Q: While in California recently, I became intersted in purchasing a home. I applied for a $60,000 loan at a California bank and was quoted an interest rate of 11 1/8 percent. I paid a $100 down payment to cover the cost of processing my loan application and signed the necessary papers. When I checked at the real estate broker's office about an hour later, there was a note from the loan officer stating that she had made a mistake and that the rate had gone up to 11 3/8 percent. Is this legal? I had made the down payment assuming that the interest rate was 11 percent.

A: Your "down payment" was a processing fee that mortgage lenders, bankers and brokers normally charge for processing your loan application. At that point, it doesn't commit the bank to a specific interest rate. You can withdraw your loan application and request the return of the processing fee. It's speculative, however, whether you'll have it returned. Based on your description, there's almost certainly no binding contract between you and the bank at that time. But you can ask other lenders about their rates.

Q: Some time ago you answered a question on gas and oil-rights drawing and how it works. What agency conducts the drawing? 'do I have to pay an agent a filing fee?

A: The Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management handles the oil and gas rights "simultaneous drawing system." You can file directly with that agency and avoid paying a fee to a filing agent. (But you'll still have to pay a $10 entry fee to that agency.) For information on how to do this, write: Bureau of Land Management, Department of Interior, 19th and E streets NW, Washington 20240. Ask the agency to send you a list of their field offices and other information on filing.