If there’s one factor about a mortgage that most people worry about, it’s the mortgage interest rate. This little factor affects not only your monthly payment, but also how much interest you pay over the life of the loan. It could mean the difference between an affordable and unaffordable mortgage.
So what determines which interest rate a lender gives you? There are many factors that when all put together, like a puzzle, the lender uses to provide you with a quote.
Keep reading to see what you need to watch in order to get the lowest interest rate for your loan.
What’s Your Credit History?
The very first thing most lenders look at is your credit report and for good reason. It lets them know how financially responsible you are, or aren’t. They use your credit score and history as a measure of your likelihood to pay back the loan you want to borrow.
As a general rule, the higher your credit score, the lower your interest rate. The lower your credit score, the higher your interest rate. It’s all about risk. If you have a high credit score, you pose a lower risk to the lender. In exchange, they can charge you less interest because it’s pretty likely that you’ll pay your mortgage back in full and on time.
If, however, you have a low credit score, you are a higher risk to the lender. The chances aren’t as good that you will make your mortgage payments on time. You may even default on your loan. The lender will likely charge a higher interest rate in order to make more money while you do make payments, in the event that you do default.
How Much are you Investing?
Another factor in your risk level is the amount of money you invest in the home. In other words, how much are you putting down? The more you invest, the more skin you have in the game. In other words, you have more of a vested interest to make your payments on time. If you don’t, you stand to lose a large portion of your own money.
As a general rule, 20% is the key when it comes to getting the best mortgage interest rate, but it’s not always necessary. Just putting down more than the minimum required makes you look better in the lender’s eye. Because they don’t focus on one factor, but all of them together, you want as many positive factors as you can.
For example, combining a higher than minimum requirement down payment with a high credit score shows the lender you are a good risk. However, a high down payment with a lower credit score shows good faith effort in offsetting your risky factor – the lower credit score.
How Much are You Borrowing?
Large loans obviously are a much higher risk than small loans, but that doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get a lower rate with a smaller loan. In fact, if the loan is too small, the lender will charge a higher rate just to make sure they make some money on your loan.
If, however, you borrow more than the conforming loan limit, you may pay an elevated rate because as your loan amount increases, your risk increases too. This will depend on the lender and the other factors of your loan application. In general, though, average size loans under the $453,100 conforming limit, but higher than $100,000 provide the lowest interest rates.
How Long are you Borrowing the Money?
Generally, the less time you keep the bank’s money, the less interest they will charge you. Specifically, a 30-year term usually has a higher interest rate than a 15-year term. The bank knows they will have their money back in 15 years, so they keep the interest rate down. They will have their money back sooner so they can lend to another borrower.
A 30-year term ties up the bank’s money for a much longer period. While they won’t charge monstrous rates, they will be higher than the 15-year term just because of the higher level of risk. You double the amount of time that you will take to pay the bank back their money.
What Type of Interest Rate do You Want?
Finally, you must determine the type of interest rate. You can choose between a fixed rate and adjustable rate. Looks may be deceiving when it comes to the adjustable rate, though, so be careful. The adjustable rate is often much lower than the fixed rate. The tradeoff, though, is that it will adjust after the introductory period ends.
For example, let’s say you take out a 3/1 ARM. The interest rate is 3.0%. This means for the first three years of the loan, the rate will be 3%; it will not change. After those three years, though, the rate can adjust annually. This is where the catch starts. You’ll pay the index rate plus a predetermined margin. There’s no way to know today what the index (chosen by the lender) will be in three years. Your rate could go up or down quite a bit and you won’t know until you are closer to the adjustment date.
A fixed rate, on the other hand, never changes. It remains the same for the entire term. Because of this predictability, the lender charges a slightly higher rate than the introductory rate of the ARM.
Lenders take all of the pieces of the puzzle and put them together to come up with the perfect interest rate for you. Chances are that if you ask three different lenders for a rate quote, you’ll get three different answers. Each lender has their own threshold for risk and their own requirements. They will use those requirements to determine the right mortgage interest rate for you. The best thing you can do is shop around. If you apply with different lenders within a 30-day window, your credit doesn’t get hit for more than one inquiry. The credit bureaus recognize the need to talk with different lenders and get the interest rate that is most affordable for you.