(The following is a review of a shareware program for IBM and compatible computers. The program is available from bulletin boards and computer clubs. Users can try it, then pay a fee to register if they decide to use it regularly. See below for more details.)
If you're thinking about buying, renting, refinancing or doing just about anything with real estate, a new program from IEG Consultants in San Jose, Calif., will answer just about any real estate financial question you might have.
The Smart Homeowner is geared for PC or laptop users who aren't into big-time number crunching. It will run on just about any kind of IBM or compatible computer and could be useful for real estate agents as well as shoppers and homeowners. It's divided into two parts: Smart Buyer Mode and Smart Owner Mode.
For buyers, it tackles such questions as:
How much home can I afford?
Should I buy or rent?
Which loan should I choose?
Should I assume an existing loan?
What is the true interest rate on my loan?
You're also given loan payment schedules and clear, simple advice after you fill in the blanks.
When you're trying to decide whether you can afford a home, you tell the Smart Homeowner how much you earn, how much you have in savings, your monthly debts and a few other financial questions. In a flash you're told how much of a loan you can afford -- and how much you can spend on a house.
If you're renting, you'll see just how much you're spending to make your landlord rich compared with how much equity you could be building in your dream home.
For homeowners, the following questions are answered simplby filling in the blanks:
How much could I save if I prepay my mortgage? Prepaying $100 a month could reduce some 30-year loans to 20-year loans. Think about that for a moment.
Should I refinance? This mode tells anyone who hasn't refinanced in the last year or so how much can be saved by taking advantage of lower interest rates.
Should I take out a home equity loan? This mode tackles the tax advantages of borrowing against your house.
Should I sell or rent my home? There are lots of opportunities for "what-if" scenarios here, as well as with other parts of the program.
There are lots of shareware programs out there that handle bits and pieces of real estate questions, but The Smart Homeowner delivers all the answers you need, except for where the money is coming from. Look for version 1.0 or higher on bulletin boards, where it's likely to be listed as HOME.ZIP. After trying it, registration costs $38.95.
(For a copy of The Smart Homeowner, send $7 each, plus tax for Californians, to Shareware, P.O. Box 7037, Long Beach, Calif. 90807. Phone (800) 395-7797. Fax (310) 426-0110. A catalog on a disk costs $2. Please specify 5.25- or 3.5-inch disks.)