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Rubio's mortgage mess

Rubio State House Speaker Marco Rubio abruptly amended his financial disclosure forms Friday after The Miami Herald asked why they lacked a $135,000 home-equity loan he obtained from a bank controlled by his political supporters.

Rubio and his wife bought the West Miami home for $550,000 in December 2005, with a $55,000 down payment. A month later, Rubio qualified for the equity loan from Miami-based U.S. Century Bank because an appraisal valued the home far higher than the purchase price: $735,000.

Real-estate experts said the deal -- on which Rubio gained $185,000 in equity in just 37 days -- was unusual. But the 36-year-old Republican said Friday that it was all above board, that he obtained no special favors and that the failure to disclose the loan was just ``an oversight.''

''There's nothing unusual about the loan or the application,'' Rubio said. ``They went out and ordered the appraisal.... They said I qualified for $135,000. I took the equity line.''

Rubio said the appraisal was legitimate, considering the heady days of Miami's real estate boom, but experts aren't so sure.

''It looks a lot like somebody's currying favor with an important political person,'' said Michael Cannon, a market analyst and executive director of Integra Realty Resources-Miami whose real estate column appears in The Herald. ``People off the street don't get this deal because he just purchased the property for $550,000. If it is a true equity loan, there has to be equity in the house to make the loan.''

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