Mortgage lenders took more steps this week to broaden their consumer appeal by introducing new products:

Countrywide Funding Corp., Pasadena, Calif., is making a pitch for the growing home equity market with its fixed-rate equity loan. The loan will allow homeowners to borrow a set amount at a fixed interest rate.

The fixed monthly rates will be repaid in equal monthly installments over the term of the loan. According to Countrywide, the loans will offer better qualifying ratios and higher loan-to-value ratios.

The lender is hoping that the new home equity offering will increase broker business by appealing to consumers who want the security of a fixed monthly payment. Additionally, Countrywide is hoping to cash in on the upcoming holiday and property-tax seasons.

"(Mortgage brokers) will undoubtedly find a ready market for home equity products at this financially demanding time of the year," said Joe Harvey, executive vice president of Countrywide's wholesale lending division. "Mortgage brokers can expand their product line and better compete in their marketplace."

Mr. Harvey is looking for the product to appeal to both new borrowers and past customers who have refinanced or purchased a home in the past few years.

The second new product, from Republic Mortgage Insurance Co., of Winston-Salem, N.C., is also designed to provide the consumer with additional flexibility, and a broker with more options.

Zero initial premium (ZIP) monthlies feature no mortgage insurance payment at closing, allowing borrowers to reduce closing costs, and lenders to reduce paperwork and services and streamline transactions.

The loans will provide initial mortgage insurance from the loan closing date until the first principal and interest payment. ZIP monthlies will also synchronize principal and interest payments with mortgage insurance payments.

The coverage term of the loans will be standardized from first of the month to first of the month, making servicing volume more predictable.

Republic will offer ZIP monthlies at the same rates as traditional monthlies.

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