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Buying a home is the most significant purchase most Americans will make in a lifetime. According to Zillow, the average cost of a home this year is right around $250,000.  Putting your hard-earned dollars towards a place to call home can be an excellent investment, as long as your mortgage rates aren’t too high.

Mortgage rates today are significantly lower, but some lenders have stopped offering refinancing options. Currently, the average 30-year fixed rate is around 3.55%, which is the lowest it’s been since September of 2016.
The question is if you find a low rate, should you lock it in, or could mortgage rates drop again? This guide will answer questions about mortgage rates and take a look at how they’ve changed over the last 10 years.

What Are Mortgage Rates Today?

Due to concerns about Covid-19, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates across the board. At the beginning of March, they dropped from 1.5% to 1.0%. A few weeks later, they fell to 0.25%.   Plus, the Fed promised to buy about $200 billion in mortgage-backed securities, which may or may not affect the interest rate you could get on a mortgage. The Fed doesn’t set mortgage rates, but its decisions do impact the market.

After the initial interest cut, for example, 30-year mortgage rates reached a record low at 3.29%. After the second interest cut, though, the mortgage interest rate moved back up to 3.65%. The lesson learned is that sometimes the Federal Reserve’s rate cuts can result in an inverse effect on national mortgage rates.

The MSB (mortgage-backed securities) market also affects mortgage rates. If the demand is up for MSB, mortgage rates typically drop. Thus, the Fed buying $200 billion in MSB helps to increase demand, which, in turn, reduces home loan interest rates.

What Are Average Mortgage Purchase Rates for a 30-Year, 15-Year, and 5/1 ARM This Year?

30-year mortgage rates today are right around 3.78% APR. Since the same time last week, the new price accounts for a decrease of 4 basis points. About a few months ago, the average rate was around 3.79% for a 30-year fixed mortgage.

Current mortgage rates for a 15-year fixed mortgage is 3.19% APR.  While that larger payment could make things a bit tougher, especially considering the country’s current economic state, you’d save thousands of dollars over the life of your loan in total interest paid. Thus, you’d build your equity at a significantly faster rate.

The average mortgage rate for a 5/1 ARM dropped to 3.63% APR.  The 5/1 ARM mortgage works best for those who expect to refinance or sell before the 1st or 2nd adjustment. Even though monthly payments would cost around $440 for every $100,000 borrowed, rates could rise substantially after those 5 years.

What Are Average Refinance Rates This Year?

Currently, the average 30-year refinance rate is about 3.81% APR. The rate was 3.87% 1 month ago.

The 15-year fixed refinance average rate is up 3.22% APR.  While that payment is significantly higher than those on the 30-year fixed mortgage, the long-term savings are well worth it if you can afford it.

Will Mortgage Rates Go Down This Year?

Over 10 years ago, the Federal Reserve conducted 3 rounds of bond-buying to save the housing market and stimulate economic growth during the financial crisis.  The main goal isn’t to push mortgage rates down. However, lower rates are an expected consequence of putting billions towards mortgage-backed securities. This year, prices have already gone down because of the Fed’s contribution.

How Low Could Mortgage Rates Go?

Right before Covid-19 disrupted the markets, the average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage rate in the United States dropped to 3.29%, which was the lowest ever recorded rate.  The 30-year fixed mortgage can continue to decrease, but whether or not that will happen remains to be seen. It should stay right around the 3% range, for the time being, give or take. However, no one knows for sure.  Lenders can’t handle the volume right now, and investors aren’t buying mortgages at that expected rate.  There has there been such a lockdown of United States businesses. Unemployment claims have skyrocketed. However, if the economy makes a quick recovery, we could see a post-quarantine boom, which might cause mortgage rates to rise.

Mortgage Rates Today Are Low

There’s no question that mortgage rates today are low. The question is, will those mortgage rates stay where they are, drop even lower, or start rising after an economic comeback?
If you’ve received a good offer but are still unsure, consider locking in an offer while you look around at others.  Pay attention to the behavior of your lender. Any reputable lender should offer exceptional customer service. Make sure you have a reliable point of contact, too, should any questions or issues come up along the duration of your loan.

If you want to eliminate the headache of perusing multiple lenders, we can match you with the right one today. Whether you’re looking to refinance or to take out a new mortgage altogether, we are here to help!

Check out our personal finance blog for more ways to save!

Frequently Asked Questions

Learn the mortgage rates basics

What is considered a good mortgage rate?

There are 2 types of mortgage rates – fixed and variable.

Fixed mortgage rates boast a set interest rate that never changes throughout the loan. A fixed-rate will protect you from unexpected increases in your monthly payments if interest rates in the market happen to rise.  Even though the interest rates stay the same in a fixed mortgage, the terms can vary. A 30-year fixed mortgage will offer the lowest monthly payments, for example, but the cost will be higher overall because of interest payments. Your monthly payment will be higher the shorter the term, but the less you’ll spend on interest in the long haul.

Variable rates are also known as ARMs (adjustable-rate mortgages). These mortgage rates can change. Typically though, they begin lower than the average fixed-rate at the time and then rise as your loan matures.  Variable rates do have a fixed period, though, in which the interest percentage you’ve agreed upon cannot increase. This period can last anywhere between 1 month and 10 years, depending on the agreement between the borrower and the lender.

While ARMs come with a ceiling, preventing the rate from passing a certain point, it’s crucial to take a look at what that ceiling is.  Whether or not a rate is reasonable for you is incumbent on a variety of factors. While locking an excellent rate with a 5/1 ARM is a great way to save money in the long run, if you’re scraping by to make payments and you end up refinancing, you’ll end up with higher interest rates to get that lower monthly payment.  Become familiar with your budget if you aren’t already so that you know what you can afford.

 

What external and internal factors affect mortgage rates?

5 significant external influences play a role in how mortgage rates are determined.

They are:

  • Inflation
  • Economic growth
  • The Federal Reserve
  • The housing market
  • The bond market

In addition to these external factors, there are personal and other factors that will affect your rate, too, such as:

  • Your credit
  • Your job
  • Your income
  • Your down payment
  • The home’s location and price
  • The loan term and type

A lender takes into account the borrower and evaluates the risk of any loan they divvy out. They’ll adjust the mortgage rate accordingly based on how high they deem the chance to be. The riskier a borrower is, the higher the mortgage rate will be.

Should I lock my mortgage rate today?

Whether or not you lock in your mortgage rate today is a decision that should be weighed carefully, and it’s a difficult one to make. If you lock in your mortgage rate today, you run the risk of losing out on savings if the rates continue to go down. If you don’t lock in your rate, however, you could get stuck with higher payments if we’ve already reached the low and mortgage rates start to rise.

Minute rate differences can add up quickly throughout a lengthy loan. It’s safe to say, though, that mortgage rates right now are on the lower end, so even if the rate does go down a bit more, your lock-in rate today should still be reasonable.  The essential piece in deciding whether or not to take advantage of current mortgage rates is to shop around.

What are the best ways to shop for a mortgage rate?

The first step is to know your credit. Your credit score is what helps the lender determine if you qualify for a loan and what the interest rates will be. Your terms will be better with a higher credit score.  Take the time to scrutinize your credit reports and correct any errors. If there’s anything to be explained, it’s best to be upfront about it.

Next, consider the different mortgage types and their refinancing options. Even though you’ll pay more interest in the long run, there’s nothing wrong with taking out a 30-year mortgage at a fixed rate that you know you can afford.  On the flip side, if you feel comfortable taking advantage of a variable rate and think you can pay off the majority of your mortgage before those rates rise, find out what your options are.

Contact several lenders in your process and take the time to shop around. Add in any additional costs, such as appraisal, application, loan-origination, broker fees, underwriting, and settlement costs.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate and get everything in writing. If you’re happy with a proposed offer, request a lock-in (rate-lock) that details the agreed-upon rate, the number of points (if at all) paid, and the period of the loan. The lender might charge you a nonrefundable fee for locking in your terms, but it’s worth the payment considering some of the bumps in the road that can occur along the way to getting approved.

Are rising interest rates good or bad?

Higher interest rates aren’t usually good.  Higher interest rates can change the cost of borrowing money , saving money and much more.  However, contrary to popular belief, rising interest rates aren’t all bad. Rising interest rates can mean different things for different people. As a consumer, rising interest rates are not good. This means that you would be paying more money towards interest and keeping less of your money in your wallet. Usually for a consumer, having the lowest interest rate is the best, especially when it applies to a big purchase like a mortgage. However, for the nation as a whole, rising interest rates are a good thing. In fact, rising interest rates are a sign of economic strength.

When interest rates are low, people spend more money because they don’t pay as much in interest and have more disposable income. When people have more disposable income, they spend more money and stimulate the economy. This can lead to inflation if not properly monitored.

The Good

Saving Money

With higher interest rates, saving will be more profitable so it is wise to put your money in a savings account, especially online savings accounts that offer great rates.  The high interest rates can help you while hurting borrowers.  As interest rates rise, savings accounts could help you gain money rather than taking it away.  According to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, the average amount of savings for a US family is $40,200.

Home Prices

Even as interest rates rise and the cost of borrowing becomes more, housing prices actually fall due to more people becoming less interested in buying.

Conservative Investments

As interest rates rise, it will be much easier to get a good return on low-risk investments such as CDs or bonds.

Fixed-Rate Loans

With rising interest, any fixed-rate loan will remain unaffected, which includes current fixed-rate mortgages, student loans and car loans.

The Bad

Borrowing Money

Borrowing money will be come more expensive as interest rates rise, affecting rates that you can get for home loans, auto loans, personal loans and credit cards to name a few of the biggest financial borrowing industries.  The Federal Reserve has shown that these rates have continued to rise since they increased their target rate in 2016.  Of particular concern in a rising rate environment is your credit card debt, as well as adjustable-rate mortgages, as interest will increase on these loans.

Buying a Home

The interest on your new mortgage loan will be higher as interest rates increase.  For instance, according to the Federal Reserve, the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage increased by 0.75% between August 207 and 2018.

The stock market

Stock prices are typically hard to predict, but a typical rule of thumb is that as interest rates go up, stock prices should fall as more people will typically invest in bonds.

United States Economy 

In a high interest rate economy, business will typically have to pay more interest on the debt they have and making it more expensive for them to invest in their business, usually resulting in slower economic growth.  This can also affect consumers in the short term, making them less likely to spend in the economy.  The biggest issue, according to the U.S. Treasury, may be the massive debt that has doubled in the last ten years.  If interest rates rise back to average levels, the interest on the debt will be the highest item in the federal budget with super high interest payments.

How can we prevent inflation?

Inflation is when there is a general increase in prices and the value of the US dollar goes down.  This usually happens as a result of too much money in the economy. When there is more money and not enough goods to meet the demand, prices will naturally go up. The same goes for the reverse: if there is too much supply, prices will fall. It’s just like a store selling in season items for full price and putting other items on sale.

In order to keep inflation at bay, The Federal Reserve needs to control the spending.  If there is less money to go around, there is less demand. When there is less demand, prices drop. Following this model, The Federal Reserve will increase rates as an effort to control spending and prevent inflation, since goods will be more expensive without raising prices.  When things are more expensive to purchase, people will generally be more cautious about spending. Eventually, prices will have to adjust by becoming cheaper, or by remaining the same.

 

How do mortgage rates affect the housing market?

 The housing market is currently at an all-time high. People are making enough money, but there aren’t enough houses to accommodate everyone who wants to buy a home. With the interest rate slowly going up, we should eventually see a slow-down in home purchases, which will slowly bring down home prices over time.  If you’re looking to purchase a home but are struggling to keep up with the rise in home prices, there are mortgage options like the FHA Loan which only requires a minimum of 3.5% as a down payment.

For much of the past decade, interest rates have been at historic lows. Interest rates set by most lenders tend to go up and down based on the federal funds target rate, or the rate at which banks can borrow from other banks, which is set by the Federal Reserve. This rate has ranged from around 1% to over 19% over the decades, but in the wake of the 2008 recession, it dropped to nearly zero and stayed there for five years. This made borrowing money cheap, encouraging consumers and businesses to spend – but it also discouraged saving, because the interest on bank accounts was so low.

Since 2016, however, the target rate has been slowly but steadily rising. By mid-2018 it was back up to nearly 2% – a rate that’s still low by historical standards, but getting close to normal territory – and the Federal Reserve has suggested there are more hikes to come.

As the target rate creeps upward, interest rates on other products, from credit cards to savings accounts, are also rising. This, in turn, will have an effect on lots of things you do as a consumer – from opening a bank account to buying a home. Here’s an overview of what you should expect as interest rates continue to rise, and what you can do to prepare for it.

 

How do you plan for higher interest rates?

Interest rates increasing will hurt many consumer’s bottom line, but some consumers can improve it by understanding how to be prepared and what to do in a rising rate environment, using the high rates to their advantage.  If it is understood that interest rates are going to rise, consumers with credit card debt should look to pay off this as fast possible.  Further, consumers should try and avoid new loans in this type of environment as they will be locked into a higher rate.  With this, it is super important to try and lock in your interest rates now to make sure that you take advantage of the lower interest rate.  This entails looking into refinancing your mortgage if you have an adjustable-rate-mortgage to make sure that you have a fixed-rate as interest rates rise.

Saving will also be key since savings rates typically increase and you can earn more on your money in these conservative investments.  Bonds, in particular, will offer higher returns, but it is important to make sure you stick to short-term bonds, as with longer term bonds you can get stuck with earning a low rate for a longer period of time than you need to.  Finally, if you are looking into buying a home, while mortgage interest rate are higher, the price of a home could be much lower and renting higher with a lot of people unable to afford to buy a home.  With this, you should really look at the benefits of renting vs. buying a home.

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