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Expert Sees Higher Rates Ahead

TMBA president Scott Norman speaks in El Paso

April 13, 2011

By VIC KOLENC El Paso Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

The head of a Texas mortgage trade group sees a tempered rise in interest rates ahead. He also warns that the difficulty of qualifying for a real estate loan remains high.

Home mortgage rates may go up slightly in coming months, and getting mortgage loans will probably continue to be difficult for some consumers, a Texas mortgage industry expert said Tuesday during a visit to El Paso.

"We may see an uptick in mortgage rates as the economy improves" but rates should remain below 6 percent this year and next year, Scott Norman, president of the Texas Mortgage Bankers Association, said in an interview before he spoke at a luncheon of El Paso mortgage bankers.

Rates for a 30-year mortgage have averaged just under 5 percent in recent weeks.

Getting a mortgage loan "has the potential to be a little bit harder" depending on what laws Congress passes in coming months, Norman said.

"I do think that some of the loans made in the last three to four years probably shouldn't have been made," Norman said. He added that he hopes Congress won't try to over-regulate the mortgage industry, which could slow down growth in the real estate industry.

"I think the (Texas mortgage) market today is as healthy as it has been in the last 20 years," Norman said.

"Foreclosure rates and delinquency rates are lower in Texas than in almost every other state in the country," Norman said.

He noted that El Paso's foreclosure rates are lower than rates for the entire state.

Texas lost about 10,000 mortgage bankers and brokers in the past seven years, which has left the true mortgage professionals, he said.

The future of the Federal National Mortgage Association, or Fannie Mae, and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., or Freddie Mac, created by Congress years ago to buy and guarantee home mortgages, is uncertain.

"I'd be surprised if they are totally phased out," Norman said. "But the mortgage landscape will look totally different in five years than it does today."

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