For homebuyers, obtaining a mortgage can seem daunting. The daily ups and downs of mortgage rates can make anyone’s head spin.
This was especially true at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when interest rates seemed to hit record lows on a weekly basis. The rush to take advantage of low rates added pressure to an already stressful process. Now, with rates on the rise, the pressure is back on to find a mortgage before rates move even higher.
The good news is that with patience and knowledge homebuyers can still lock in competitive interest rates. Scroll down for the most current mortgage rates.
From how mortgage rates are set to ways to improve your odds, this guide will walk you through everything you need to know about mortgage rates so you can find the best rate possible.
How mortgage rates work
While many factors that impact mortgage rate trends are out of your control — such as the state of the economy — there are steps you can take to make sure you are getting the best rate available. These factors include your credit score and down payment amount, as well as the type of home loan, lender and house you choose.
Your credit score is a key factor that helps determine your mortgage rate. Generally, people with scores above 740 qualify for the best mortgage rates.
Borrowers with credit scores in the fair range — 580 to 669 — are likely to pay a higher interest rate than those who have an excellent credit score of 740 or above, according to Experian. Of course, the interest rate you pay will also depend on the loan type and lender of your choice. In general, the lower your credit score, the higher rate you will pay, so it's worthwhile to take time to improve your credit score.
You may be able to view your score through your bank, credit union or credit card provider. There are also apps like Credit Karma and Mint that allow you to view your VantageScore for free, but keep in mind that your FICO score could be different, and FICO is the scoring model most lenders use.
Experts also recommend you check your credit reports a few times a year. You can do so for free at annualcreditreport.com. While your credit reports won’t include your credit score, looking through them can help you identify areas for improvement or any errors that could be hurting your score. If there are any incorrect credit items on your report, you can dispute them directly with the credit bureaus or the companies that reported the information.
Fixed-rate mortgages vs. adjustable-rate mortgages
When shopping for a mortgage, among the choices you’ll need to make is whether you want a loan with a fixed interest rate or an adjustable interest rate.
A fixed-rate mortgage — like a 30-year fixed — will have the same interest rate for the life of the loan. An adjustable-rate mortgage — or ARM — has a variable rate. These loans start with a fixed rate period, but then the rate will adjust periodically depending on market conditions.
For example, a 5/1 ARM features a fixed rate for the first five years of the loan. After that, the interest rate can change every year for the remaining length of your mortgage (typically 30-years total). Fixed-rate loans are more popular, but some borrowers opt for ARMs because they often start with a lower interest rate.
Conventional mortgages vs government-insured mortgages
Another key choice will be the type of mortgage you take out. Most people take out conventional loans, which are provided by private lenders such as banks, credit unions and, increasingly, non-bank online lenders. To qualify for a conventional loan you’ll generally need a credit score of at least 620 and a larger down payment than you would for most government loans.
There are two main types of conventional loans: conforming or non-conforming.
Conforming loans are those that meet purchase standards set by the two largest government-sponsored enterprises Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. The conforming loan limit for 2023 is $726,200 across most of the country and goes up to $1,089,300 in expensive housing markets. Non-conforming loans, on the other hand, exceed the loan limits (these are called jumbo loans) or fail to meet Fannie and Freddie's standards in some other way.
Government-backed loans are also provided by private lenders but are secured by one of three federal agencies: The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Because these loans are insured by the government (the government is essentially promising to pay back the lender if the borrower defaults), government-backed mortgages carry less risk for lenders, so often come with more generous terms and the interest rates for these loans tend to be lower.
Government-backed loans each have different criteria to qualify.
- FHA loans are the most flexible of the government-backed loan options since there are no income, job-type or location cutoffs to qualify. If you have a credit score of 580 or higher, you can get an FHA loan with as little as 3.5% down. Borrowers with scores from 500 to 579 can also qualify by making a down payment of at least 10%. All FHA borrowers need to pay a mortgage insurance premium (MIP) for the life of the loan.
- VA loans are available to eligible veterans, service members and select military spouses. VA loans don’t require a down payment or private mortgage insurance, but there is an upfront funding fee which could be up to 3.6% of the loan amount.
- USDA loans are for homebuyers who want to purchase a home in a rural or suburban area with a population of 35,000 or less. As with other government loans, credit and income requirements will vary depending on the lender you choose. USDA loans also require two types of mortgage insurance, an upfront guarantee fee and an annual fee, but these are still typically more affordable than FHA mortgage insurance fees.
A down payment is the percentage of your home’s purchase price that you pay up front when closing on your mortgage, usually between 3.5% and 20%.
What you put down will influence three factors:
- Your monthly payments: The more money you put down the less you owe, lowering the amount you'll be required to pay each month.
- Your interest rate: Lenders may offer you a lower rate if you make a larger down payment because it means you have more skin in the game and are less likely to default on the loan. It also mitigates the lender's losses if you were to default.
- Private mortgage insurance: If you have a conventional mortgage, you’ll need to put down at least 20% of the home purchase price to avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI).
A loan's term is the number of years you have to pay it off. Most borrowers choose a 15 or 30-year term. However, some lenders offer customized terms.
Generally, shorter-term mortgages such as 15-year mortgages have lower rates and overall costs, but higher monthly mortgage payments. Longer-term mortgages, on the other hand, feature higher rates and total costs, but have more affordable monthly payments because the loan balance is spread over a longer period.
Location of the home
Current mortgage rates vary from state-to-state depending on a number of factors, including the number of lenders in the area, their operational costs and housing demand in that location.
Here’s what to look for when moving to a new state:
- Competition: a larger market may have lower rates because they have more lenders competing in the market
- Cost of operation: higher salaries for lenders tend to mean higher operational and underwriting costs, which may bump up your rate.
- Risk: if you’re moving to an area where borrowers are more likely to default, lenders may hike up rates to offset the risk they’re taking on.
How does the economy impact mortgage rates?
When it comes to the broader direction of mortgage rates, there are many elements beyond your control.
Economic indicators such as inflation, employment levels, housing demand and housing supply can influence the direction of today's mortgage rates — and whether or not you’ll be able to afford a home.
Here’s what you should watch out for:
10-year Treasury yields
Fixed mortgage rates generally move in tune with the 10-year Treasury notes. This means that when the bond’s yield shifts upward, mortgage rates may soon follow. As a rule of thumb, mortgage rates are generally 1.8 percentage points higher than treasury yields.
In the past, adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) changes typically followed short-term indices tied to the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor). Starting in 2021, adjustable-rate mortgages are more often based on the Secured Overnight Financing Rate index — or SOFR. The benchmark index rate is then used to calculate the interest rate ARMs will be tied to. The index is then combined with a margin, or percentage point given by your lender.
The Federal Reserve
The Federal Reserve does not set mortgage rates. What it does set is the federal funds rate, which is the short-term rate that banks use when lending money to each other. Those rates influence mortgage rates indirectly.
The Fed also buys mortgage-backed securities, and its actions generally set the tone for how people think about the economy. For example, in light of global uncertainty due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Reserve attempted to stimulate the economy by plunging the federal funds rate to zero in 2020. However, as inflation climbed to 40-year highs as the pandemic came to end, the Fed began raising the federal funds rate in March 2022.
What to do when rates are rising
No matter the circumstances, the best you can do is make decisions based on your needs and current financial situation. When shopping for a new mortgage you should also factor in closing costs and how long you plan to live in the home.
Here are some steps you can take if rates are trending upward:
Shop for rates
Whether you're purchasing a new home, refinancing or looking for a home equity loan, it’s important to shop around and compare rates from different lenders to ensure you're getting the lowest possible rate and best terms for you. Borrowers who speak to multiple lenders tend to save money.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, you should ask your lender or broker if their mortgage rates are the lowest for that day or week and find out all of the costs involved in originating your loan.
Knowing how much you can put down and what you can expect to pay in closing costs, origination fee and other upfront fees will give you a better idea of how large a loan you can comfortably afford.
Evaluate your price range
To avoid setting your sights on a home that’s out of your price range, you should determine your budget early. Experts recommend getting pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage as a first step to gauge how much house you can afford.
If you’re still testing the waters, a pre-qualification letter from a lender will give you a ballpark loan estimate of what you could borrow based on a light credit check and information you provide about your finances.
A pre-approval, on the other hand, will give you a pretty solid idea of how much money the lender is willing to lend. A pre-approval letter also signals to sellers that you’re serious about purchasing a home. To get pre-approved, you’ll have to provide documents regarding your current debts and income and agree to a hard credit inquiry.
While neither guarantees that you’ll get a mortgage, a pre-approval letter adds weight to your bid on a property as it provides some proof of your creditworthiness to a seller. Keep in mind that pre-approval letters are usually valid for 90 days and aren’t a commitment, so you can request them from multiple lenders.
Although multiple hard inquiries may dent your credit score by a few points, the three credit bureaus have exceptions for certain related inquiries such as shopping rates for a mortgage. Hard inquiries from mortgage lenders within a 45-day period will only count as one hard credit pull, according to Experian.
As for timing, you can apply for a pre-qualification online and get a result within the hour or the same day. Pre-approvals could take up to 10 business days, depending on the lender.
Increase your down payment
You don’t have to put 20% down to buy a house but offering a larger down payment can help you qualify for a lower interest rate. When you offer a bigger down payment, that reduces the amount a lender has to loan you and diminishes their risk.
Lock-in your rate
After you find a home you want to buy, you can request a rate lock. A mortgage rate lock is an agreement between the lender and the borrower to lock-in a rate for a predetermined amount of time, usually 30 to 90 days, until they close on a loan. Some lenders may charge a fee for locking-in your rate.
If rates drop after you’ve locked-in your rate, you can re-lock the loan at the new rate. A new lock can cost from 0.5% to 1% of the loan amount. There are also “float-down” options, which allow you to automatically lock in a lower rate should market conditions change during your lock period.
Pay off other debts
Your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is the percentage of your monthly pre-tax gross income spent on all debts such as car loans, student loans, credit card debt and your new mortgage. A lower DTI will improve your chances of qualifying for a mortgage. You can lower your DTI by paying down your monthly debts.
Buy discount points
Brokers and lenders sell discount points to lower your interest rate. With discount points, you’ll essentially pay a higher closing cost or upfront interest in exchange for a lower mortgage rate. Each point costs 1% of your loan amount and lowers your interest by a small, fractional amount. People often call buying points “buying down your rate.” The exact amount that a point can lower your rate will vary by lender, loan type and market conditions.
According to the FTC, you should ask for points to be quoted to you as a dollar amount so you have a better idea of how much you’re paying and if it will make a worthwhile dent on your rate.
What is a Good Mortgage Interest Rate?
A good mortgage interest rate will look different to each person. In addition, mortgage rates fluctuate over time based on market conditions; they climbed above 18% in the early 1980s and have been below 4% since mid-2019.
Besides economic factors, the interest rate you are offered will also depend on the type of rate you chose. Adjustable-rate mortgages, for example, feature lower interest rates that will change periodically depending on real estate market conditions. Whereas a fixed-rate mortgage will remain the same for the life of the loan.
Meanwhile, a higher credit score and lower DTI could help you snag a more affordable rate, as lending you money will entail less risk on the part of the lender.
If you’re not eligible to qualify for a rate you feel comfortable with, you can work on improving your credit score and pay down debts, such as credit card or student loans, to lower your debt-to-income ratio.
Finally, don’t forget to shop around. Different lenders offer different rates and products. Each lender's credit and income requirements will also vary. Comparing rates and loan products could help you get the lowest possible rate for your situation.
What Makes Our Data Different?
Money’s daily mortgage rates show the average rate offered by over 8,000 lenders across the United States the most recent business day rates are available for. Our rates reflect what a typical borrower with a 700 credit score might expect to pay for a home loan right now. These rates were offered to people putting 20% down and include discount points.
Disclaimer: We try to keep our information current and accurate. However, interest rates are subject to market fluctuations and vary based on your qualifications. Calculator results assume a good credit score and factor-in regional averages; your actual interest rate may differ. Calculator results are for educational and informational purposes only and are not guaranteed. You should consult a licensed financial professional before making any personal financial decisions.