The hardest hit are expected to be people who have less-than-stellar credit and cannot afford to make the new payments. An increase of several hundred dollars a month will force them either to get relief or to default. The prospect of significant and growing losses has already rocked Wall Street and shaken up the broader mortgage markets. And, concerned about the human suffering, policymakers are already searching for ways to help people out.
"The meltdown in the subprime market is the biggest threat to the housing market and the broader economy," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy. com. "It is at the vortex of the problem."
Over the next several months, banks will be changing the "teaser rates" that homeowners received two years ago.
The peak for resetting loans will be in October, when the rates on some $50 billion worth of mortgages are likely to rise by 2 percentage points or more. This could mean a rise of several hundred dollars a month for many borrowers.