For today, December 8th, 2021, the current average mortgage rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is 3.330%, the average rate for a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage is 2.560%, and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) is 3.381%. Rates are quoted as annual percentage rate (APR) for new purchase.
A home is one of the biggest purchases you'll ever make. Current mortgage rates are significantly lower than they were a year ago. You can save thousands of dollars simply by paying attention to the interest rate on your loan.
To land the best mortgage deal for you, it's important to shop around with multiple lenders. Check out the most recent mortgage rates and get personalized quotes as well as a full rundown of your estimated monthly payment.
|Product||Interest Rate||Average Points/Credits|
|Fixed 30 Year||3.330%||0.220|
|Fixed 20 Year||3.076%||0.064|
|Fixed 15 Year||2.560%||0.132|
|Fixed 30 Year - FHA||3.393%||0.258|
|Fixed 30 Year - VA||3.111%||0.408|
|Fixed 30 Year - Jumbo||3.292%||-0.018|
|Fixed 30 Year||3.365%||0.531|
|Fixed 20 Year||3.078%||0.449|
|Fixed 15 Year||2.621%||0.342|
|Fixed 30 Year - FHA||3.259%||0.911|
|Fixed 30 Year - VA||2.921%||0.656|
|Fixed 30 Year - Jumbo||3.168%||-0.017|
A mortgage rate is the interest rate you pay on the money you borrow to buy property. Mortgage rates are expressed as a percentage, and they represent the annual cost of the loan. However, mortgage interest isn't calculated annually -- it's usually calculated monthly. You can find out your monthly mortgage rate by dividing your mortgage rate by 12.
On a fixed-rate mortgage, the mortgage rate never changes. If you have an adjustable-rate mortgage, your interest rate can change after every adjustment period.
Here's how your mortgage rate works.
Let's say you get a mortgage for $100,000, and your mortgage rate is 4%. At the end of the first month, your lender charges interest equal to 0.333% (your 4% mortgage rate divided by 12) of your outstanding balance. In this example, that's $333.33.
If this is a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, your lender has figured that you need to pay $477 per month to be free and clear at the end of the loan term. For the first month, then, your $477 payment covers $333.33 in interest, and $143.67 goes toward the $100,000 balance.
Now you owe $99,856.33. Since your balance is lower, the interest charge is also a little lower. In the second month, your $477 payment covers $332.85 in interest plus $144.15 towards the balance.
In this way, you make a little more progress against your principal balance each month over the life of the loan.
A mortgage is a secured loan that uses property as collateral. Most people who buy a home take out a mortgage to do so. You can also use a mortgage to get cash from a lender if you already have equity in a piece of property.
A mortgage is technically only the loan, but other costs might be included in your monthly payment. Many people make a single payment that covers their loan payment, property taxes, homeowners association dues, homeowners insurance, and mortgage insurance.
Mortgages are different from other loans in that they usually cost less than other loans, and the interest may be tax deductible.
When interest rates are high, you get less home for your money. When rates are low, you can shop in a higher price range. In the 1970s, mortgage rates rose from 7% to more than 10%. In the 1980s, rates continued to climb, reaching higher than 18%.
The history of mortgage rates can show you how rate fluctuations affect home affordability. Here's what a home loan payment looks like at different interest rates:
|Year||Mortgage balance||Mortgage rate||Monthly payment|
If your housing budget was $1,000, you would not have been able to borrow $100,000 in the early 1980s. Today you can get a mortgage rate of 3% or even lower. At 3%, the payment on this loan is just $422. So if you can afford $1,000 a month, you could borrow $240,000.
Whether a mortgage rate is good largely depends on context. Today, people who remember the 18% mortgage rates of the 1980s -- or even an 8% rate -- would probably say 5% is a good mortgage rate. Someone who bought a home last year at 2.5% might not think 5% is a good rate today.
A better measure to consider when you are ready to borrow may be today's best mortgage rate. Get your credit score above the threshold for the lowest possible rate (usually 720, but sometimes 740). Save enough money to cover closing costs, moving expenses, and at least 5% down. Excellent credit, sufficient equity, and sufficient cash on-hand are the three main factors that can drive your mortgage interest rate down.
You can find the best mortgage rate by shopping around. In fact, the more lenders you compare, the more you may save on interest rates and fees. First-time home buyers may find lower rates than those typically offered by lenders. In addition, state and local governments often offer programs to support first-time home buyers. Talk to your local housing authority to learn more about your options.
Shopping around is just one way to find a low rate. Rates vary based on the type of loan you want, your down payment size, and your credit score. Each of these factors into your mortgage application and influences the rates available to you. If you're not finding the rates you expect, try looking at other types of loans, offering a larger down payment, or boosting your credit score.
For example, when looking at mortgages, you'll need to decide if you want an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) or a fixed-rate mortgage. ARMs usually offer lower introductory rates. However, those rates usually increase after a time. A fixed-rate loan tends to offer a slightly higher interest rate -- but that rate is fixed for the duration of your loan.
To figure out how much you can afford to borrow to buy a home, look at your income and your debts. The more debt you have, the less money at your disposal for a housing payment. It's in your best interest to knock down debt as much as possible if you want to maximize your home-buying budget.
Add up all of your debt payments each month. Include any payment that you are required to make each month, such as:
Ideally, you want these payments to total no more than about 28% of your before-tax income. You can afford a mortgage payment that brings your total debt up to about 36% of your before-tax income. A mortgage calculator can help you figure out the loan amount for the payment that works for you. But note that your actual monthly mortgage payment will probably also include property taxes, homeowners insurance, mortgage insurance, and HOA fees. So you might not be able to borrow as much as a calculator shows you.
Also, you'll have to take an educated guess at the interest rate based on your credit score. You'll get a customized interest rate from a lender after you apply.
When comparing current mortgage interest rates, start by comparing rates for the same type of loan. Compare 15-year loans to other 15-year loans, and fixed-rate mortgages to other fixed-rate mortgages.
Don't just read about rates online -- apply for prequalification at multiple lenders. When you apply for prequalification, lenders look at factors unique to you, such as your credit score and down payment, when determining your mortgage rate. This can help you more accurately compare different lenders.
Shopping around for the best mortgage lenders is best done in a short time frame. The three major credit reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) encourage borrowers to shop around within a period of 45 days, depending on the bureau. You can apply with any number of lenders within this time frame. No matter how many applications you submit, these credit bureaus will only count one credit inquiry against your credit score.
Each lender you apply with provides a loan estimate. This document outlines a loan's terms and fees. It includes the interest rate, closing costs, and other fees such as private mortgage insurance (PMI). Be sure to compare all of these fees and costs to get a picture of which offers you the best overall deal.
Mortgage rates are determined by a number of factors:
Adjustable-rate mortgages are influenced by the Federal Reserve. When short-term rates go up, so do ARM interest rates. Fixed-rate mortgages are determined by the 10-year Treasury rate. When that rate goes up, so do the interest rates for new fixed-rate mortgages (but not existing ones, whose interest rates cannot change). Fixed-rate mortgage rates may also fluctuate as lenders try to attract customers.
The higher your credit score, the more likely you are to qualify for the lowest rates. Check your credit report and score to see where you stand. It's worth noting that specialized government-backed loans (such as FHA loans and USDA loans) sometimes offer competitive rates for those who qualify, even if they have a less-than-perfect credit profile. There are also some mortgage lenders known for offering mortgages for poor credit.
Loan-to-value is the home's price divided by the mortgage amount. If a home costs $250,000 and you need a $210,000 mortgage to purchase it, your loan-to-value ratio will be 84%, since you're borrowing 84% of the home's value. The higher the ratio, the higher your interest rate is likely to be.
Lenders sometimes offer borrowers a lower interest rate if they buy "points" or "mortgage discount points." Points are prepaid interest. A point usually costs you 1% of your mortgage amount (e.g., $1,000 per point on a $100,000 mortgage) and lowers your rate by one-eighth to one-quarter percent (the amount of the discount varies from lender to lender, and is also based on the details of your loan). Whether points are worth buying depends on how long you intend to live in the house -- for them to be cost-effective, you need to own the home long enough to save more in interest than you pay up front. The longer you keep the house, the more likely you are to save money by purchasing points.
If you're refinancing a mortgage, rates may be higher for a cash-out refinance. Lenders view mortgages for investment properties, second homes, and manufactured homes as riskier, so rates may be higher for those as well.
You should lock in a mortgage rate if you find a rate you're comfortable with and you can afford the monthly payments. In some cases, home buyers will wait to lock in their mortgage rate just in case interest rates go down. But because interest rates are unpredictable, this is risky.
A mortgage rate lock guarantees your interest rate for a certain period of time, typically until your closing date. It usually lasts from the initial loan approval until you get the keys to your new home.
Locking in your rate isn't necessarily just about getting the best rate. A lock also protects you against any rate hikes that happen before closing. It can let you know from the beginning of the process what your monthly payments will be and help you avoid surprises come closing day.
It may seem like there's a lot to learn about buying a home, especially if you're a first-time buyer. If you're still feeling overwhelmed, check out our beginner's guide to home loans. It can help you navigate all the steps, including how to find the best mortgage rates today.
You may hear about different types of mortgages. Here are some terms to be familiar with:
Most mortgages are fixed-rate loans. That means your rate never changes. If you have an adjustable-rate mortgage, your interest rate can change after every adjustment period. The rate could go up or down.
A conventional mortgage is any home loan not insured by the federal government. A government-backed mortgage is insured by a federal agency. For example, the Department of Veterans Affairs insures VA loans. The lender takes less risk with a government-backed mortgage, so it's usually easier to qualify.
The amount you can borrow with a government-backed mortgage is capped. These limits are called conforming loan limits. Lenders rely on these limits even for loans that are not government-backed. For example, conventional loans are usually capped at conforming loan limits. Loans above these limits are considered jumbo loans.
If you have an interest-only loan, you only have to pay the interest each month. If you pay only interest, your principal balance never goes down. If you borrow $100,000 at 4%, you can pay $333.33 each month. You will continue to owe the full $100,000.
Why would someone want a loan that is never paid off? Usually because they plan to sell the property or refinance the loan soon, so they want to minimize the short-term out-of-pocket costs.
A construction loan covers an empty lot plus enough money to build a new home. The money is disbursed to the builder in installments as the builder shows the lender that milestones are reached. Usually, the borrower only has to make interest payments (and interest is only charged on the money that has been disbursed). This is a helpful feature, because most borrowers are still paying housing expenses somewhere else while their new home is being built. The construction loan is converted to a traditional mortgage when the home is completed.
If you want to buy a home and do significant renovations before moving in, a renovation loan might help you. The loan covers the home purchase price plus enough to do the renovations. Like with a construction loan, the lender keeps tabs on the work that's done and may disburse funds directly to contractors.
A reverse mortgage is for older borrowers (62 or older) who have equity in a home. A lender gives you money, provided you have sufficient equity in the home. You can get the cash as a lump sum, a monthly payment, or a line of credit. A reverse mortgage does not have to be paid back until you die or sell the home. You are still responsible for home upkeep, property taxes, and homeowners insurance. A reverse mortgage has downsides, and is not right for everyone.
If you want to uncover more about the best mortgage lenders for low rates and fees, our experts have created a shortlist of the top mortgage companies. Some of our experts have even used these lenders themselves to cut their costs.
To compare current mortgage rates while preserving your credit score, apply for prequalification at several lenders in a short time period (45 days) so that only one credit inquiry is recorded in that period. Examine each loan's terms and fees to determine which best suits your needs.
Mortgage rates are determined by a number of factors including your credit score, the economy, and your loan-to-value ratio.
You should lock in a mortgage rate when you're happy with your rate and can afford your monthly payments. Because interest rates fluctuate and can be unpredictable, it can be risky to wait on mortgage rates going down.
With mortgage rates near historic lows, what can homebuyers do right now to ensure they’re getting the best deal when purchasing a home?
Individuals should begin their mortgage search before they begin their home search. This will put them at the price point they can best afford and allow them to potentially prioritize their offer with sellers over other buyers, since they will be ready to close quickly.
What causes mortgage rates to rise or fall?
Increases or decreases in 10-year Treasury yields directly influence 30- and 15-year mortgage rates. Currently, the Federal Reserve is actively buying 10-year Treasury notes, which increases the demand for these securities and drives their price up and yields down. So, our near record low mortgage rates are directly tied to the Federal Reserve Board's response to COVID-19 in efforts to keep financial markets open. When it begins to taper (stop purchasing 10-year Treasury notes) significantly, mortgage rates will rise.
Should current homeowners consider refinancing with rates that are this low?
A quick way to determine if you should refinance is to estimate your out-of-pocket cost to refinance and divide by your monthly payment savings -- how much your payment goes down due to the refinance. The answer will represent the number of months it will take to get your money back from refinancing, also called the breakeven point. Therefore, if you plan to live in your home longer than the answer to this math problem, you should refinance. If you plan to live for fewer months, then you should not refinance.
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