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Bargains for Brave Consumers

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april14homespunweb.jpgBy Marshall Loeb

RISMEDIA, April 14, 2008-(MCT)-Let’s say you have some cash on hand, your job (or other source of income) is secure and you love a good bargain. What opportunities might a recession bring?

The battle-scarred veterans of Consumer Reports’ money team suggest seven possible buying opportunities that consumers with cash-and the guts to spend it-may find.

Homes. Home prices are already down in many parts of the U.S. Where they go from here is anybody’s guess, but few expect them to rise at a steep pace anytime soon. So if you’re in the market for a home, now could be a good time to start looking and get a baseline feel for the market _ even if you decide to hold off buying for a while.

Mortgages. Interest rates are already relatively low, averaging about 5.5% for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. Credit standards have been tightening, though, so expect higher hurdles in getting the very best rates.

Stocks. Some are sure to become bargains, but unless you’re a stellar stock picker, consider a no-load stock index fund and hope to benefit from an overall rise in the market. Keep in mind that stock prices will often start upward well before a recession ends, as investors look ahead to better times.

Credit cards. People with good credit scores should have a golden opportunity to negotiate for lower rates. Issuers will want to hold onto creditworthy customers more than ever.

EBay stuff. People eager to raise cash may be auctioning off knickknacks and whatnots in record numbers. So that Pee-wee Herman doll or first edition of Proust you’ve long wanted could be yours for the clicking.

Home remodeling. Lower demand should mean more room to bargain and, possibly, less wait to get the work started. If you need to finance your home improvement, you might also find favorable borrowing terms if your credit score is high.

Travel. Our travel expert says to expect fare cuts from the airlines, but beware of the carrier going bankrupt before you can use your ticket. Hotels and rental cars should see cuts too.

One final tip: if it’s something you can put off until the economic clouds clear (cosmetic dentistry versus an aching tooth, for example), demand should drop and prices along with it. And it rarely hurts to haggle-even in the best of times.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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