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Refinance while rates are still low

More than 11.5 million homeowners can still save money by refinancing their mortgage.

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Bankrate's lowest rates for Dec. 08, 2021

We've helped millions find a mortgage

Founded in 1976, Bankrate has a long track record of helping people make smart financial decisions. Along your homebuying journey, we'll pinpoint your best mortgage offers and provide next steps — all while protecting your privacy, personal information and credit score.

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Mortgage industry insights

Last call for super-low mortgage rates?

Following through on a move it had telegraphed in September, the Federal Reserve in early November said it would slow its pace of buying Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities. The “taper,” as it's known by economists, sets the stage for higher mortgage rates.

However, mortgage rates are unlikely to spike as a result of the taper. Instead, the Fed’s changing stance sets the stage for a gradual rise in rates. The Mortgage Bankers Association expects the average mortgage rate on a 30-year mortgage to reach 3.5 percent by mid-2022 and 4 percent by late 2022.

For the millions of homeowners who have yet to lock in historically low interest rates by refinancing, that money-saving opportunity soon might fade away.

>> Read more about how mortgage rates could rise as the FED begins to taper & what to do now

Why compare mortgage rates?

Shopping around for quotes from multiple lenders is one of Bankrate’s most crucial pieces of advice for every mortgage applicant. When you shop, it’s important to think about not just the interest rate you’re being quoted, but also all the other terms of the loan. Be sure to compare APRs, which include many additional costs of the mortgage not shown in the interest rate. Keep in mind that some institutions may have lower closing costs than others, or your current bank may extend you a special offer. There’s always some variability between lenders on both rates and terms, so make sure you understand the full picture of each offer, and think about what will suit your situation best.

How to get a mortgage

It is important to prepare for the mortgage application process to ensure you get the best rate and monthly payments within your budget.

Here are quick steps to prepare for a mortgage:

  1. Build your credit
  2. Set a limit on what you can afford
  3. Set savings aside for both down payment and expected monthly payments
  4. Research the best type of mortgage for you
  5. Get preapproved
  6. See multiple houses within your budget
  7. Apply for a mortgage loan
  8. Get approved!
  9. Close on your new house

>> Read more about the mortgage process in our how to get a mortgage guide

You should also make sure you are ready to be a home-buyer. While it is advantageous to get a mortgage when rates are low, first ensure that it makes sense for your budget and long term financial goals. Rates will also vary by lender and other factors such as down payment and credit score.

>> Read more about buying a house in 2021.

What factors determine my mortgage rate?

Lenders consider these factors when pricing your interest rate:

  • Credit score
  • Down payment
  • Property location
  • Loan amount/closing costs
  • Loan type
  • Loan term
  • Interest rate type

Your credit score is the most important driver of your mortgage rate. Lenders have settled on this three-digit score as the most reliable predictor of whether you’ll make prompt payments. The higher your score, the less risk you pose -- and the lower rate you’ll pay.

Lenders also look at the amount of your down payment. For instance, if you put 20 percent down, you’re viewed as a lower risk, and you might get a lower rate than someone who’s financing nearly all of their home purchase. From the lender’s viewpoint, the more skin the borrower has in the game, the more likely the mortgage will be repaid on time and in full. (That’s also why lenders require you to pay private mortgage insurance with less than 20 percent down.)

Rolling additional closing costs into the loan affects your mortgage rate as well. With these costs added to what you owe, you’ll typically pay a higher interest rate than someone who pays those fees upfront. Borrowers might also pay higher rates for jumbo loans -- mortgages above the limits for conforming mortgages.

The type of mortgage you choose including the loan term and the interest type may also affect your rate. You’ll pay lower interest rates for 15-year mortgages than for 30-year loans because of the shorter time horizon--paying off the loan faster means less risk for the lender.. Adjustable-rate mortgages, which have largely disappeared as fixed rates have plumbed new lows, come with lower initial rates, but when the loan resets, usually annually or every six months, rates can fluctuate with the market for the remainder of the loan term.

Mortgage FAQs

Looking to refinance?

Refinancing your mortgage can be a good financial move if you lock in a lower rate. However, there are upfront costs associated with refinancing, such as appraisals, underwriting fees and taxes, so you’ll want to be sure the savings outpace the refinance price tag in a reasonable amount of time, say 18 to 24 months.

While mortgage rates have risen from the record lows of late 2020 and early 2021, they remain at historically low levels. That means millions of homeowners still could save by refinancing. Reducing your rate isn’t the only reason to refinance. It’s also possible to tap into your home equity to pay for home renovations. Or, if you want to pay down your mortgage more quickly, you can shorten your term to 20, 15 or even 10 years. And because home values have risen sharply, it’s possible that a refinance could free you from paying for private mortgage insurance.

>> Find and compare refinance rates

>> For more information on mortgage refinancing, visit Bankrate’s mortgage refinancing hub.

Written by: Jeff Ostrowski, senior mortgage reporter for Bankrate

Jeff Ostrowski covers mortgages and the housing market. Before joining Bankrate in 2020, he wrote about real estate and the economy for the Palm Beach Post and the South Florida Business Journal.

Read more from Jeff Ostrowski

Reviewed by: Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate

Greg McBride, CFA, is Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Analyst, for Bankrate.com. He leads a team responsible for researching financial products, providing analysis, and advice on personal finance to a vast consumer audience.

Read more from Greg McBride

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