- Mortgage rates are at historic lows: Is it time to refinance?
- How does refinancing work?
- Today's Best Mortgage Rates
- Mortgage rates hit new record low — how refinancing now could save you more money
- You get lower refinance rates and payments
- You plan on staying in your home long enough to break even
- You need to change the terms of your mortgage loans
- Should you refinance into a 30-year or a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage?
- Will mortgage rates continue to drop?
- Mortgage rates keep falling to record lows — so is now a good time to refinance?
- Figure out when you’ll break even
- Pay attention to the loan’s term
- Don’t be afraid of closing costs
- The tumultuous economy has made it harder to qualify
- If you received forbearance, you may hit roadblocks
- Finally, don’t try to time the market
- Current Mortgage Rates Climb Above 3.1% for First Time Since June
- Will Mortgage Rates Go Back Down?
- Home Purchase Loan Applications Slide
- Refinance Applications Are Down
- Why Your Personal Mortgage Rate May Be Different From Current Mortgage Rates
- Today’s Mortgage Rates and Your Monthly Payment
- Will Today’s Mortgage Rates Save You Money on a Refinance?
- Should You Buy Discount Points to Lower Mortgage Rates?
- How to Find the Best Mortgage Lender
- What Type of Mortgage Loan Do You Need?
- More from Money:
Mortgage rates are at historic lows: Is it time to refinance?
If you've been following the news, you may have heard that mortgage rates hit a record low in July, and they're still competitive as we ease into August. In fact, on August 2, the average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage was 3.
12%, and 2.77% for a 15-year mortgage. That's great news for first-time homebuyers, but it's also good news if you already own a home. The reason? You may be able to refinance your existing mortgage.
But is that the right move for you?
How does refinancing work?
When you refinance any type of loan, a mortgage included, you swap an existing loan for a new one. The goal of refinancing is to snag a lower rate on your loan than you're currently paying.
For example, imagine you already have a 30-year fixed mortgage with a 4.25% interest rate on it. If you're able to refinance to a new 30-year mortgage with a 3.12% interest rate, you'll lower your monthly payments.
But not all refinances result in lower monthly payments. In fact, if you swap a 30-year mortgage for a 15-year loan, your monthly payments will ly go up, even if the rate on your new loan is much lower.
In this case, you'll save money in interest over the life of your loan. And, you'll get to pay it off sooner.
As such, refinancing could make sense even if it doesn't actually result in you paying less money month over month.
Whether or not it pays to refinance your mortgage today boils down to two factors:
- Do you qualify for the best mortgage rates out there?
- Will you stay in your home long enough to actually reap some savings?
The higher your credit score, the more ly you are to snag a competitive refinance rate. But if your credit isn't great, then refinancing may not make sense. That's because if the rate you qualify for is comparable to the rate you're already paying, there's not a lot of savings to be reaped when we factor in closing costs.
Could mortgage loan recasting work?: Here's how it works.
Moment of truth: Some homeowners expect struggle to pay mortgage when extra unemployment ends
And that leads right into our next point. When you sign a mortgage, you're liable for closing costs – things administrative fees, loan origination fees, and other fees your mortgage lender charges. Closing costs also apply when you refinance, and they can be expensive, equaling a good 2% to 5% of your loan amount.
Now, say you're looking at $4,500 in closing costs, but refinancing also lowers your monthly mortgage payment by $150. In that case, you'd need to stay in your home for 30 months just to break even.
If you have no plans to move in the next five years or even decade, refinancing makes sense.
But if you're only planning to stay in your current home another year or two, then it clearly isn't worth it – despite the fact that mortgage rates are low right now.
(Photo: Getty Images)
The same logic holds if you're refinancing to a lower mortgage rate with a shorter term. Swapping a 30-year fixed mortgage for a 15-year loan might increase your monthly payment by $300, but save you $20,000 in interest over the life of your loan. If you don't stay in your home for very long, you won't reap those interest-related savings.
Ultimately, it pays for some homeowners to refinance their mortgages right now, but that doesn't apply universally. You need to think about whether doing so is a smart move for you.
And if you are going to refinance, shop around with different mortgage refinance lenders to see what offers you qualify for.
That way, you can compare your options – both in terms of mortgage rate and closing costs – and see what's the most competitive.
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Today's Best Mortgage Rates
Offer from the Motley Fool: Chances are, mortgage rates won't stay put at multi-decade lows for much longer. In fact, the Fed has already signaled that it expects rates to continue increasing.
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Mortgage rates hit new record low — how refinancing now could save you more money
Mortgage rates dropped to a new all-time low Thursday to an average 3.15 percent for a 30-year fixed-rate and 2.62 percent for a 15-year fixed-rate, according to Freddie Mac, one of the largest buyers of mortgages in the US.
It's the third record low reported since the coronavirus pandemic hit the country. At the beginning of May, rates fell to 3.23 percent. Rates hit a previous low of 3.29 percent in March when concerns about the virus were starting to emerge.
With numbers those, it’s no wonder why many people are rushing to refinance. Freddie Mac’s April 2020 Quarterly Forecast Report found that $355 billion worth of refinance originations took place in the first quarter of 2020, up from just $125 billion in the first quarter of 2019.
the current mortgage and refinance rates, it's ly that now is a good time for you to refinance. To understand just how much you could save on your monthly mortgage payments by refinancing now, crunch the numbers and compare rates using Credible's free online tool. Within minutes, you can see what multiple mortgage lenders are offering.
If you’re still wondering whether now’s the right time for you to refinance your home loan, here are some factors you should consider.
You get lower refinance rates and payments
The biggest benefit of lower rates is how much you stand to save on your monthly mortgage payments.
For example, one cost calculator shows that a 30-year mortgage on a $300,000 loan at a 4.3 percent interest rate has a monthly payment of $1,485. At 3.3 percent, that same loan has a payment of only $1,314, which is a savings of $171 per month or $61,469 over the life of the loan.
WHY IT'S A GOOD IDEA TO REFINANCE YOUR MORTGAGE WHILE RATES ARE LOW
Interested homeowners can use their own refinancing calculator or easily fill out Credible's online form to get personalized rates within minutes and to discover potential savings.
You plan on staying in your home long enough to break even
Low mortgage rates aside, it does cost money to refinance your mortgage. You’ll have to weigh your monthly versus how much you’ll pay in closing costs.
You need to change the terms of your mortgage loans
There are many different types of mortgages out there. While new home buyers typically choose a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage to keep their payments low, established homeowners may prefer a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, which will allow them to pay off their house faster.
FED’S EMERGENCY RATE CUTS AFFECT MORTGAGES — HERE’S HOW YOU CAN BENEFIT NOW
That said, it’s important to do your research to figure out if refinancing fits with your current financial goals. You’ll want to read the repayment terms on your current mortgage and shop around to find the best rate. When you’re ready to compare today's mortgage rates, an online marketplace Credible can help you start your search.
Should you refinance into a 30-year or a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage?
In particular, since today’s rates are so low, many homeowners are wondering what types of mortgages they should refinance into — a 30-year or 15-year home mortgage. However, any big financial decision, there are pros and cons for each.
Lower interest rates: As rates fell to record lows and 30-year fixed-rate mortgages dropped to an average of 3.15 percent, 15-year fixed-rate mortgages fell to an average of 2.62 percent.
Long-term savings: With 15-year fixed rates, you save money long-term by paying less interest overall.
Build equity faster: By choosing a 15-year mortgage, you ultimately pay off your asset faster.
Higher monthly payments: Since you’re paying off your loan amount in half the time with a 15-year mortgage compared to a 30-year option, your monthly payment is going to be higher.
THE BASICS OF NO-CLOSING COST MORTGAGE REFINANCING
Before doing a mortgage refinance, you should make sure that you’ll feel comfortable handling the payment going forward. You should also consider how long you plan to stay in the home. If you’re not planning on staying put for very long, the length of your mortgage won’t make much of a difference.
Will mortgage rates continue to drop?
While there’s no way to know for certain what will happen in the future, rates are ly to continue to drop. In times of economic uncertainty, the Federal Reserve — the central bank of the U.S. — drops interest rates to encourage people to keep borrowing money and stimulating the economy.
To that end, home buyers will ly continue to see interest rates hit record lows until the pandemic stops surging and the economy has a chance to stabilize.
Mortgage rates keep falling to record lows — so is now a good time to refinance?
The coronavirus pandemic has led to a dramatic decline in mortgage rates. But that doesn’t mean now is a good time to refinance for everyone.
Last week, Freddie Mac FMCC, +0.54% reported that mortgage rates hit a new record low for the fourth time this year, with the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropping to 3.13%.
When rates hit their first record low of the year back in March, it triggered a deluge of refinancing activity just as many lenders were transitioning to remote work environments because of the spread of COVID-19. That led to a massive backlog at some lenders, with some borrowers waiting weeks to close their refinances.
Now, the market has settled down, and lenders have adapted to the coronavirus world.
And the good news for borrowers is that most markets are served by mobile notary services, said Pat Stone, co-founder and chairman of title insurance company Williston Financial Group, and other states allow for entirely virtual mortgage processes. That means in most parts of the country getting a new home loan won’t mean risking your health, as infection rates remain stubbornly high in many areas.
Read more: Home prices continued to rise even as the coronavirus pandemic swept across America, FHFA says
But will refinancing your mortgage risk your financial health? Here’s what homeowners need to consider before closing on a new loan.
Figure out when you’ll break even
As a general rule of thumb, experts say that a refinance will be worthwhile if it will net a homeowner an interest rate between 50 and 75 basis points lower than their current mortgage’s rate. That’s because the reduced interest will compensate for the closing costs associated with the refinance.
But those savings don’t come immediately — it will take a few year before the savings via monthly payments accrue to outweigh the costs.
“If you’re in your forever home, it might make sense to refinance with a half-point rate decrease,” said Holden Lewis, home and mortgage expert at personal-finance website NerdWallet. “But if you plan to sell the home within five years or so, it’s most ly not worth it because you’ll pay more in fees than you would save during that time.”
“ ‘If you’re in your forever home, it might make sense to refinance with a half-point rate decrease.’ ”
— Holden Lewis, home and mortgage expert at personal-finance website NerdWallet
Pay attention to the loan’s term
Homeowners shouldn’t necessarily default to a 30-year loan, despite their popularity.
“Because rates have fallen so much you could probably get into a 15-year loan and maybe maintain or even still lower your monthly payment,” said Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at LendingTree TREE, +2.31% . “You’re going to pay off the loan sooner and you’re going to pay less interest.”
Choosing a shorter term has its trade-offs though, mortgage industry experts warn, if locking into such a loan means making larger monthly payments. The standard 30-year mortgage offers flexibility.
“You have the flexibility to pay extra every month when you can afford to, and you can cut back to the minimum required payment during insecure times,” Lewis said.
Don’t be afraid of closing costs
When doing your break-even analysis, don’t shy away from paying closing costs. While paying those costs upfront may seem it’s making the refinance more expensive, in reality it could be saving you money.
“It’s always attractive to say ‘no cost,’ but you might end up paying for it over the life of the loan,” said Brian Koss, executive vice president of Mortgage Network, a Massachusetts-based lender. That’s because those costs don’t go away. Rather, they may be rolled into the loan’s balance, or lead to a higher interest rate.
Along those lines, you can prepay your interest by paying for mortgage points. The upfront cost, again, will be higher if you do this, but will save you thousands in interest.
The tumultuous economy has made it harder to qualify
As millions of Americans lost their jobs or were furloughed because of coronavirus-related business closures, lenders went into damage control mode. Many lenders raised the standards borrowers must meet to qualify for a new loan. This included higher minimum credit scores and lower debt-to-income ratios, among other factors.
The prospect of an imminent economic recovery is far from certain. While the job market has improved in recent weeks, some states that have reopened their economies have seen a surge in coronavirus cases.
“ ‘It’s always attractive to say ‘no cost,’ but you might end up paying for it over the life of the loan.’ ”
— Brian Koss, executive vice president of Mortgage Network
“The V-shaped bounce back was kind of a pipe dream in the first place, and it’s looking less and less ly, notwithstanding the recent strong data that we’ve seen,” Kapfidze said. “I’ve been anticipating that lenders are going to get more and more conservative and restrictive with their lending standards.”
If you were furloughed, laid off or if you’re self-employed, it could be harder to get approval for a refinance. In these cases, borrowers may have luck turning to their current lender for a refinance.
“Your current lender is heavily invested in you,” Kapfidze said. It will cost them money to lose business, so they may be willing to offer homeowners deals on refinancing.
If you received forbearance, you may hit roadblocks
The CARES Act let millions of Americans take advantage of the ability to claim forbearance from their mortgage payments.
But being in a forbearance plan could disqualify a homeowner from certain types of loans. If you skipped payments while in forbearance, you must make at least three current payments after ending the plan to be eligible for a refinance into a loan backed by Fannie Mae FNMA, or Freddie Mac.
Also see:Americans are eyeing homes in the suburbs as pent-up demand hits housing market
But if you were one of the many Americans who requested forbearance but continued making payments, you will be eligible to refinance right away so long as you stay current on your loan.
Finally, don’t try to time the market
Yes, mortgage rates have fallen to a new record low multiple times this year. But there’s no guarantee that trend will continue.
“People are waiting for a rate a half a percent below where we are now relatively — that’s getting greedy,” Koss said.
There’s a significant upside risk to mortgage rates right now. Their recent drops have largely come after the stock and bond markets have responded to negative news about the coronavirus pandemic.
The potential for a second wave remains, and some states are seeing another surge of infections as part of the first wave of the outbreak. But health experts have suggested that a vaccine could come very soon, and researchers have several promising candidates for coronavirus treatments.
If a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 is announced, that would ly cause markets to rally — and mortgage rates to rise in tandem.
“Don’t try to time the bottom, just pick the rate that makes the most sense,” Koss said.
Current Mortgage Rates Climb Above 3.1% for First Time Since June
The average rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 3.17% with 0.7 discount points paid for the week ending March 25, according to Freddie Mac’s benchmark Primary Mortgage Survey.
Rates have jumped 0.08 percentage points since last week. Today marks the fourth consecutive week of rate increases. The last time the 30-year rate was above 3.1% was June 25, 2020. A year ago, the average rate was 3.5%.
“Since January, mortgage rates have increased half a percentage point from historic lows and home prices have risen, leaving potential homebuyers with less purchasing power,” said Sam Khater, chief economist for Freddie Mac. “Unfortunately, this has disproportionately affected the low end of the market, where supply is the slimmest.”
Meanwhile, the average rate for a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage increased by 0.05 percentage points to 2.45% with 0.6 points paid. A year ago the 15-year rate was 2.92%.
The rate on a 5-year adjustable-rate mortgage increased by 0.05 percentage points as well, coming in at 2.84% with 0.2 points paid. A year ago the 5/1 ARM rate was 3.34%.
Will Mortgage Rates Go Back Down?
More positive signs of an economic recovery are starting to appear. Gross domestic product during the fourth quarter of 2020 was higher than originally thought and on Thursday new unemployment claims came in below 700,000 new claims for the first time since the pandemic began.
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On Thursday, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note opened at 1.612%, down from Wednesday’s close of 1.614%.
Yields have been trending down since Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell commented that the economic recovery was advancing faster than expected and that at some point the Fed would start pulling back on some of the measures, such as buying mortgage-backed securities, used to stabilize the economy during the pandemic.
Historically, there tends to be a spread of about 1.8 percentage points between the 10-year Treasury and average mortgage rates. Today’s increase occurred in spite of treasury yields trending down from last week’s high of 1.73%.
At the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year, yields dropped below the 1% mark for the first time ever. Treasury yields have drifted higher since then, but held at low levels with the Federal Reserve repeatedly indicating that it expects to keep the short-term Federal Funds rate near zero through 2022 or longer.
Home Purchase Loan Applications Slide
Even with rising interest rates, the housing market remains competitive as buyers rush to take advantage of what can still be considered low rates, historically speaking.
The overall number of mortgage loan applications was down again, decreasing by 2.5% for the week ending March 19, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. The overall drop in application volume is primarily a result of a decline in refinance loans. Purchase loan applications increased by 3% and were 26% higher than the same week last year.
“Purchase applications were strong over the week, driven both by households seeking more living space and younger households looking to enter homeownership,” said Joel Kan, associate vice president of industry and economic forecasting for the MBA. “During the course of the pandemic, ‘home’ has become more important than ever. As a result, strong purchase demand continues — but buyers also outnumber the sellers.”
Refinance Applications Are Down
Refinance applications decreased by 5% last week, the sixth time refis have declined in the last seven weeks. The drop in refinance activity comes as interest rates have been steadily rising, providing less of an incentive for many homeowners. Refinance applications made up about 61% of all loan activity, the slowest pace since last September.
Why Your Personal Mortgage Rate May Be Different From Current Mortgage Rates
Not all applicants will receive the very best rates when taking out a mortgage or refinancing. Credit scores, loan term, interest rate types (fixed or adjustable), down payment size, home location, and the loan size will affect mortgage rates offered to individual home shoppers.
Rates also vary between mortgage lenders. It’s estimated that about half of all buyers only look at one lender, primarily because they tend to trust referrals from their realtors. Yet this means that they may miss out on a lower rate elsewhere.
Last year, Freddie Mac reported that buyers who got offers from five different lenders averaged 0.17 percentage points lower on their interest rate than those who didn’t get multiple quotes. If you want to find the best rate and term for your loan, it makes sense to shop around first.
Today’s Mortgage Rates and Your Monthly Payment
More than other factors, your annual percentage rate on your real estate purchase will affect your monthly payments — whether you’re refinancing or buying a new home.
On a $200,000 home loan with a fixed rate for 30 years:
- At 3% interest rate = $843 in monthly payments (not including taxes, insurance, or HOA fees)
- At 4% interest rate = $955 in monthly payments (not including taxes, insurance, or HOA fees)
- At 6% interest rate = $1,199 in monthly payments (not including taxes, insurance, or HOA fees)
- At 8% interest rate = $1,468 in monthly payments (not including taxes, insurance, or HOA fees)
Refinancing to a lower interest rate could save hundreds of dollars a month if you kept the same loan terms. Shortening the loan term could negate your monthly savings but save thousands over the life of the loan. You can experiment with a mortgage calculator to find out how much a lower rate could save you.
Other factors besides interest affect how much you’ll pay in mortgage payments:
- Mortgage Insurance: Mortgage insurance costs up to 1% of your home loan’s value to your payment each year. Borrowers with conventional loans can avoid private mortgage insurance by making a 20% down payment or reaching 20% home equity. FHA borrowers pay a mortgage insurance premium throughout the life of the loan.
- Closing Costs: Some buyers finance their new home’s closing costs into the loan, which adds to debt and increases monthly payments.
- Loan Term: Choosing a 15-year mortgage instead of a 30-year mortgage will increase monthly mortgage payments but reduce the amount of interest paid throughout the life of the loan.
- Fixed vs. ARM: An adjustable-rate mortgage’s monthly payment could change from year to year after the loan’s introductory period expires. A fixed-rate loan’s payments remain the same throughout the life of the loan.
- Taxes, HOA Fees, Insurance: A monthly mortgage payment could also include homeowners insurance premiums, city or county property taxes, and Homeowners Association fees. Check with your real estate agent to find out how much they would add to your payments.
Will Today’s Mortgage Rates Save You Money on a Refinance?
You should consider refinancing your home loan if your current mortgage rate exceeds today’s mortgage rates by more than one percentage point. Mortgage refinance fees and closing costs would cut into your savings. You also have to consider whether your credit score would qualify you for today’s best refinance rates.
Many online lenders can give you free rate quotes to help you decide whether the money you’d save in interest charges justifies the cost of a new loan. Try to get a quote with a soft credit check which won’t hurt your credit score.
You could enhance interest savings by going with a shorter loan term such as a 15-year mortgage. Your payments may be higher, but you could save thousands in interest charges over time, and you’d pay off your house sooner.
Should You Buy Discount Points to Lower Mortgage Rates?
Many lenders sell discount points. Buying discount points means you’d pay more up front to lower your mortgage rate which could save you money long-term. A mortgage discount point normally costs 1% of your loan amount and could shave 0.25% off your interest rate.
With a $200,000 mortgage loan, a point would cost $2,000. Buying two points would cost $4,000 which would be due, in cash, when you close the loan. These two discount points would translate into a 0.5% reduction to your interest rate.
Discount points could pay off but only if you keep the home loan long enough. Selling the home or refinancing the mortgage within a couple of years would short circuit the discount point strategy. But if you stayed in the loan indefinitely, you’d reach a break-even point after which the discount points would save you more and more over time.
Often, spending cash on a down payment instead of discount points saves more unless you know for sure you’re keeping the loan for years. If a larger down payment could help you avoid paying PMI premiums, put the money toward your down payment instead of discount points.
How to Find the Best Mortgage Lender
Homebuyers have numerous choices for lenders. Your local bank or credit union probably writes mortgage loans with rates close to the current national average. A loan officer in your local branch could guide you through the process.
Online lenders have expanded their market share over the past decade. You could get pre-approved within minutes. Your loan amount combined with current mortgage rates could define your price range for home prices in your area. Many online lenders also assign a dedicated loan officer to offer continuity as you shop.
Shop around to compare rates and terms, and make sure your lender has the loan option you need. Not all lenders write USDA-backed mortgages or VA loans, for example. If you’re not sure about a lender’s veracity, ask for its NMLS number and search for online reviews.
What Type of Mortgage Loan Do You Need?
First-time homebuyers can walk into a mortgage brokerage office or visit an online lender without knowing what kind of mortgage they need. But it’s always better to have an idea of what you’re shopping for, especially since you can’t control other factors such as home prices and current rates.
Mortgage loan types include:
- Conventional Borrowing: Shoppers with higher credit scores and higher down payments can get a conventional mortgage with either a fixed or adjustable rate. Mortgage interest rates can be low for qualified buyers.
- Subsidized Borrowing: The Federal Housing Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture help first-time homebuyers and shoppers in low-income areas buy homes by subsidizing their mortgage loans. FHA and USDA loans allow shoppers with lower credit profiles (a FICO score of 580) to still get affordable home financing. Subsidized loan restrictions include borrowing maximums and safe housing inspections. These loans are for single-family homes in most cases.
- Veterans Affairs Loans: Veterans and active-duty service members can buy homes with no down payment and no PMI through the Department of Veterans Affairs’ lending program. Banks make loans that are guaranteed by the VA. VA loans require a funding fee that could range from 1.4% to 3.64% for first-time homebuyers.
- Jumbo Loans: Homes in high-value housing markets San Francisco and New York City may not fit within a conventional or FHA loan. Jumbo loans can help because they exceed the conforming loan limits of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
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