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Because mortgage rates change every day, it’s a good idea to check them regularly (if not daily, at least weekly). Comparison-shopping gives you peace of mind knowing you’ve found the best rate available to you. At best, if interest rates go down, comparing your options gives you an opportunity to save.
As you check rates, understand that the average mortgage rate isn’t necessarily the one you’ll qualify for. Your interest rate depends on your risk profile as a borrower, which includes your credit score, the type of loan and term, the home’s location, the type of rate, your down payment amount and more.
In this article, we’ll answer some common questions about mortgage rates: How often do mortgage rates change, what factors determine mortgage rates and what to consider when comparing mortgage rates.
How often do mortgage rates change?
It’s a common question among hopeful homeowners, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer: When do mortgage rates change?
Mortgage interest rates are in constant flux and can change daily (and, on occasion, multiple times per day). Sometimes, these changes are minor. But recently, rates have been more volatile, with fluctuations of as much as half a percentage point in a single day.
Mortgage rates have increased significantly in recent years, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic in 2022. After experiencing record lows — rates under 3 percent — the U.S. saw the largest mortgage rate run-up in almost 30 years, with rates doubling to 7 percent.
With that being said, historical mortgage rate trends show that mortgage rates are actually relatively low right now. For comparison, the highest 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 18.4 percent in October 1981, which is much higher than average rates are today. Still, the rapidity of the increase, coupled with stubbornly high home prices, has created serious affordability problems for many aspiring homeowners.
What determines mortgage rates?
What determines mortgage rates? A lot of different factors, including economic conditions, inflation and U.S. Treasury bonds.
For example, when the economy is strong and unemployment is low, mortgage rates tend to go up. Theoretically, people have more money to spend on loans during these times, so mortgage rates often increase. When the economy struggles, mortgage rates usually decrease.
Another big factor that impacts mortgage rates is inflation. When inflation rises quickly, it typically means the cost of everything rises, and that includes the interest charged on debt products. To continue making profit, lenders charge borrowers higher interest rates so they can continue lending, and continue enticing investors to buy mortgages from them for their yields.
World events, like wars and major disasters, and real estate-related government policies can affect mortgage rates. And when the Federal Reserve changes short-term interest rates, it has an indirect effect on mortgage rates, as well.
While mortgage rate trends affect the general cost of borrowing money, personal factors and finances influence the actual interest rate an individual borrower will pay. When you apply for a mortgage, the lender will look at your credit score, income, debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, loan amount and property type, which will all impact your rate.
Important considerations when comparing mortgage rates
Your mortgage rate helps determine how much you pay each month for the loan, as well as your total interest charges over the length of the mortgage. As you compare mortgage rates, here are some questions to consider:
1. What loan do you qualify for?
Different loan types carry different interest rates, so you’ll want to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples based on the type of mortgage you can be approved for. For example, adjustable-rate loans typically start with a lower rate than fixed-rate loans — though that’ll change after the initial period — and 15-year loans tend to charge lower rates than 30-year loans.
2. How much are you putting down?
The higher your down payment, the better your chances of scoring a lower interest rate. Instead of estimating during the preapproval process, make sure you know exactly how much you’re putting down so you can get an accurate quote from the lenders you’re considering.
3. What’s a ‘good’ mortgage rate?
Because mortgage rates fluctuate daily, it can be hard to know if the rates you find are the lowest you could possibly get. Each day, Bankrate provides benchmark rates, including for the 30-year and 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, based on a survey of the largest mortgage lenders in the U.S. Depending on the type of loan you’re getting, you can use this information to judge whether an offer is a “good” one, or if there may be better choices out there.
Remember, though, that any actual rate offers you receive are based on your credit score, income and more. The more you shop around, the easier it will be to understand what a good rate is for your credit and financial profile.
4. How much is the APR?
The terms interest rate and APR are often used interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing.
Both are expressed as percentages. However, the interest rate on a mortgage represents the interest charged on the loan principal. In contrast, the APR, or annual percentage rate, indicates the cost of the loan including the interest, closing costs and other fees. The APR is a more accurate picture of your all-in cost, and is always higher than the interest rate.
By law, lenders are required to disclose the APR on a loan offer, but they may only include some of the costs in the APR that’s advertised. You can ask what fees the lender factored into the APR and use that information when comparing your options. And, when comparing offers or advertised rates from different lenders, be sure you’re comparing APR to APR, or interest rate to interest rate.
5. What are the closing costs and fees?
In some cases, the interest rate a lender gives you includes mortgage points, which are fees you pay at closing in exchange for a lower ongoing interest rate. If you’re negotiating with multiple lenders, this may be the lever some pull to beat the competition — but, depending on how the math works out, it may not be worth it to pay more to get the same rate or a slightly lower one, so compare these scenarios carefully.
Some lenders also have flexibility when it comes to other closing costs, like the origination fee, or may be able to waive a certain cost altogether, like the appraisal or application fees. It can be helpful to know this information when making your comparisons.
6. What’s your timeline?
Once you find a rate you like, you can lock it in, meaning your rate won’t change between the offer and closing, assuming you close within the allotted time period and don’t change your application. Lock-in rates are typically valid for 30 to 60 days, but sometimes up to 120 days.
However, if you’re not planning to close on a mortgage within that time frame, it might be best to continue to keep an eye on rates, but maybe not take the next step to apply for a loan yet. Once you have a purchase agreement, the closing process takes on average 44 days, but can stretch out longer, depending on the lender.
7. Have you already locked a rate?
If you’ve already locked in a rate, you can still continue to compare mortgage offers, but lenders typically won’t let you break the lock without paying a fee. If your lock doesn’t have a float-down provision, you won’t be able to take advantage of lower rates at all unless you restart the mortgage process with a new lender. Depending on the difference in rate, though, it can be worth it.
Note that if you’re working with a mortgage broker, the broker can do some of this work for you as they work with multiple lenders to help you find a good rate. However, it’s also a good idea to do your own research so you can compare rate offers with what your broker provides.
Bottom line on checking mortgage rates
Do mortgage rates change daily? Yes, so you’ll want to check them often to understand the trends and make sure you’re getting the best rate. Just keep in mind that your specific rate could be lower or higher than the average rate, depending on your financial profile, down payment and other factors.
Once you have an idea of what rate you may qualify for and you’re ready to move forward with the purchase or refinancing process, you can begin the application process and compare loan estimates. Be sure to discuss the rate lock with your lender and find out how long it will last and whether there’s a float-down guarantee
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Rivelli