This is a tricky moment to buy a new home. Mortgage rates have increased dramatically and it costs more to borrow now than at any other time in the past 20 years. In this environment, it’s critically important to compare offers from different lenders to find the lowest rates and minimize fees in order to make buying a home more affordable. Here’s everything you need to know about mortgage rates, how they work and how to find the best deal for you.
What to know first
Mortgage rates are at their highest level in 20 years, having surpassed the 7% mark and cooled down the housing market in the process. The Federal Reserve has made aggressive rate hikes in an attempt to combat persistent inflation, and another increase — albeit potentially smaller — seems likely at the final meeting this year.
Higher mortgage rates — even when they increase by only a few tenths of a percentage point — can add tens of thousands of dollars to your loan over time. Higher rates shouldn’t discourage you from buying a home, however. Mortgage lenders are easing lending requirements for prospective homebuyers. Higher rates are forcing some buyers to pause their searches. And even though rates have increased, they may go higher still.
What is a mortgage rate?
Your mortgage rate is the percentage of interest a lender charges for providing the loan you need to buy a home. The interest helps cover the costs associated with lending money — and there are multiple factors that determine the rate you’re offered. Some are specific to you and your financial situation and others are influenced by macro market conditions, such as the overall level of demand for loans in your area or nationwide.
What factors determine my mortgage rate?
While the broader economy plays a key role in mortgage rates, there are some key factors under your control that impact your rate.
Current mortgage and refinance rates
We use information collected by Bankrate, which is owned by the same parent company as CNET, to track daily mortgage rate trends. The above table summarizes the average rates offered by lenders across the country.
What is ‘annual percentage rate’ and what does it mean for mortgages?
The annual percentage rate, or APR, represents the true cost of your loan by factoring in the interest rate and other costs such as lender fees or prepaid points. So, while you might be tempted to see an offer for “interest rates as low as 6.5%” it’s important to look at the APR instead to see how much you’re really paying.
How does the APR affect principal and interest?
Most mortgage loans are based on an amortization schedule: You’ll pay the same amount each month for the life of the loan even though the generated interest will be highest at the beginning of the loan and will taper as the principal decreases. (Your amortization schedule will show how much of your monthly payment goes to interest and how much pays down the principal of the loan.) Ultimately, most borrowers appreciate the convenience of a fixed, predictable monthly payment.
Shopping mortgage rates
Mortgage lenders often publish online their rates for different mortgage types, which can help you research and narrow down which lenders you apply to for preapproval. Shopping around is an important part of the process. And it’s often a mistake to rush the process.
Frequently asked questions
What credit score do you need to get a mortgage?
Most conventional loans require a credit score of 620 or higher, but Federal Housing Administration and other loan types may accommodate lenders with scores as low as 500, depending on your down payment. If you have a high credit score, you may be offered a lower interest rate and more modest down payment. Improving your credit score before applying for a mortgage can save you money even if you already qualify for a loan.”Credit is the biggest factor in interest rates on both mortgages and all other lending products, so making sure credit balances are below 30% is key to maximizing a credit score,” says Lotz. “If a person finds errors on their credit report, they should dispute them to ensure the most accurate history.”
How are mortgage rates determined?
Your credit score isn’t the only factor that impacts your mortgage rate. Lenders will also look at your debt-to-income ratio to assess your level of risk based on the other debts you’re paying back such as student loans, car payment and credit cards. Additionally, your loan-to-value ratio plays a key role in your mortgage rate. A larger down payment will reduce your loan-to-value ratio, which lenders like to see. However, you don’t want to stretch so far with your down payment that you are left without cash reserves when you move into your home, and keeping some liquid savings may help your lender’s confidence in your ability to pay back the loan, potentially lowering your rate.