Mortgages Are at Historic Lows, So How Can You Get That Low Rate?

Don't open a card just for a discount. Department stores often try to entice customers with flashy discounts -- if they agree to open an account. This runs the risk of having unmanageable amounts of credit cards and a higher unpaid balance. If you open an account and then immediately close it, that is even worse -- it can hurt your credit score twice!

During her appearance on "GMA," Willis also encouraged homeowners who were looking to refinance their mortgages to get their own home appraisal.

How to Get Your Home Appraised Independently

Appraisals determine the value of a home based on other comparable houses in the neighborhood that have been sold recently or are up for sale.

Websites like and provide free opinions of a home's value, and independent appraisers are available, as well, to give you an estimate. With fees ranging from $250 to $500, appraisers can be costly, but they are also more accurate. Make sure your appraiser meets the following qualifications:

Licensed member of a national organization. The Appraisal Institute and the National Association of Independent Fee Appraisers (NAIFA) have databases of credible appraisers who work all over the country. Organizations like these have a code of ethics that their members pledge to uphold.

Geographically competent and state licensed. Working with an appraiser who is well-versed in your area increases the chance that the value for your home quoted in the report will be accurate.

Absent from the exclusionary list. If you're working with a seller, ask him or her to check if the appraiser's name is on the Freddie Mac exclusionary list. The list is updated monthly with names and addresses of appraisers that have been prohibited from participating in transactions involving Freddie Mac mortgages.

If a value is given that you believe is less than what your home's value should be, you can submit an appeal. Sometimes appraisers neglect to include similar, recently sold properties or omitted renovations and other characteristics of a home that could increase its value. Also if you've recently financed your home or received a home equity loan, a professional appraisal may already be available.

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