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National News

October 5, 2013

U.S. housing rebound likely to handle spike in rates

LOS ANGELES (AP) — When mortgage rates began climbing in May from rock-bottom lows, Kevin Williams worried he might miss out on an opportunity.

So he listed his home in Orange County, Calif., and planned to buy a bigger house in San Diego after it sold. The process took all summer. Last week, he and his wife locked in a mortgage.

The extra time added at least $1,000 more a year than if they had secured a loan in May. Still, Williams believes they made a prudent decision.

“I don’t know what rates are going to be in four years,” he said. “I felt I had to act now before I was priced out.”

Williams’ justification — buy now or risk paying more later — is why many brokers and analysts remain confident that the housing recovery can handle higher mortgage rates. While the jump in rates should test the strength of the recovery, analysts foresee stable sales increases over the next year for a number of reasons.

Fall is typically a sleepy time for sales and nationally signed contracts are starting to decline. Yet several brokers say buyer traffic remains strong in key markets like Los Angeles, the Washington metro area, Silicon Valley and Boston.

Home prices have been rising at the fastest pace since 2006, helping Americans regain wealth they lost during the housing crisis. Many would-be sellers have been waiting out the downturn and could put their houses on the market in the next year. That should ease supply constraints, one of the biggest obstacles for sales over the past year.

Financing a home is still more affordable than in decades past. The average rate on a 30-year mortgage remains a bargain at below 5 percent, and many buyers sense it won’t stay that low for long.

There’s also pent-up demand. A growing number of people are moving out from group homes or with relatives to form their own households, according to U.S. Census data. Sales typically increase when households grow.

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