BY CHARLES BREWER
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Thinking of refinancing your mortgage? With interest rates still low, many are turning to the Internet to find the best deals.
According to Killen Associates, a market research firm, by 2006, 30 percent of people seeking mortgages will be looking on the Internet.
Already a few Web sites are compiling and comparing rates nationwide. Consumers can visit RateNet (http://www.rate.net), which each week lists more than 100,000 bank rates on everything from short-term certificates of deposit to long-term mortgages.
RateNet, which tracks more than 11,000 financial institutions, offers the 10 best rates for 175 markets, as well as ratings of financial stability of institutions.
Most of the rate comparisons are regional, but RateNet also lists banks that will accept deposits or provide loans anywhere in the United States.
RateNet is a relative newcomer to the rate comparison business, which was pioneered by Bank Rate Monitor (http://www.bankrate.com). This site is as much a personal finance magazine as it is a place to compare rates nationwide.
BanxQuote (http://www.banx.com) offers a one-stop consumer finance shopping mall featuring several banks from Ohio to California. There are other sites that advertise mortgage rates from financial institutions that pay to be on the site. One such site is the Lender Showcase (http://www.bankrates.com).
Just as online stock trading has significantly reduced broker fees, many expect Internet mortgage services to increase competition among banks for mortgage customers. While competition probably won't decrease interest rates, it could lower the fees and "points" that banks charge to make mortgages.
Sites scrutinize shootings
The recent spate of shootings in schools across the country has not escaped the Internet, where dozens of sites offer perspectives on the cause of the tragedies.
Aside from the news sites providing coverage of the shootings, many organizations concerned with school violence have sites offering information and resources.
The Secondary School Educators site has a new page of links about preventing and handling school violence (http://7-12educators.tqn.com/msub67schoolsafety.htm), including how to assess school safety.
The American Academy for Adult and Adolescent Psychiatry offers information about firearms and children at the academy's site (http://www.aacap.org/factsfam/firearms.htm).
The National School Safety Center has a site (http://www.nssc1.org) offering resources for parents and educators interested in preventing crime and violence in schools.
And Breakup Girl (http://www.breakupgirl.com/advice/ a Web site offering advice about relationships to girls, discusses the Jonesboro, Ark., shooting, which reportedly was sparked by a girl spurning one of the suspects in the shootings.
Apple polishes image
Apple Computer, which many had given up for dead only a year ago, is making a stunning comeback. The company has turned a profit for two consecutive quarters, makes some of the fastest personal computers on the market, has a jazzy new ad campaign and is introducing a slick new one-piece computer, the iMac.
Apple has even rediscovered the bastions of its long-suffering faithful, the loyal Macintosh users groups. This summer, it will send Apple representatives to visit more than 30 users groups across the United States.
The Apple Summer Tour road show will be visiting Cincinnati this Saturday, in the former Sam Goody store in Forest Fair Mall. The 90-minute presentation will start at 10 a.m.
The Apple reps will demonstrate the latest Macintosh products and will talk about the company's new directions.
The tour is part of Apple's efforts to help its user groups. It also has opened a special Apple Store for user groups members and offers newsletters and Web resources (http://www.apple.com/usergroups/).
Send e-mail to Charles Brewer at CBrewer@enquirer.com.