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Mortgage rates and rents expected to rise in 2013

A woman walks past a Wells Fargo Home

A woman walks past a Wells Fargo Home Mortgage office in La Habra, Calif. (Oct. 7, 2010) Credit: AP

Whether you are a homeowner seeking to refinance, a homebuyer or a renter, expect higher housing costs this winter.

Certain mortgage fees are rising, especially for those with small down payments. Luckily for borrowers, low mortgage rates are still around, but they only have one way to go this year, and that's up.

This isn't the time to wait for a better deal. It's time to act.

It's also time to pay close attention to a number of new mortgage regulations that are being released this year. They will help determine who gets a mortgage in the near future.

Expect to see five housing trends this year.

Homebuyers with low down payments will pay higher mortgage insurance premiums when they get a Federal Housing Administration mortgage.

The FHA says it will increase the annual insurance premium that is added to a borrower's monthly mortgage payments by 0.1 percent. It may sound like a small increase, but this hike is on top of numerous insurance premium raises the FHA has implemented since 2008 as part of its ongoing efforts to shore up the FHA's reserves. Industry observers say there's great potential for much higher increases this year.

FHA borrowers are charged about 1.25 percent of the total balance of their loans per year. Before the financial crisis of 2008, the charge was about 0.5 percent.

Because mortgage rates are extremely low, the added cost might not affect borrowers significantly now. That could change once rates rise, says Janneke Ratcliffe, executive director for the Center for Community Capital at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Refinancers and homebuyers who have not taken advantage of the historically low rates shouldn't waste time, mortgage professionals say.

In many parts of the country, rents will continue to climb as the number of available rental apartments shrinks and demand rises.

U.S. apartment vacancies dropped to an 11-year low of 4.5 percent last year's fourth quarter, according to real estate research firm Reis. Foreclosures, still-tight mortgage lending requirements and a weak jobs market are contributing to the surge in demand and rental prices.

Now that the election is over and the "fiscal cliff" ordeal has at least partially been put to bed, President Barack Obama's administration will likely renew its push to help underwater homeowners. That could create refinancing opportunities for homeowners who have not been helped by earlier refinancing programs.

"I do think the administration will return to some of the issues they have previously worked on, in particular refinancing, which I would expect to be highest on their agenda," says Julia Gordon, the Center for American Progress' director of housing finance and policy.

A series of new mortgage and servicing rules is being unveiled early this year. These rules will reshape the mortgage industry and could affect consumers, for better or worse, once they go into effect.

The main rule released so far requires lenders to verify that a borrower has the ability to repay the loan when getting a mortgage. The rule was designed to protect borrowers from the types of risky loans that led to the housing crash.

Mortgage rates jumped the week of Jan. 31, 2013 as investors moved out of the mortgage and U.S. Treasury bond markets to invest in stocks. The rates usually jump when investors exit bonds to invest in the stock market.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose 11 basis points to 3.77 percent. A basis point is one-hundredth of 1 percentage point.

The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage rose 9 basis points to 3.03 percent. The average rate for 30-year jumbo mortgages, or generally for those of more than $417,000, rose 9 basis points to 4.17 percent.

The 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage rose 7 basis points to 2.78 percent. With a 5/1 ARM, the rate is fixed for five years and adjusted annually thereafter.

Reach Polyana da Costa at 

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