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HERNDON, Va. — Michael David Kerns doesn’t fit the expected profile of an American in a mortgage jam, but as the housing crisis in America filters down to middle class homeowners, that profile will undoubtedly change. Kerns is a scientist at the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. He has a PhD and three graduate degrees and the student loans to prove it. So when Kerns applied for a mortgage to buy a townhome at NIH FCU he said he told the mortgage representative he couldn’t afford more than $1,500 per month.

The “Caveat Emptor” experience he related goes to the heart of understanding how even a highly-educated professional can be laid low by the complex nature of a mortgage transaction, and the difficulty of redoing terms once a buyer feels overwhelmed by the costs. “I trusted the credit union to give me good advice,” he said. “I thought they’d act in my best interest, that’s why I went to them.”

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