Rate Jump A Rude Awakening For Home Buyers

A home for sale in San Francisco, Calif., Tuesday, May 17, 2005. Sales of existing homes rose 4.5 percent in April to the highest sales pace on record as low mortgage rates continued to fuel a housing boom, The National Association of Realtors reported Tuesday, May 24, 2005.
When Steve Miller went to make an offer on a Minneapolis condo this week, he suddenly found the interest rate he'd been pre-approved for had jumped.

"My mortgage went up a full percentage point, literally overnight this week," Miller told CBS News correspondent Anthony Mason.

Like many home buyers, he's had a rude awakening.

"I was very shocked, taken aback, a little frustrated," Miller said.

With the 30-year, fixed-rate jumping more than half a point in the past five weeks, the payment on a median-priced $220,000 home has risen $76 per month.

That could price more buyers out of an already-slumping housing market.

"It means the correction will be more severe, the price declines more significant," said economist Mark Zandi of Moody's Economy.com. "I do think in all likelihood the correction will now last longer."

By the time it's over next year, Zandi predicts that housing prices will have fallen 10 percent across the country.

"It is a very significant correction — the biggest one we've seen in the post-World War II period," he said.

Higher interest rates overseas have led to the spike in rates here. It's hitting lower-income home buyers hardest. Many of them bought adjustable-rate mortgages that will now increase.

More than 15 percent of those so-called sub-prime loans are now delinquent.

In Dallas, the EMC Mortgage Group has set up a 50-operator hotline to help the growing number of its half-million clients at risk of losing their homes because they can't make the payments.

"We've seen a 15 percent increase in calls from our customers," said David Little of EMC Mortgage.

Little expects the hotline will be needed for a while.

"I think this period is going to be a longer period rather than a shorter period, yes," Little said.

In part, analysts say, that's because higher mortgage rates are here to stay.