Here's a special Christmas installment of Do's and Don'ts for prospective buyers or refinancing homeowners embarking on, or already engaged in the  mortgage process.  In case it needs to be said, the "Don'ts" are strictly for comedy (though many are based on real world examples of things that will kill or greatly delay the mortgage process and/or impact your satisfaction with your new home).

The "Do's," on the other hand, are potentially valuable nuggets of information that may greatly benefit your mortgage experience.  In fact, most of them can end up making a difference in the success or failure of a loan, and at the very least, can help avoid costly delays.

Do: Budget your holiday gift purchases carefully to ensure you don't alter your debt to income ratio and endanger your loan approval.
Don't: Invest your entire down payment in Mega Millions tickets in hopes of winning enough cash to avoid needing a mortgage.
Do: Remember that lenders, title companies, and other service providers often work reduced hours near the end of the year.
Don't: Ask your loan officer if you can set your closing for 7 PM on New Year's Eve "since you don't have any big plans that night anyway."
Do: Ask your Realtor if there are any unusual items in the sellers' disclosure for the home you are considering.
Don't: Call the Travel Channel's "Ghost Hunters" and ask if they will host an overnight lockdown to check the home for the Ghost of Christmas Past.
Do: Remember the holiday season's hectic schedule when you ask your Realtor to show you houses.
Don't: Ask your loan officer if he can escort your children to visit Santa at an area mall while you tour homes.
Do: Apply for a mortgage immediately after your contract is accepted to ensure a timely closing.
Don't: Wait until only 2 weeks remain before closing before submitting your loan application "because Christmas is just a very busy time".
Do: Remember that sellers often bake cookies before open houses to enhance their homes' appeal.
Don't: Make a rash sales offer after consuming multiple slices of seller provided, bourbon laced fruitcake at a home for sale.
Do: Take advantage of motivated retailers' sales to obtain discounted Christmas presents.
Don't: Open 6 new charge accounts a week before your closing to save 20% on assorted gifts for family members.
Do: Notice how neighbors display holiday decorations near homes you're considering.
Don't: Make a sales offer on a house solely because your icicle Christmas lights match those installed on nearby homes.
Do: Feel free to invite your loan officer and Realtor to a post closing, holiday gathering at your new home.
Don't: Ask if they will "help out a little" by preparing and serving hors d'oeuvres and drinks, allowing you to save on catering costs.
Do: Realize that lenders and agents sometimes provide housewarming gifts to their clients at closing.
Don't: Give them your wife's "wish list" in hopes they'll purchase an acceptable Christmas gift for her, saving you valuable football viewing time.