AUSTIN, Texas-Race and ethnicity play key roles in the cost of refinance loans, according to a recent study by Consumers Union of Texas lenders. High-cost lenders particularly single out blacks and Hispanics, the study found. Consumers Union's study demonstrates that black borrowers are 3.9 times as likely to end up with a refinance loan from a high-cost "subprime" lender than whites, and Hispanics are 1.6 times more likely, even after income and the borrower's loan-to-income ratio were factored out of the equation. Consumers Union Southwest Regional Senior Staff Attorney Rob Schneider said that borrowers refinancing their homes with subprime lenders generally pay nearly $2,000 more in interest each year. Austin Tenants Council's Fair Housing Program Director Mary Daniels Dulan explained that subprime lenders target minorities in the area through zip codes, offering `no hassle' loans regardless of credit history. She asserted that the problem is amplified because many minorities traditionally do not approach traditional lenders for fear of rejection. Among borrowers earning more than $60,000 annually and borrowing less than 2.5 times their reported income, 16.7% of Whites refinanced using a high-cost subprime company, 30.9% of Hispanics and 46.9% of Blacks. Consumers Union used Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data from 1997-2000. Consumers Union advises borrowers to: *Obtain their credit score and address any errors; *Shop around; *Reject lenders and brokers who require an application fee before giving an estimate; *Walk away if fees are higher than expected; *Ask questions; *Look at the TOTAL finance charge, not just the payment; *Never sign a blank document or leave blanks to fill in later; *Beware promises to refinance at a lower rate later; *Be suspicious of ads promising "No Credit? No Problem!" and *Ignore high-pressure sales tactics.

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