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By Leslie Cook
Updated: November 18, 2020 8:32 AM ET

While the overall number of mortgage applications dropped slightly last week, buyers were a little more active than they have been in recent weeks as purchase loan applications inched up. At the same time, with builder confidence hitting a new high, the outlook for the housing market over the next six months remains positive.

Today’s Mortgage Rates

The average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate purchase mortgage was 3.272% on Tuesday. The average rate for a 30-year refinance was 4.185%.

Money’s mortgage rates include data from over 8,000 lenders across the United States and are updated daily. These rates include discount points and represent what a borrower with a 20% down payment and 700 credit scores — roughly the national average FICO score — would have been quoted.

Mortgage Rates for November 18, 2020
Loan type Average Rate
30-Year Fixed Loan 3.272%
15-Year Fixed Loan 2.436%
30-Year FHA Loan 3.198%
30-Year VA Loan 3.328%
30-Year Jumbo Loan 3.675%
Source: Money | Date: Nov. 17, 2020 | Rates Assume a Credit Score of 700
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View Rates for December 01, 2020

Mortgage rates vary from state to state. On Tuesday, borrowers in Illinois were quoted the lowest mortgage rates — at 3.096%. People looking for mortgages in Nevada saw the highest average rate at 3.509%. Nationwide, borrowers with the highest credit scores, 740 and above, were quoted rates averaging 2.897%, while those with credit of 640 or below were shown rates of 4.617% — a 1.72 percentage-point spread.

You may be able to negotiate a lower rate if you shop around or if you have other accounts with the lender. (Money’s picks for the best mortgage lenders are here.) Currently, some lenders are hiking up advertised rates to keep demand in check, so you may be offered a lower rate if you reach out directly.

Freddie Mac’s widely quoted Primary Mortgage Market Survey put rates at 2.84% with 0.7 points paid for the week ending November 12, a 0.6 percentage point jump from last week’s historic low of 2.78%. The mortgage purchaser’s weekly survey reflects borrowers who put 20% down on conforming loans and have excellent credit.

Today’s Refinance Rates

Money’s survey also shows that the offered rate for a 30-year refinance for someone with a 740 credit score was 3.482% on Tuesday. Last November, the average mortgage rate (including fees) was 3.874%.

Refinance Rates for November 18, 2020
Loan type Average Rate
30-Year Fixed Loan 3.482%
15-Year Fixed Loan 2.775%
30-Year FHA Loan 3.722%
30-Year VA Loan 3.804%
30-Year Jumbo Loan 3.631%
Source: Money | Date: Nov. 17, 2020 | Rates Assume a Credit Score of 740

A homeowner with a $200,000 mortgage balance currently paying 3.874% on a 30-year could potentially cut their monthly payment from $940 to $896 by financing at the current lower rates. To determine if it’s worth it to refinance your mortgage, also consider the closing fees you paid on your current mortgage, how much your new lender is charging and how long you have left on your loan term. (Our picks for the best lenders for refinancing are here).

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What else is happening in the housing market today?

The total volume of mortgage applications ticked down 0.3% for the week ending November 13 due to a a decrease in refinance activity, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Refinance applications, which had been on the rise for the last few weeks, decreased by 2%. Still, refi loan applications were 98% higher than last year, and refinance loans made up nearly 70% of all loan activity.

On the flip side, purchase loans were up a seasonally adjusted 4% last week, breaking a streak of small week-over-declines. Compared to last year, buyers are still very active, with loan applications 26% higher than the same week in 2019.

“Housing demand remains supported by the ongoing recovery in the job market, and an increased appetite from households seeking more space because of the pandemic,” said Joel Kan, associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting for the MBA.

Meanwhile, builder confidence in the newly-built single-family home market set a new record for the third month in a row, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. The index reached an all-time high of 90, surpassing the previous record of 85 in October.

The index had reached a low of 30 in April. The index measures builder’s perceptions of single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months, with any reading over 50 viewed as good. Record low mortgage rates, low inventory, and the shift towards suburban homes have helped the sales of newly built homes increase by almost 17% year-to-date.

“Another record high for the HMI reflects that housing is a bright spot for the economy,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “However, affordability remains an ongoing concern, as construction costs continue to rise and interest rates are expected to move higher as more positive news emerges on the coronavirus vaccine front. In the short run, the shift of housing demand to lower density markets such as suburbs and exurbs with ongoing low resale inventory levels is supporting demand for home building.”

Quote of the Week

Wilmoed Sisson, a home inspector with Inspections by Bob in Frederick, Maryland, on the dangers of not inspecting a home:

For more information read: More Buyers Are Skipping Home Inspections. Tales of Bats, Termites and Asbestos Should Make You Think Twice.

Bottom line:

The 10 Most Affordable Suburbs in America

Finding a Home Is so Hard Right Now That Buyers Are Scouring Obituaries and Divorce Notices

Lockdown Converted Many Americans Into Serious Savers. Now They Have Houses to Show for It

Advertiser Disclosure

The purpose of this disclosure is to explain how we make money without charging you for our content.

Our mission is to help people at any stage of life make smart financial decisions through research, reporting, reviews, recommendations, and tools.

Earning your trust is essential to our success, and we believe transparency is critical to creating that trust. To that end, you should know that many or all of the companies featured here are partners who advertise with us.

Our content is free because our partners pay us a referral fee if you click on links or call any of the phone numbers on our site. If you choose to interact with the content on our site, we will likely receive compensation. If you don't, we will not be compensated. Ultimately the choice is yours.

Opinions are our own and our editors and staff writers are instructed to maintain editorial integrity, but compensation along with in-depth research will determine where, how, and in what order they appear on the page.

To find out more about our editorial process and how we make money, click here.

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