Monday, March 1, 2010

Mortgage Rates are Going Up

Newspaper articles over the weekend made it clear what we already knew--mortgage rates are going up. Policies are changing, and banks can only make money by passing some of the charges along. As their ability to make money with fees is curtailed by governmental regulations, it's inevitable that the result will be higher rates.

Banks make money in at least three ways on mortgages. First, they collect fees when the loans are made. This is where the recent oversight by the Feds has led to restrictions on fees of every kind. Secondly, they make income from the servicing of loans; i.e., fees for handling the monthly payments. When a bank sells off loans in the secondary market, either to reduce risk or to preserve capital, it loses those servicing fees. Lastly, they make money from interest on the loan itself. If the first two sources of funds are curtailed in some way, it stands to reason that the banks would need to raise interest rates.

Although we have read a great deal lately about Washington's displeasure with banks and bankers, it does't seem reasonable to expect them to make loans that don't make a profit. After all, they are for-profit entities (and we want them to be, since we don't want to have to keep bailing them out!). In addition, someone has to pay for all the oversight being done; it takes time and employees to answer all the questions and fill out all the forms required by the government. There is a great deal more of that lately, and the costs of compliance have risen.

Therefore, we should all understand that money lost from one source of income must be made up for somewhere else. If we lower credit card rates and fees, or checking account fees, or late fees, something other fee or cost will have to go up. This time, it's mortgage rates.