You're shopping for a home loan and want today's mortgage rates.
So, you call up a lender. Usually two. Maybe even three or four -- because you remember that television ad about when lenders compete for your business.
Each of the quotes you receive are different.
Why is that? Are lenders pulling their rates from thin air? Are they trying to take advantage of you because you're a first-time home buyer? Do they assume you don't know any better?
The answer to all of these questions is a resounding "no".
Mortgage lenders don't "make up rates" on the spot, nor do they try to fleece you. Mortgage lenders, on the whole, are ethical, considerate, and concerned about earning your business.
There are actually a lot of valid reasons why mortgage rate quotes differ between banks. We'll address them here.Click to see today's rates (Dec 10th, 2016)
Mortgage rates are "made" based on the price of mortgage-backed securities (MBS), which are bonds bought and sold on Wall Street.
When bond prices rise, mortgage rates drop; and when bond prices drop, mortgage rates rise.
Mortgage lenders -- as the "salespeople" of mortgage rates -- are really just the last leg; the middleman between the mortgage bond market and you, the consumer.
Middlemen all charges different fees for their services so this is why mortgage rates vary from bank to bank. It's also the main reasons to get multiple rate quotes before you lock a mortgage rate.
Mortgage rates can vary by 25 basis points (0.25%) or more between banks.
So, how do banks set their mortgage rate "markup". There are four main factors.
A mortgage lender's ability to make new mortgage loans is often limited by its resources. Making a new loan requires people, time, and money -- and banks have been reducing headcount since 2007/
When the lender is handling a lot of new loans, its already-scarce resources become more scarce. The bank's way to slow new business, then, is to raise its prices.
During periods of ultra-low mortgage rates and during refinance booms, capacity gets strained and mortgage rates don't drop as much as expected. This occurred most recently in May 2013, and again through early-2015.
Originating a mortgage requires resources and using those resources comes at a cost. The cost is the same for loans of all sizes. However, the profit on a new mortgage loan is based on a percentage of the borrowed amount.
This means that a $300,000 loan costs the same to originate as a $50,000 loan, but yields a much larger profit. The same can happen with loans which exceed the conforming loan limit.
"Jumbo" loans, as these loans are called, cannot be banked through the government and, therefore, can be less profitable as compared to the $300,000 loan described above.
For all banks, there's some point where cost to originate a loan is higher than its potential profit. At this loan size, lenders begin adding surcharges which can affect your final rate.
Mortgage lenders, like other business entities, exist to make a profit. Some profit by doing huge numbers of loans with small margins; and, others profit by doing a small number of loans with large margins.
In general, lenders who capture small margins offer lower rates than lenders who aim for large margins. However, this isn't true 100%.
A highly-efficient lender will earn large margins on a large number of loans. Your lender's efficiency will help determine your quoted mortgage rate.Click to see today's rates (Dec 10th, 2016)
The majority of the factors which affect your mortgage rate are actually linked to you -- not your lender.
Your mortgage rate is affected by whether you intend to live in a home as a primary residence or as a vacation home; or, to own the home as a real estate investment with renters.
Mortgages linked to primary residences are considered least risky to a bank and get the lowest mortgage rates available. Vacation and second homes are next-least risky, and investment properties earn the highest mortgage rates.
When you borrowing to purchase or refinance a home, your credit score will affect your mortgage rate, assuming you use a conventional home loan.
Mortgage applicants whose credit score is 740 or better will usually get quoted with a rate 100 basis points (1.00%) or more below the quotes of an applicant whose credit score is 620.
Discount points are a one-time, upfront closing cost which "buy down" your quoted mortgage rate.
Each discount point comes with a cost of one percent of your loan size and will generally reduce your mortgage rate by 25 basis points (0.25%). One discount point on a $417,000 loan size would cost $4,170.
Discount points are optional and, often, tax-deductible.
The size of your downpayment can also play a part in your mortgage rate.
Certain low- and no-downpayment loans, such as the FHA loan, USDA loan, and VA loan, offer no discounts for making a larger downpayment than necessary. Borrowers using conventional financing, however, can see substantial savings -- especially buyers of condominiums.
When you're planning for your loan downpayment, talk with a mortgage lender to see what pricing discounts for which you may be eligible. The lower your loan-to-value (LTV), in general, the lower your final mortgage rate.
There are other loan choices which can affect your mortgage rate, too, and each is under your control and not the lender's.
Of course, there are also part of your mortgage rate quote that are controlled neither by you, nor your lender.
We call these things "market forces".
Market forces are what moves MBS markets; what drives the base price of a mortgage-backed bond upon which mortgage rates are made. And, of course, market forces are global.
In general, global economic weakness raises demand for MBS, as does economic and political uncertainty. This helps to move mortgage rates lower across the board, from all banks.
There are literally hundreds of market forces which affect U.S. mortgage rates and, while it's possible to forecast several of them, we cannot possibly forecast all of them.
Mortgage rates, as a consequence, are unpredictable.
Mortgage rates are different from bank-to-bank. It's why you should get multiple quotes before locking a loan. You never know how low a quote can go.
Get today's live mortgage rates now. Your social security number is not required to get started, and all quotes come with access to your live mortgage credit scores.Click to see today's rates (Dec 10th, 2016)
The information contained on The Mortgage Reports website is for informational purposes only and is not an advertisement for products offered by Full Beaker. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not reflect the policy or position of Full Beaker, its officers, parent, or affiliates.
Elaine A. Marketing
The Mortgage Reports is fantastic. I read it thoroughly and learn so much.
The Mortgage Reports is invaluable. It's our primary source for information on housing finance.
Thaddeus C. Systems Analyst
I am an aspiring homeowner and The Mortgage Reports helps me daily. Thank you for your excellent information.
2016 Conforming, FHA, & VA Loan Limits
Mortgage loan limits for every U.S. county, as published by Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)