What is a 30-year fixed mortgage?
A 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage has an interest rate that doesn’t change over the full term of the loan. It’s a popular choice for many homebuyers because of its stable monthly principal and interest payment that allows homeowners to budget housing expenses over the long haul.
Historical 30-year rates
According to Freddie Mac historical data, the 30-year fixed rate shot up to about 18 percent in September and October of 1981, which would give current homebuyers quite the sticker shock. The U.S. was in the midst of an economic recession back then, and the Federal Reserve hiked rates in an effort to curb inflation.
Today, current mortgage rates are much lower, hovering near 4 percent. Knowing where rates have been — and what drives them — can help you put things into perspective as you evaluate loan offers.
When the housing crisis hit in 2008, the average annual 30-year fixed rate was 6.23 percent, according to historical Bankrate data. Since then, it has fallen considerably. When 30-year fixed mortgage rates decline, getting a mortgage is more affordable for homebuyers and those looking to refinance. However, home-price growth, which has been rising for the last several years, can present a barrier for potential homeowners even when mortgage rates are low.
The benchmark 30-year fixed rate hit a record low of 3.52 percent during the week of July 6, 2016, according to historical Bankrate data. Current rates are hovering near three-year lows amid generally positive economic conditions.
Bankrate average annual 30-year fixed mortgage rate, 2008-2018
|Year||Average 30-Year Fixed Annual Rate|
Pros of a 30-year mortgage
- Lower monthly payment. Repaying a mortgage over 30 years means you’ll have lower, more affordable payments spread out over time.
- Stability. Having a consistent principal and interest payment help you better map out your housing expenses for the long term. (Your monthly housing payment can change, though, if your homeowners insurance and property taxes go up or down.)
- Buy more house. With lower payments, you might be able to qualify for a larger loan amount and a more expensive home.
- Gives you more wiggle room. Lower monthly payments can help free up your monthly budget for other goals, like saving for emergencies, retirement, college tuition or home repairs and maintenance.
Cons of a 30-year mortgage
- More total interest paid. Stretching out repayment to a 30-year term means you’ll wind up paying more overall in interest than you would with a shorter-term loan.
- Higher mortgage rates. Lenders charge higher interest rates for 30-year loans because they’re taking on the risk of not being repaid for a longer time span.
- Becoming house poor. Just because you might be able to afford more house with a 30-year loan doesn’t mean you should overstretch your budget. Give yourself some breathing room for other financial goals and unexpected expenses.
- Slower equity growth. It will take longer to build equity in your home because most of your initial mortgage payments will go towards interest rather than paying down your principal amount.
Is a 30-year fixed mortgage right for you?
Choosing the right home loan is an important step in the homebuying process, and you have a lot of options. You need to take several factors into consideration, such as your credit score, income, down payment amount, budget and financial goals. Here’s how a 30-year fixed mortgage stacks up against other loan types.
|Loan type||Interest rate||Pros||Cons||Best for|
|30-year fixed||Interest rate||Pros
Homebuyers who plan to stay in a home for a long time and want lower monthly payments
|15-year fixed||Interest rate||Pros
Homebuyers who plan to stay in a home for a long time and who can afford the higher monthly payment
|5/1 and 7/1 adjustable-rate mortgage||Interest rate||Pros
Homebuyers who plan to live in a home for just a few years and want a lower monthly payment
|FHA loan||Interest rate||Pros
Lower-income borrowers or those with less-than-pristine credit and a small down payment
|VA loan||Interest rate||Pros
Eligible military veterans or active-duty personnel and their spouses
|Jumbo loan||Interest rate||Pros
Homebuyers in expensive housing markets who cannot qualify for a conforming loan
30-year fixed mortgage vs. 15-year fixed mortgage
The most significant drawback of a 30-year fixed mortgage is the amount of interest you’ll pay. Mortgage rates tend to be higher for 30-year loans than 15-year loans. Although your monthly payments will be lower for a 30-year loan, you’ll pay a lot more interest over the long run.
For example, with a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, you’ll slash your repayment time in half and save significantly on interest in the process. Compare how much interest you’ll pay on 15-year and 30-year loans with Bankrate’s 15-year or 30-year fixed mortgage calculator.
|15-year fixed mortgage||30-year fixed mortgage|
|Interest paid over first 5 years||$34,881||$43,118|
*Interest rates differ because 15-year fixed rate mortgages typically have lower interest rates than a 30-year fixed rate.
Your monthly payments are $466 lower with a 30-year loan, but you pay an additional $98,525 in interest over the life of the loan compared with a 15-year loan. Don’t forget to factor in property taxes, mortgage insurance (if you put less than 20 percent down), homeowners insurance, HOA fees, utilities and maintenance expenses when setting your monthly housing budget.
Remember that the mortgage rate you qualify for varies depending on your down payment amount, credit profile, income and other factors. Learn more about how to get the best mortgage rate.
Refinancing a 30-year mortgage
It’s generally a good idea to refinance your 30-year fixed mortgage into a new loan if you can get a lower interest rate or lower monthly payment, or improve your financial situation in another way. However, if you’re several years into repaying your loan and you refinance into a new 30-year mortgage, you’ll be paying more total interest in the long run by starting the repayment clock from scratch again.
If you can, consider refinancing a 30-year mortgage into a shorter loan, which will avoid lengthening your repayment and save you on interest. Keep in mind, though, you might have a higher monthly payment depending where you are in the amortization schedule.
When you refinance 30-year mortgage, you’ll pay lender origination fees and third-party fees for an appraisal and other closing costs. Most lenders require you to have at least 20 percent equity in your home to refinance.