Mortgage and real estate news this week: refinancing trends and homeowner credit scores

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It’s the last weekend before the cold weather holiday season is officially upon us, which usually means quieter days in the mortgage and real estate industries.

As we prepare for that slowdown, here are the top five stories we looked at this week.

1. Choosing not to refinance

In a Bankrate survey of current mortgage-holding homeowners, more than half the respondents said they haven’t considered refinancing this year, despite record low interest rates. They cited a variety of reasons, including not enough savings after going through the process. Many also said the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s refinancing fee, due to start for loans that close on or after Dec. 1, was a big turnoff.

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2. High interest rates for nonwhite borrowers

Bankrate’s survey also showed that Black and Hispanic borrowers were much more likely than their White counterparts to have mortgage interest rates of 6 percent or more. It underscores a historical trend of nonwhite Americans having a harder time accessing financing and securing real estate.

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3. Mortgage holders have better credit than ever

The median credit score for a mortgage borrower today is 786, higher than it’s been in at least two decades. It’s a boon to current homeowners, whose strong credit can help them take advantage of lower interest rates. But, as borrowers get ever more cautious about extending credit amid the pandemic-fueled economic uncertainty, the trend can make it even harder for first-time homebuyers to break into the mortgage market.

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4. New housing more at risk for wildfires

As more land gets developed in Western states, more and more of the new housing is at greater risk of being burned by wildfires. Bankrate broke down the top 10 growing areas that are most at risk.

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5. How a mortgage broker can help you

One of Bankrate’s biggest pieces of advice for homebuyers and refinancers is to shop around to different lenders. It can be hard to do that kind of work yourself though, so for many prospective borrowers, it’s best to work with a mortgage broker. Here’s a guide to what mortgage brokers do, and how they can make your mortgage application process easier.

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Written by
Zach Wichter
Mortgage reporter
Zach Wichter is a mortgage reporter at Bankrate. He previously worked on the Business desk at The New York Times where he won a Loeb Award for breaking news, and covered aviation for The Points Guy.
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