Housing's recovery can be expected to withstand the effect of initial rate hikes.

Wall Street Journal staffer Steven Russolillo reports that a spectre of gradually rising interest rates will likely not harm the progress of recovery playing out across the housing economy.

With rates, he conjectures, it's less about an upward tick by tick trajectory, than about the element of surprise, which worked to such a negative effect in mid-2013, with the first hint of rising rates to come. Russolillo writes:

Today, there is little shock value in the expected rate increase. And housing conditions remain favorable ahead of the Fed’s big move. The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 3.8% in October, the lowest since April, according to Freddie Mac.

The loosening of credit conditions also has helped the housing market. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac cut down-payment standards late last year. The Federal Housing Administration earlier this year reduced the premium it charges for insuring mortgages.

What this analysis does not address is whether the first spike up in rates will pull forward some pent-up demand among people who've been on the sidelines, wanting to move before rates start rising to the point where monthly payments would be significantly affected.

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