Personal Finance

How to Land the Best Possible Mortgage Rates

Expertise: Landlording & Rental Properties, Personal Finance, Real Estate News & Commentary
32 Articles Written

Buying a home is exciting — you tend to get carried away picking out color palettes, tiles and fixtures, and even new appliances like air conditioners and toasters even before your first home tour. There are so many decisions that come with finding a new home, but before you get carried away with all these new ideas, you have to remember that this is an investment choice.

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You want to get the best rate possible so your chances of getting a good return on your investment are greater. There are many factors involved in calculating your rate. Knowing some best practices will help you get a better deal on your mortgage.


What Type of Mortgage Should You Get?

You can get a fixed rate or an adjustable rate when you take out a mortgage. This simply means with a fixed-rate mortgage, you will pay a consistent interest rate until the loan is paid off. With an adjustable rate, also known as an ARM, your interest rate will change.

The ARM offers a lower interest rate in the beginning. You will get a period of 1 to 10 years to enjoy that rate before it goes up, which causes your monthly payment to increase as well.

If you are OK with your monthly payment increasing after the introductory period or if your introductory period is long enough that you will have the loan paid off by then, the ARM may be the better option.

Related: Creative Financing: 5 Outside-the-Box Tools Savvy Investors Use to Build Wealth

As long as you look at the whole picture across both mortgage types and are aware of how getting an ARM will change your monthly payment in the future, you should be able to make a good decision to get the right type of loan.

The Down Payment

How much should you plan to put down on your home? Ten percent? Fifteen percent? More? This is a good question and a big part of preparing to get a mortgage.

The answer isn’t a simple percentage that applies to everyone, though. The sale price of the house and the type of loan you are taking affects down payment requirements and recommendations. For the sake of planning, use a down payment calculator to get a ballpark range of what you can expect.

Don’t just assume putting down more money will always be the best choice. There are other ways you can use the money that may make more sense in the long run, such as buying points or investing.

Many people may wonder if it’s better to put down more money on their house up front or invest that money and let it grow to give them more to pay on the loan later. Since all situations are different, you should evaluate your circumstances and discuss your options with your financial advisor.


Related: Investment Property Loans: The Ultimate Guide to Funding Your Deals

What About Points?

You have the option to pay to reduce your interest rate. You pay 1 percent of the mortgage amount (a point), and that amount reduces your interest rate over the life of the loan. The amount of interest savings is usually 0.25 percent.

If your interest rate is 5.125 percent on a $200,000 loan, you’d pay $2,000 for one point to get your interest rate down to 4.875%. It doesn’t sound like much now, but it could save you $9,000.70 over a 30-year loan.

The goal is to at least break even, so you should calculate the break-even point by dividing the cost of the point by the savings you’ll reap each month. This will give you the number of months it will take to get back the investment for the point(s).

You will want to consider how long you are planning on paying on the loan to determine if the investment in points will pay off for your situation. If you are getting an ARM, you also should determine how your loan will change once your introductory period is over.

All of these things come into play in helping you make the best investment decision and get the best rate possible for your mortgage. If possible, work with a mortgage expert who can help you look at all of your options so you save money and get the best possible rate.

Have any additional tips?

Be sure to leave a comment below!

Anum Yoon is the founder and editor of the millennial money blog, Current on Currency.
    Bill Briscoe Accountant from Thornton, CO
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Some good basic info here, but what about current trends? Why is the 15 year rate lower than the 5/1 or 7/1 ARMs? This seems to be reversed from 3-5 years ago. More curious, why is the 15 yr rate lower than the 10 yr? An inverted or U shaped yield curve usually means something odd is going on. Also, who is doing no cost refi’s right now? What are the LTV and occupancy requirements? What is the rate spread between no-cost and full fee refi’s? HELOCs? 3 years ago lenders would pay for the appraisal and all fees just to sell loans. Now my same lender is charging several hundred in closing fees. Is anyone still doing free HELOCs?
    Jon Sanborn Real Estate Agent from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Good point about the points. I am interested in a lot of the points made by @Bill Briscoe though.
    Bruce Silverman Lender from Atlanta, Georgia
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    With interest rates the lowest they’ve ever been, why would anyone take an ARM unless they knew they were only keeping the property a year or two, and even then how much would you really save. The Fed is going to start raising rates very soon, and that will negatively impact ARM’s.
    Tim Porsche Investor from Denver, Pennsylvania
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    In the example above with the example of points, if you would invest that $2,000 at a rate of 8% return over the course of 30 years, instead of putting it toward points, it would be worth 20,125.31 :).
    Katie Rogers from Santa Barbara, California
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    8% is the historical return, but be wary of the cognitive bias of overconfidence. Remember, that 8% is the whole market over the last 200 years. No individual investor invests like that. Studies year after year confirm that the average investor usually gets about 2% annualized. That is one reason why a 3% stock dividend is routinely referred to as “fat.”
    Ross Bennett, CMB
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    If this article is about getting the lowest interest rates, you missed the single biggest factor: Credit. Credit score and payment history is the most important cnsideration in obtaining the best rate. Or even the loan, for that matter. Lenders use credit scores in risk based pricing modeling. A borrower with a 620 score is going to pay a much higher rate than someone with an 800 score. The lower your score, the greater likelihood you will default on your loan. Lenders want to be compensated for the risk of making you a loan. Consult with an experienced mortgage banker before you put an offer in on a home and find yourself disappointed.
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    This is great information. It is important to make a smart financial decision when purchasing a home, and thinking everything over thoroughly. Thanks for sharing!
    Brandon Curson Investor from Cleveland, Ohio
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    For an article with that type of title, you need to cover more than the sheer basics.
    Luke Yancey
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    I see– so you typically get better interest rates if you put down a higher down payment? This makes a lot of sense to me. I think I will save for a little longer before thinking about investing in a home! Thank you for the advice.
    Kenneth Gladman
    Replied over 3 years ago
    I like that you mentioned the down payment and how it will vary for everyone in difference situations. I would certainly agree that it is important to consult an agent though, especially if it is your first home. You want to be sure and get the down payment correct.
    Ridley Fitzgerald
    Replied over 3 years ago
    I appreciate the information on mortgages here. I had no idea that there were two options to choose from. For me, I think the ARM loan sounds nice, since it would start out low. I just hope I have a better job in ten years or so!
    Keith Gumbinger
    Replied over 3 years ago
    The lowest possible mortgage rate you can get is probably on a product that isn’t right for your situation — or on a product for which you may not qualify. For example, a short-term ARM may have the lowest available rate, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for your long-term plans. Even a hybrid 5/1 ARM (fixed for the first five years) can give you a 1 percentage point break over a comparable 30-year fixed rate, but if you plan on staying in your home/mortgage for longer than 5 years, you risk giving all those savings back — and then some. A 15-year mortgage will likely have a lower rate than a 30-year — but your income will need to be 20-25 percent higher to qualify for the same loan amount. To try to get the best mortgage for your situation at the best rate, you first need to have a sense of how long you intend to stay in your home. Once you have an idea of that, look for mortgages that feature fixed interest rates of at least that long (preferably a little longer). Then, get your credit in order; a top credit score can see you chop 1 percent or more off the interest rate that someone with only average credit may get. Now, consider making as large a downpayment as you can; a larger down payment means less risk to the lender and lower costs (rates or fees) to you. Now, if you wish, consider “”buying down”” the interest rate further by paying points (actually a prepayment of interest). Each point (a fee of 1 percent of the amount you are borrowing) can lower the rate by up to a quarter of a percentage point; however, keep in mind that this outlay today will be repaid to you a small bit at a time through lower interest costs, and you need to be certain that you will remain in the home loan enough to actually get some return — getting to a break-even point isn’t the goal here — actual savings are. Want to effectively lower your rate further? Prepay your mortgage, too.
    Hannah Neilson
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Thanks for the advice about considering the best amount of a money to pay for a down payment. It would be good to consider this because it would help ensure that you also get a good mortgage rate. I’m looking into getting a down payment for a home closer to my parents, so I’ll have to consider how much to pay upfront.
    Sara Sota
    Replied 5 months ago
    This is great information. It is important to make a smart financial decision when purchasing a home!
    Sara Sota
    Replied 5 months ago
    This is great information. It is important to make a smart financial decision when purchasing a home!