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U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman and his wife, Laurie, have refinanced or changed the terms of their mortgage on their St. Paul house 12 times in the past 14 years.
Ramsey County property tax records indicate the Colemans have assumed greater and greater debt, increasing from a 30-year $172,900 mortgage in 1994 to a 30-year $775,000 mortgage the couple took out in March 2007.
Their house on St. Paul's Osceola Avenue has a 2009 estimated market value of $615,000, according to property tax records, suggesting they may owe substantially more than the property is worth.
The extent of the Colemans' refinancing, first reported Thursday by the online political website Politico, comes to light as Coleman faces continued scrutiny over his personal finances. Allegations have been made in two lawsuits that multimillionaire Nasser Kazeminy attempted to steer $75,000 to Coleman last year from an underwater services company in Texas that Kazeminy controls. In addition, Coleman has also faced questions about his living arrangements in Washington and his relationship with businessman and Republican insider Jeff Larson, who owns the million-dollar Capitol Hill row house where Coleman rents a bedroom and bath.
The Politico story, which was written from records the website said were obtained by a Coleman foe, was distributed to Minnesota media on Friday in an e-mail from the state DFL party. But a DFL spokesman said the party would let the story speak for itself.
Coleman spokesman Mark Drake in a statement dismissed any suggestions that there was anything unusual with the Colemans' home financing transactions.
"Like millions of other Americans, Senator Coleman has refinanced the same home he and his family have lived in St. Paul over the years to fix it up, secure more credit and get loan rates," Drake said, declining to comment further.
According to an independent review of Ramsey County property tax records by the Star Tribune, the Colemans' home finance history includes:
• November 1994: 30-year $172,900 mortgage.
• December 1994: second $26,780 mortgage.
• March 1996: new 30-year mortgage for $174,000.
• November 1997: new 30-year mortgage for $199,250.
• February 1999: new 30-year mortgage for $203,600.
• January 2000: 5-year $50,000 line of credit.
• October 2001: 30-year mortgage for $292,000
• October 2002: 5-year $25,000 line of credit.
• August 2003: 30-year mortgage for $320,000.
• January 2004: line of credit increased from $25,000 to $125,000.
• December 2006: 30-year mortgage for $386,000
• March 2007: 30-year mortgage for $775,000
In several cases, particularly in the early years and like many consumers, the Colemans appeared to take advantage of falling interest rates to refinance and secure lines of credit on the value of their house. But the larger loans in 2006 and 2007 could be considered somewhat high, given the softening of the housing market, rising interest rates and the expected hit taken on repeated closing costs.
"It strikes me as an awful lot of times to refinance a home loan, but on the other hand, interest rates have been dropping for the past 14 years and there are certainly circumstances where that type of behavior would make sense," said Alex Stenback, a mortgage broker with Residential Mortgage Group in Minnetonka.
Mark Brunswick • 651-222-1636