Remember the old $417,000 limit for "conforming" mortgages, those loans that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can buy? Yeah, the limit that was temporarily raised. Well, it's been temporarily raised again, this time as part of the stimulus package. These limits, which range across the country, are good through the end of the year.

In the Baltimore metro area -- the city plus Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, Howard and Queen Anne's counties -- you'll be in the conforming range with a loan as big as $560,000. (In the Washington metro area, the limit is $729,750 -- that's as high as it goes in the U.S.)

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These limits mean that fewer buyers or refinancing homeowners will need "jumbo" mortgages, which have higher interest rates. The federal government says 250 counties have limits above $417,000.

You can see all the conforming limits at the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The limit in the early 1970s, the agency notes by way of comparison, was $33,000.

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