Mortgage interest rates on the rise, some Wichita-area lenders say

The days of getting mortgage interest rates in the 3 percent range are most likely over, area mortgage lenders and Realtors said.

The average rate on a 30-year conventional fixed-rate loan in the area is above 4 percent, they said, and most in the industry said the expectation is that it won’t dip lower.

“They are gone,” said Mitch Crouch, senior vice president of Pulaski Bank.

It’s not clear, however, just how the uptick in rates will affect area home sales, which have been steadily increasing for more than a year.

The monthly principal and interest payment on a $200,000 mortgage with a 4 percent rate would be $955, Crouch said. If that rate increased to 4.5 percent, the monthly principal and interest payment would be about $1,013 a month. At a 5 percent rate, it would be $1,074, he said.

Crouch thinks increasing rates will motivate those on the fence about buying a house to do so – sooner instead of later.

“They’re still considerably low,” Crouch said. “If there was ever a time to buy real estate, now is the time to leverage yourself.”

But John McKenzie, CEO and broker of Coldwell Banker Plaza Real Estate, said he worries that it could affect first-time home buyers. It also could have an effect on the purchase of higher-priced homes.

“It’s going to cause (house) values to go up and purchasing power to go down,” McKenzie said. But, he added, he doesn’t think the increases are enough to stall the year-plus-long trend of rising area home sales.

“Anybody sitting out there waiting for (rates) to go back down, it’s not going to happen,” McKenzie said.

And not all lenders are convinced that rates won’t drop below 4 percent again.

Paul Sansgaard, senior manager of consumer loans for Intrust Bank, said interest rates climbed above 4 percent for a brief time last year.

“I don’t know that it’s impossible they won’t go a little lower,” Sansgaard said.

He and Crouch said the reason rates have climbed to 4 percent and higher in recent weeks is because of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s announcement in late June that the Fed could slow its pace of a bond-buying program starting this year.

“There’s a lot of things that factor into interest rates,” Sansgaard said.

Even at 4 or 4.5 percent, interest rates are still relatively low.

“They are still very, very good,” he said.

Tessa Hultz, CEO of the Wichita Area Association of Realtors and the South Central Kansas Multiple Listing Service, said looking at data dating back to 1971, a rate of around 4 percent is “still within historic lows.”

“On a personal note, we’re back to where I locked in my mortgage back in August of 2010,” she said. “It was an unbelievable rate then. … It’s (still) an unbelievable rate when you look back.”