From Mortgages to Apparel: Bargains Consumers Should Take Advantage Of

While it may seem as though prices are up on just about everything these days — from food to airfares to hotels to home closing costs — here are a few standout, noteworthy bargains and some ways you should take advantage of the situation at hand:

Mortgage rates

The drop we’re seeing on mortgage rates — fueled by a fall in U.S. bond yields as investors worry about the economy and wonder whether the Federal Reserve will take more steps to stimulate growth — continues. Did you know that, according to Zillow Mortgage Marketplace, the average rate on a 30-year fixed has remained below 4 percent since mid-October. It’s now at 3.42 percent.

Action Plan: With the combination of low interest rates and low home prices, now is the time to make the decision to buy a house (See our list of the best places to buy in 2012). After all, it’s the “perfect storm”!!! And, a word to existing homeowners: consider refinancing to a 20- or even 15-year mortgage instead of the traditional 30-year mortgage, suggests Erin Lantz, director of Zillow Mortgage Marketplace. Given that rates are as low are they are, it’s possible that you may be able to keep your monthly payment fairly close to your current one, and yet you’d pay off your mortgage earlier, build equity at a faster rate and save thousands in interest. Want to run your own numbers and see, specifically, how much you’d save? Go to zillow.com/mortgage-calculator.

Cars/gas

Not only are the rates on auto loans pretty attractive (A 36-month new car loan is currently just 3.11 percent), but when you factor in manufacturer and dealer incentives, combined, things look even more enticing. As for gas prices, remember the headlines a few months ago when it was predicted we’d reach $5 a gallon during the peak summer travel months?! Thankfully, we’re not there: A weak global economy now has us at $3.38 a gallon — that’s 13 percent less than what we paid in April. Have drivers seen the worst? Maybe. Some analysts predict that gas prices will settle below $3 by the fall.

Action Plan: If you’re in the market for a new car, now may be the time to trade in your clunker, which you’ve likely had for 10 years, right? Still paying off your current automobile? Consider refinancing at a lower — and more favorable — interest rate. As for gas prices, just because they’re down, continue to maintain your good driving habits. By that, I mean do what you’ve been doing to get the best fuel economy: schedule regular tuneups, drive steadily, skip the premium (unless your car requires it) and time your fill ups (Prices are typically lowest Tuesday, mid-day or Wednesday mornings).

Apparel

As retailers make way for fall and winter merchandise, they have to get rid of spring and summer-related merchandise — from shorts to tanks to T-shirts, bathing suits and more — says Dan Butler, vice president of retail operations for the National Retail Federation. What this means to you: savings of up to 75 percent.

Action Plan: Stock up while the going’s good! Merchandise is moving quickly; wait much longer, and sizes/colors will be even more limited.

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Vera Gibbons is a financial journalist based in New York City and is a contributor to Zillow Blog. Connect with her at http://veragibbons.com/.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.