There’s a fine line these days between fear-mongering and being responsive to consumers’ timely concerns. When I first scanned the cover of "Navigating the Mortgage Minefield," my neurolinguistically programmed hackles went up, and I braced myself for a barrage of foreclosure horror stories, easy on the useful advice. By and large, that’s the stuff that rushed-to-the-presses-while-the-topic-is-still-hot books are made of.

Then I opened the book, and was pleasantly surprised.

Book review
Title: "Navigating the Mortgage Minefield: Your Complete Guide to Avoiding Costly Problems and finding the Right Loan in Today’s Market"
Authors: Richard Giannamore and Barbara Bordow Osach
Publisher: AMACOM, April 2009, 240 pages, $17.95 list ($14 on Amazon.com).

There’s a fine line these days between fear-mongering and being responsive to consumers’ timely concerns. When I first scanned the cover of "Navigating the Mortgage Minefield," my neurolinguistically programmed hackles went up, and I braced myself for a barrage of foreclosure horror stories, easy on the useful advice. By and large, that’s the stuff that rushed-to-the-presses-while-the-topic-is-still-hot books are made of.

Then I opened the book, and was pleasantly surprised.

Rather than being written by, uh, writers, "Navigating the Mortgage Minefield" was penned by actual mortgage professionals, whose real-world experience breaking down potentially scary topics — from lenders’ assessment of risk to why the Dow Jones impacts your mortgage — to real-life clients in plain English is evident throughout.

The best feature of this mortgage manual, however, is its coverage of less-frequently taught topics of paramount interest to today’s homebuyers and owners. Giannamore and Osach repeatedly reality-check readers, walking them through truly user-friendly analyses of how to determine the true cost of a home, how to tie your mortgage obligations to what you can afford (vs. what you can qualify for), and knowing your financial boundaries — all without being reactionarily overconservative or awfulizing.

Perhaps because they are mortgage brokers, they guide readers to understand the motivations and compensation structure of mortgage professionals, without issuing a blame fatwa on the mortgage industry for the nation’s housing woes. They even offer a truly fair and balanced assessment of when the more funky loan types (e.g., interest-only, option ARMs, two-step mortgages) do make sense, bucking the trend of condemning such loans as inherently evil, but providing pullout boxes describing the decision traps into which many Americans fell in relation to these loan types (example, "focusing only on the monthly payment can get you into a house you cannot afford.")

"Navigating the Mortgage Minefield" simplifies topics that tend to mystify mortgage consumers while still affording readers some respect for their intelligence, via its decision to tackle more nuanced topics like which financial indicators to watch after closing.

In the appendices, the authors actually attempt to handle the topics of loan modification and the recent federal foreclosure mitigation laws. (With respect to the latter, the effort was more admirable than the result, given that the rapid evolution of federal legislation in this area had rendered the laws cited in the book largely obsolete by the publication date.)

"Navigating the Mortgage Minefield" offers a no-nonsense primer on mortgage matters that would be a useful reference for thinking mortgage consumers, whether they are buying, refinancing, or simply trying to make smart mortgage decisions — and hold onto their homes.

Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of "The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook" and "Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions." Ask her a real estate question online or visit her Web site, www.rethinkrealestate.com.

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