Some of the highest fixed mortgage rates around the country these days are in the Miami area.
The average rate there on a 30-year fixed loan, adjusted for average points charged, is 9.58%. The national average on this basis is 9.46%, and the lowest rates are in Washington, D.C., with a 9.36% average.
The fixed 30-year is less competitive in Miami because people in the area have a fundamental preference for adjustable rates, according to an economist who studies the Florida market.
"Lenders push the adjustablerate product more than in most areas," said the economist, Wes Basel of Regional Financial Associates. "Miami is a very active market where people do not hold loans very long, so they tend to hold ARMs rather than fixed," he said.
One of the distinctions of the Miami market is the high concentration of condominiums, said Hank Williams, senior vice president at American Savings of Florida.
"It's a different market here because of the condo concentration," he said. American Savings has a strong niche in the condominium market, Mr. Williams said.
In addition to condos, Florida has a large presence of second homes. William M. Griffin, senior vice president at Pan American Mortgage Corp. in Miami, said that financing for a second home can be more expensive than for a primary residence.
"People from all over the world have second homes here, and there is a risk associated with that lending," he said. "If someone from Venezuela has a second home in Miami Beach that he comes to once or twice a year, and there are economic reversals in Venezuela, he may not make the payment on his condo."
When interest rates go up as expected, Mr. Basel said, the banks in Miami don't want to be tied into low-fixed-rate mortgages, so they push the ARMs on consumers by pricing them more competitively.
The interest rate margin has been kept wide because the inflow of deposits has been slow. The deposit rate is heavily influenced by the retired population there, Mr. Basel said, and older people have been investing in money market funds and other mutual funds.
Many Miami banks have been selling real estate holdings they accumulated during the recession to finance loan originations, Mr. Basel said. He said Miami's banks would want to become more competitive in lending when they run out of real estate to sell.