DEAR BENNY: I have an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) with one more year to go. When is the best time to refinance? Also, should I get an equity line of credit for household emergencies or home improvements? --Michael DEAR MICHAEL: Your second question is easy. I strongly recommend that every homeowner who has some equity in his or her house get a HELOC, or home equity line of credit. Many banks will not charge any fees for setting this up. The advantage of such a loan is that you do not have to pay any interest (or any monthly mortgage payments) until such time as you begin to borrow money -- i.e., tap into the line of credit. To me, it's a checkbook in a desk drawer -- ready to be used for that rainy day. Your first question is much more difficult. You have to review the terms and conditions of your ARM loan. Is there a cap on the amount that your loan can increase every year? Many ARMs will go up (or down) no more than 2 percent per year, with a lifetime cap of 5 or 6 percent. Let's ...
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