The Affluent, Too, Couldn't Resist Adjustable Rates

The Affluent, Too, Couldn't Resist Adjustable Rates

They took out adjustable-rate mortgages at the peak of the housing bubble to buy homes they would otherwise not be able to afford. Or they refinanced existing mortgages to take cash out. And now, two or three years later, the day of reckoning is here.

These are not lower- and middle-income borrowers, but more affluent consumers with annual incomes of $100,000 or more who are increasingly being ensnared in the home mortgage crisis.

People in all income categories “are facing the shock of new payments that can be twice as much as previous ones,” said Susan M. Wachter, professor of business and a real estate specialist at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Nor will falling interest rates help most of these homeowners, as their low initial payments skyrocket and the worth of their homes erodes, said Allen Fishbein, director of housing and credit policy at the Consumer Federation of America.

According to Loan Performance, a unit of First American CoreLogic, a real estate information company based in Santa Ana, Calif., about 870,000 borrowers took jumbo ARMs — mortgages of $417,000 or more — from 2005 to 2007.

In the fourth quarter of 2007, 8.10 percent were two or more payments late, it found, while 2.62 percent were in the foreclosure process and 1.35 percent had been foreclosed. All the numbers were up from the third quarter. 

Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s, predicted that eventually 8 percent of these jumbo ARMs will be foreclosed. In the first quarter of 2008, “the delinquency and foreclosure rate will clearly be higher,” he said.

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