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Originally Published: Dec 16, 2020
Originally Published: Dec 16, 2020 Last Updated: Dec 16, 2020 7 min read
Money; Getty Images

The overall number of mortgage applications increased last week as interest rates remained at record-lows. In November, purchase applications for newly built homes were down from October, but well above 2019 numbers.

Meanwhile, mortgage rates are down from yesterday.

Today's Mortgage Rates

The average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate purchase mortgage was 3.092% on Tuesday. On Monday, the average rate was 3.108%.

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 December 16, 2020
Loan type Average Rate
30-Year Fixed Loan 3.092%
15-Year Fixed Loan 2.321%
30-Year FHA Loan 3.245%
30-Year VA Loan 3.377%
30-Year Jumbo Loan 3.604%
Source: Money | Date: Dec. 15, 2020 | Rates assume a credit score of 700
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How do I get the best mortgage rates?

Mortgage rates vary from state to state. On Tuesday, borrowers in Illinois were quoted the lowest mortgage rates — at 2.965%. People looking for mortgages in Nevada saw the highest average rate at 3.282%.

Nationwide, borrowers with the highest credit scores, 740 and above, were quoted rates averaging 2.833%, while those with credit of 620 or below were shown rates of 4.599%.

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 2.71% with 0.7 points paid for the week ending December 10. Rates remained unchanged from last week's new record low. The mortgage purchaser's weekly survey reflects borrowers who put 20% down on conforming loans and have excellent credit.

Today's Mortgage Refinance Rates

Money's survey also shows that the offered rate for a 30-year refinance for someone with a 740 credit score was 3.219% on Tuesday. Last December, the average mortgage rate (including fees) was 3.88%.

Refinance Rates for December 16, 2020
Loan type Average Rate
30-Year Fixed Loan 3.219%
15-Year Fixed Loan 2.607%
30-Year FHA Loan 3.575%
30-Year VA Loan 3.678%
30-Year Jumbo Loan 3.536%
Source: Money | Date: Dec. 15, 2020 | Rates assume a credit score of 740

A homeowner with a $200,000 mortgage balance currently paying 3.88% on a 30-year could potentially cut their monthly payment from about $940 to about $867 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

Homeowners and buyers took advantage of record-low mortgage rates last week.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, the number of mortgage loan applications was up 1.1% from the previous week for the week ending December 11. Purchase applications increased by 2% and were 26% higher than the same week last year. Refinance applications were up by 1% week-over-week and 105% year-over-year.

"The ongoing strength in the housing market has carried into December," noted Joel Kan, associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting for the MBA. "Applications to buy a home increased for the fourth time in five weeks."

The bump in applications corresponded with another new low for mortgage rates. According to Freddie Mac, the average rate quoted to the most qualified buyers has hit 14 record lows this year, most recently at 2.71% for two consecutive weeks.

"U.S. Treasury rates stayed low last week, in part due to uncertainty over the prospects of additional pandemic-related government stimulus, as well as concerns about the continued rise in COVID-19 cases across the country," said Kan.

Both conventional and government loans saw weekly increases, with the latter enjoying a sixth straight week of gains. The increase in government loans could be an indication that first-time homebuyers are increasingly entering the market.

The MBA also reported applications for newly built homes increased in November by nearly 35% year-over-year. However, applications decreased by 16% from the month of October.

"November new home sales activity, both mortgage applications and home sales, ran at a pace considerably ahead of 2019, showing the ongoing strong growth in housing demand and new residential construction," said Kan. "However, MBA estimates that after climbing to a new survey high in October, the seasonally adjusted pace of new home sales declined in November. Signs of a slowdown in the economic recovery likely contributed to the expected monthly decrease in activity."

Sales of new single-family homes were estimated to be at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 827,000 units compared to an annual rate of 927,000 in October.

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