Mortgage rates key to ’15 sales

It’s a big unknown that could have a significant effect on the housing market in 2015.

What will happen to mortgage interest rates?

Rate trends will depend on what the Federal Reserve does with its short-term interest rate, which is near zero. But with the Fed’s bond-buying stimulus wrapped up and economic growth strengthening, that rate will tick up, probably some time in the middle of 2015, observers say.

Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for consumer financial services company Bankrate, said mortgage rates would begin to “move higher” as the timetable for the Fed’s interest-rate hikes “come into focus.”

The Mortgage Bankers Association said it expects the Fed to hold off on its first increase until the middle of 2015. But Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors, said he thinks inflationary pressures of rising wages and higher rents will force a faster move.

Either way, higher rates probably won’t substantially affect markets until the second half of the year, McBride said.

Whenever rates begin to rise, don’t expect them to soar.

McBride said he anticipates the rate on a 30-year, fixed mortgage to stay below 5 percent through 2015’s end. That would still be historically low.

What’s likely, though, is rate volatility.

Rates will hover near 4 percent if there’s “an economic stumble or geopolitical crisis,” McBride said. They could jump as high as 4.9 percent if the Fed raises rates too much or too quickly, or “accidentally” signals an intent to do so, McBride said.

Miles joins nonprofit Group

Local nonprofit Golden Rainbow has named Americana Holdings President Gordon Miles a director.

Miles, who’s responsible for business operations of Americana subsidiary Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices-Nevada Properties, will help build Golden Rainbow’s permanent housing program, one of the only housing initiatives designed for locals living with HIV and AIDS. He will also work on behalf of the nonprofit group’s education and assistance programs, fundraising efforts and annual “Ribbon of Life” benefit.

“Gordon’s participation on our board is another example of the community commitment demonstrated by Berkshire Hathaway,” said Scott Emerson, second vice president of Golden Rainbow and CEO of the Nevada region of the American Red Cross. “His expertise and community connections will support our mission to meet the need for housing and other services for those affected by HIV/AIDS. His dedicated efforts are an inspiration for others in our community.”

Contact Jennifer Robison at Follow @J_Robison1 on Twitter.

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