Finding the best mortgage interest rate can be overwhelming, but just like any other product you purchase, you need to shop around before making a final decision.

First and foremost, know your credit score. When acquiring a mortgage, your credit score is the single most important factor in determining how much your mortgage interest rate will be. Start by obtaining a free credit report online and fix any mistakes on your credit report before applying for a mortgage.

Pay your bills on time. You should have no late payments on your history for at least six months before applying for a mortgage. The better your payment history, the better your mortgage interest rate will be.

Pay down your credit card debt. Be sure you’ve used no more than half your available credit. Anytime your debt-to-available credit ratio climbs above 50 percent, it will hurt your credit score and in turn, hurt your chances of getting a good mortgage interest rate.

Do not apply for any other credit cards or consumer loans while applying for a mortgage. Each new credit application on your history can lower your score up to 12 points, and for potential borrowers, this could mean the difference between a 4.8 percent mortgage interest rate and a 6 percent mortgage interest rate.

Last and certainly not least, know what you can afford and be prepared to put at least 20 percent down on a home. Use the mortgage rate tables at Bankrate to find the lowest rates offered in your area. Mortgage interest rates, just like cars, can be negotiated, so don’t be afraid to do just that; it could save you thousands of dollars.

Purchasing a home is the single most important investment you will ever make and getting a good mortgage interest rate is imperative. Shop around, negotiate with lenders and don’t settle for the first mortgage interest rate offer thrown your way.