10 Tips to Secure the Best Interest Rate on your Mortgage

Article originally published December 13th, 2017. Updated February 16th, 2023.

Buying a home is an extensive process. It includes marshaling your assets, reviewing your credit—and potentially trying to improve it—and shopping for a house that meets your wants and needs. That’s all before you enter the process of applying for a mortgage and considering your offers.

The process can be daunting, but it’s important to take one step at a time to avoid becoming overwhelmed. One area where people become especially concerned is the overall cost of a home loan. Securing a mortgage can be challenging, but how can you get a good interest rate to reduce the long-term cost of your home?

Here are some tips to help you get the best rates for mortgages. Just remember that many of these tips take time, so plan months or even years ahead for your homebuying journey. 

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In This Piece

Tips for Getting the Best Interest Rate on Your Mortgage

When you’re looking to secure a mortgage or get the best possible interest, personal finances really matter. Our tips include those related to your credit history, savings and income, along with some advice about educating yourself on mortgage terms and interest types. 

Understand Interest Rate Types: Fixed vs. Adjustable

A fixed-rate mortgage has the same interest rate throughout the loan’s entire life. This makes your rate and monthly payment predictable and consistent. An adjustable-rate mortgage comes with an interest rate that can change—and often one that could increase if interest rates in the market increase. This can make your rate and monthly payment unpredictable.

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    Knowing your plans for the future can help you understand which type of interest rate is best for you. If you only plan to hold on to the home for a few years before selling it to upgrade, an adjustable-rate mortgage—or ARM—might work for you. This is especially true if interest rates are currently low, as an ARM loan tends to start with lower rates than fixed-rate mortgages when all other factors are equal.  

    Keep Your Credit Healthy

    You do typically need decent credit to secure a mortgage, but there are options for those with lackluster credit. While the credit score required to buy a home depends on many factors, the better your score, the better rates you may be able to command. Interest rates are a huge factor in how much your monthly payment is. Better credit typically equals more favorable rates, which equals lower monthly payments.

    Make a Bigger Down Payment

    The larger your down payment, the lower your overall loan amount is. That can lead to a lower interest rate when you secure a mortgage. That’s because your interest rate is partially based on your home’s loan-to-value, or LTV.

    For example, if a home is worth $200,000 and the loan is for $199,000, that would be considered a high LTV and is riskier for a lender. That could lead to a higher interest rate. If the ratio is lower, however, you might be rewarded with a lower interest rate. 

    Have Stable Income

    If you can prove that your line of work is in high demand with no sign of slowing down, or if you work for a large, profitable company, your lender may take this into account when processing your paperwork. Income stability demonstrates that you’re less likely to miss mortgage payments.

    You can also demonstrate income stability by income history. Documents that show a stable income, such as check stubs, W2 forms and tax returns, might all be required by a mortgage lender when evaluating you for a loan. 

    Lower Credit Utilization Ratio

    Credit utilization refers to how much of your available credit you’re actively using. A high credit utilization rate occurs when you use a large percentage of your available credit. For example, if you have $10,000 total in credit limits across your credit cards and you have a total balance of $5,000, that’s a credit utilization rate of 50%.

    The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau notes that keeping your credit utilization at 30% or lower helps improve your credit score, which can lead to better interest rates for mortgages. It can also ensure mortgage lenders don’t see you as using credit in a desperate or risky way, making them more likely to approve you and offer better rates. 

    Make Mortgage Point Payments

    It’s possible to pay extra directly to your lender to lower your interest rate. For every one percent of your loan amount you’re willing to pay upfront, you may be able to get as much as half a percent off your home loan interest rate. Essentially, you’re just paying a larger amount of interest upfront, and this is known as buying points. 

    Have Enough Savings

    Most people know they should have enough savings to cover about 6 months’ worth of bills. Proving to your lender that you can still pay your mortgage in the event of a job loss because you have cash on hand can help you score a lower interest rate. 

    A Final Word on Getting the Best Interest Rates for Mortgages

    Keeping your finances healthy is the best way to protect yourself when applying for loans. Do the work ahead of time to ensure you’re ready to apply for a mortgage. Then, you can start by comparing rates online to secure a mortgage that works for you.

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