As the housing bubble collapses and interest rates rise millions of Americans are about to experience the Bush Boom first hand.
When they refinanced their home two years ago to pay off some bills, Robert, now 78, was working as a deliveryman. But his employer went out of business last April. Now he and Lorraine, 72, a retired nurse, are both seeking work. The rate on their mortgage has jumped from 7% to 10.5%.
The Bush Boom continues — Read More!
They feel alone, but they’re not. America’s five-year real estate boom was fueled partly by a tempting array of cut-rate mortgages that helped millions of Americans qualify for home or refinance loans. To afford soaring home prices, many turned to adjustable-rate and other, riskier loans with low initial payments. The homeownership rate hit a record 70%.
Now, the real estate market is cooling, interest rates are rising and tens of thousands more Americans are starting to have trouble paying their mortgages. Nearly 25% of mortgages — 10 million — carry adjustable interest rates. And most of them went to people with subpar credit ratings who accepted higher interest rates, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
The number of borrowers in trouble will rise this year and peak in 2007 and 2008 as the largest number of mortgages reset to higher rates, according to First American Real Estate Solutions, a real estate data provider.
Already, in West Virginia, Alabama, Michigan, Missouri and Tennessee, about one in five homeowners with a high-interest (subprime) ARM was at least 30 days late at the end of last year, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. After 90 days, the foreclosure clock starts ticking.
Of the 7.7 million households who took out ARMs over the past two years to buy or refinance, up to 1 million could lose their homes through foreclosure over the next five years because they won’t be able to afford their mortgage payments, and their homes will be worth less than they owe, according to Cagan’s research.
The losses to the banking industry, he estimates, will exceed $100 billion. That’s less than the damage from the savings-and-loan crisis in the 1990s, which cost the country $150 billion. “It will sting the economy, but it won’t break it,” he says.