Jumbo Rip-Off

Higher rates on big mortgages have little to do with credit risk. It's politics. Here's what to do

Most people will never seek a "jumbo" mortgage--one too big to be sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, the federally chartered agencies that buy mortgages in the secondary market and virtually guarantee the availability of home loans for working stiffs. The breakpoint is high enough--$240,000 this year--that the higher interest rates on loans of that size afflict only one in five buyers nationwide. And so what? They can afford it, right? Don't be so sure. In today's torrid housing market, prices in some regions are escalating far faster than personal income, shoving more home buyers into jumboland without a paycheck...

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