If you’re familiar with Bill Maher’s HBO talk show, "Real Time," you’re familiar with his "New Rules" segment at the close of each episode, in which he articulates the rules he’d lay down if he ruled the world — hilariously or outrageously, depending on your particular political leanings.

Dale Robyn Siegel’s new book, "The New Rules for Mortgages," might not be quite as entertaining as Maher’s New Rules, but it is certainly more usable by the average mortgage consumer.

Editor’s note: Tara-Nicholle Nelson will lead a free webinar from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m PDT (1 p.m. to 2 p.m. EDT) on Thursday, Oct. 8: "Three Low-Cost Ways to Make More Money by Connecting with Women Real Estate Consumers." Women make or influence an estimated 91 percent of real estate decisions, and they think about, shop for and buy homes differently than men. Click here to register and find out more about real estate’s gender factor.

Book Review
Title: "The New Rules for Mortgages"
Author: Dale Robyn Siegel
Publisher: Alpha, September 2009; 224 pages; $14.95 list ($10.76 on Amazon.com)

If you’re familiar with Bill Maher’s HBO talk show, "Real Time," you’re familiar with his "New Rules" segment at the close of each episode, in which he articulates the rules he’d lay down if he ruled the world — hilariously or outrageously, depending on your particular political leanings.

Dale Robyn Siegel’s new book, "The New Rules for Mortgages," might not be quite as entertaining as Maher’s New Rules, but it is certainly more usable by the average mortgage consumer.

Siegel’s day job as a mortgage broker gives her the (Wall and Main) Street credibility on the topic of what it takes — right now — to get a mortgage that is so lacking in many mortgage how-to titles.

As such, "The New Rules for Mortgages" is written in the demystifying, real-world educational voice of one whose job it is to empower borrowers with just the facts they actually need to know to prepare themselves to qualify for and choose the right home loan for them.

The book is meant to be a guidebook of sorts for today’s mortgage consumers, many of whom are stunned to find themselves in a totally new lending landscape, just as they thought they had gotten a grasp on mortgage basics and as they finally had the ability (due to the drop in home prices) and the incentive (due to the first-time homebuyer’s credit) to break into the market.

Siegel provides a helpful primer on what she calls "The All-Important Credit Score," including "Credit Boosters," "Credit Killers," and (in a particularly timely touch) the impact of foreclosures, bankruptcies and judgments on one’s credit — as well as tips for improving your credit score quickly.

She moves on to discuss income documentation in all its various iterations, and the cash lenders now require borrowers to put into their transactions — both of which are next-generation mortgage guidelines in this post-stated-income, post-"no-money-down" era. Similarly, in her coverage of appraisals and mortgage types, Siegel devotes timely treatment to issues like the challenges presented by appraisal in a declining market and private mortgage insurance.

Finally, Siegel wraps the book up by briefing the reader on where to find a loan, what to expect from the loan process, rates and closing, and special loan types (e.g., loans for everything from mobile homes to multi-family properties). …CONTINUED

While the book is definitely a step in the right direction of providing updated mortgage basics in a rapidly changing market, at least one omission was glaring, given the book’s otherwise obvious (and largely successful) effort to put readers’ fingers on the pulse of what is really going on in today’s mortgage market.

The book devotes less than two pages to FHA mortgages, explained only by Siegel’s statement that she doesn’t work with them in her own practice. Five years ago, this would have made sense, given the small numbers of FHA loans used vs. conventional loans.

However, FHA loans now make up approximately one-third of all loans originated. Even more significant: FHA loan guidelines and mandates are among today’s mortgage consumers’ most frequently asked questions, because they reflect the biggest change from the old rules for mortgages.

Even with the quasi-tragic omission of a substantive discussion of FHA loans and the new mortgage rules they have occasioned, the average borrower will find the book to be a useful first step in understanding how the mortgage market’s requirements to get in the game have changed since the subprime implosion.

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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