Mortgage rates crossed the 5 percent line on Wednesday for the first time since 2011, marking a new era for a generation of Americans raised on super-low borrowing rates and highlighting the downside of a burgeoning national economy.

Strengthening economic growth, near-record low unemployment, inflation rates and policy moves by the Federal Reserve have all contributed to move the needle beyond the psychological 5 percent barrier.

Paying down debt to lower the percentage of the credit you have improves your credit score, which positively affects the rate, says John Horton, vice president and senior residential sales manager in the Chicago region at Associated Bank. Homebuyers should therefore consider a smaller place or different neighborhood.

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