Say farewell to mortgage rates in the 3's

The era of the 30-year home mortgage rate in the 3's suddenly appears to be over.

In less than a month, the popular loan option for financing a home purchase has surged by more than a full percentage point. The increase was capped by an eye-catching, quarter-point increase on Friday, mortgage lenders said.

Some lenders were quoting 30-year rates as high as 4.87 percent Friday, compared with 3.65 percent at the beginning of June.

"The market has been so stable for the past two years," said Kim Neilson, executive vice president at McCue Mortgage in New Britain. "We haven't experienced this type of jump in years."

The average rate on a 30-year, fixed mortgage fell to a low of 3.3 percent in early May, according to mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

Neilson said she would be "highly surprised" if the 30-year, fixed-rate home loans dipped below 4 percent again this year. But Neilson expects rates to remain between 4 percent and 5 percent at least through the end of the year.

Rising rates, spurred on by a strengthening economy and federal monetary policy, come as the fragile housing market in Connecticut is starting to show the first signs of recovery.

In May, sales of single-family houses and the corresponding median sale price, where half the sales are above and half below, both rose for the first time since January. The sales were the highest recorded for the month since 2010, especially notable because sales in 2010 were boosted by a federal home buyer tax credit.

The sudden jump could temporarily stall recovery, mortgage lenders say, as borrowers wrestle with the implications of higher rates.

"When something goes up that much, it is too much, too soon," said Michael Menatian, president of Sanborn Mortgage in West Hartford. "It's like sticker shock."

The difference between 3.6 percent and 4.8 percent on a $200,000 mortgage amounts to $140 a month, an increase from $909 to $1,049. (The payment represents principal and interest but doesn't include escrow for real estate taxes or homeowner insurance.)

Higher rates have already cut into refinancing, and borrowers with adjustable-rate mortgages also will feel the pinch, experts say.

Home builders in Connecticut say they are watching the rate increases closely, as new home construction in the state begins to reverse a multiyear slump. Permits for new single-family houses, condominiums and apartment units are up 14 percent through the first five months of this year, compared with the same period last year.

"It's always a concern when rates go up," said Joanne Carroll, a spokeswoman for the Home Builders Association of Connecticut. "For every percentage point or part of a percentage point, you have the possibility of disqualifying people who are on the edge, like first-time home buyers."

But Carroll said that home builders do not believe they would be dealt a serious setback unless 30-year rates rise above 6 percent.

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