AKA "The Shocker"

It's 2004 or 2005. You want to get rich quick in the real estate boom. So you buy a house that would normally be out of your price range, except for the creative financing your mortgage broker found you. You get an ultra-low initial interest rate. Sure, it will adjust upward in a few years, but who cares? You can always refinance, right?


Edward Booker is one of nearly 3 million homeowners with adjustable-rate mortgages who've had trouble paying their bills. And, like Booker, many of them won't be able to refinance their loans once the interest rates start rising. At that point, they'll have to tighten their belts, sell their homes or lose them through foreclosure.


Since the start of the year, more lenders have been shutting their doors to people such as Booker, just as those homeowners' interest rates are rising. They're slashing the "Bad credit? No problem" types of loan programs, known as subprime, that helped fuel the housing boom. And they're raising the bar for homeowners and first-time buyers to qualify for new loans.

The trend accelerated last week after federal regulators proposed stricter guidelines for banks that make subprime ARMs (adjustable-rate mortgages). The move followed Freddie Mac's decision to drastically raise the criteria for the subprime ARMs it would buy and to require better proof of a borrower's finances.

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