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HOME RESOURCES : Free Pamphlets Offer Expert Advice

April 18, 1993|KAREN E. KLEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Klein is a Monrovia free-lance writer. and

Have you ever stumbled ignorantly through a complicated real estate transaction or home remodeling project, relying on advice from friends, only to come across a little booklet that could have told you how to do the whole thing the right way?

Instead of charging ahead blindly, why not first take advantage of the host of free--or almost free--advice on a wide variety of topics published by the state and federal government, trade groups, lenders and nonprofit agencies?

Although the list of available free information is long, some of the best offerings are listed below grouped by interest category:

Home Buyers

First-time home buyers need all the help they can get when it comes to understanding the real estate game. A number of groups publish information for those entering the market.

One of the most basic publications, "Home Buyer's Vocabulary," defines common words and terms used in the real estate world. You can get it by sending $1 to the Consumer Information Center, Dept. 123Z, Pueblo, Colo. 81009.

The Consumer Information Center, part of the U.S. General Services Administration, publishes a catalogue four times a year listing more than 200 booklets not only on housing but also on health, employment, finances, hobbies, travel and other topics. To obtain a free copy of the catalogue, write Consumer Information Catalogue, Pueblo, Colo. 81009.

Great Western Bank offers two good, nonpartisan brochures. "How to Shop for a Home" provides information on picking a realtor, finding the right neighborhood and what to expect when applying for a loan. "How to Shop for a Loan" describes various types of mortgages, sources of financing and includes a list of questions consumers should ask when comparison shopping among lenders.

You can get both booklets, along with a "mortgage calculator" to help you figure out your monthly payments at various interest rates, at most Great Western loan offices. Or you can order them by calling (800) 492-7587.

A couple more good pamphlets on home buying and getting a loan come from Home Savings of America. Pick up your free copies of "HouseHunt" or "LoanHunt" by calling or dropping by the Home Savings branch nearest you.

The Mortgage Bankers Assn. of America publishes a brochure on the various types of home loans and a primer on the loan application process. It can be obtained by sending a letter-sized, self-addressed stamped envelope to the group's Consumer Affairs Department, P.O. Box 65299, Washington, D.C. 20035.

Seasoned investors, as well as first-time buyers, may be interested in "How to Buy a Foreclosed Home," a brochure that discusses the opportunities in foreclosures and details the program operated by the Federal National Mortgage Assn.

Fannie Mae also offers other brochures, including one that describes the mortgage loan process and one that describes its "3/2 loan program," which allows buyers to purchase a home with a down payment as low as 3%. The pamphlet includes a list of lenders who are making the loans.

You can get all that information by calling (800) 7-Fannie, or writing to "Fannie Mae," Public Information Office, 3900 Wisconsin Ave. N.W., Washington D.C. 20016.

If it's a condominium you're thinking about buying, you might want to send for "Consumer's Guide to Buying a Condominium," a booklet offered by the Institute of Real Estate Management. Free copies can be obtained by writing to the Institute of Real Estate Management, Attention: Customer Service, 430 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

Homeowners

Homeowners interested in energy efficiency, insulation, solar power systems and other energy-related topics can write to a service operated by the U.S. Department of Energy for free fact sheets and other source materials. To get a free listing of the information available, call (800) 523-2929 or write CAREIRS, P.O. Box 8900, Silver Spring, Md. 20907.

If you want to do your part in cleaning up the environment, you can get a list of ecologically safe alternatives to store-bought commercial products by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Citizens for a Better Environment, 122 Lincoln Blvd., Suite 201, Venice, Calif. 90291. A similar list can be obtained by writing People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, P.O. Box 42516, Washington, D.C. 20015.

If you're concerned about contamination in your home, ranging from asbestos to lead paint, get the "Homebuyer's Guide to Environmental Hazards," by sending 50 cents to the Consumer Information Center, Dept. 435Z, Pueblo, Colo. 81009.

Many local water and power companies offer free water-saving kits and energy conservation tips. Their telephone numbers are in the white pages of the telephone book. Local officials also provide a number of free booklets on conservation, as well as on crime-fighting, disaster preparedness and service directories. Stop by your city hall or call your local city or county officials.

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