly what's at stake. Take your time and make sure you understand everything. Don't let anyone rush you.)

2. Have you checked your credit reports to see if you have any history of late payments or other credit problems? Are there disputes you can clear up?

3. Do you have a good handle on your budget so you realistically know how much you can afford?

4. Have you taken into account all the other costs associated with a mortgage besides the monthly payments? (Jean's take: There's so much more than just the amount of the mortgage. You have to consider closing costs, legal fees, real estate taxes, private mortgage insurance and more.)

5. Do you need a mortgage broker? (Jean's take: If you've had a history of credit problems, this can be the best way to get a mortgage. Brokers have access to wholesale markets that are less expensive.)

6. If you own your home now, what type of loan do you have?

7. If you have an adjustable-rate mortgage, do you know when your interest rate is due to reset? How much will your payments jump? Can you afford the new payment?

8. If you have an adjustable-rate mortgage, have you looked into refinancing to a fixed-rate loan? With this type of loan, you'll know how much your monthly payment will be over the life of the loan.

9. Are you having so much trouble making your payments you don't think you could qualify for a new loan?

10. How can you get help if you have a troubled loan? (Jean's take: You may be one of the tens of thousands of Americans holding a mortgage you can no longer afford to pay. If so, you need to renegotiate with your lender to stay out of foreclosure. You may even get some relief from Washington. In December 2007, the administration finalized a plan that would freeze interest rates for thousands of homeowners whose loans were due to reset. If you need help, call the Home Ownership Preservation Foundation's hotline at 888-995-4673. A counselor will refer you to a local advocacy group that can help you renegotiate your loan.)
Please note: This is general information and is not intended to be legal advice. You should consult with your own financial advisor before making any major financial decisions, including investments or changes to your portfolio, and a qualified legal professional before executing any legal documents or taking any legal action. Harpo Productions, Inc., OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Discovery Communications LLC and their affiliated companies and entities are not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your financial or legal decisions.

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