Mortgage and refinance rates today, October 19, 2020

Peter Warden
The Mortgage Reports editor

Today’s mortgage and refinance rates 

Average mortgage rates inched higher last Friday, as we predicted. And conventional loans today start at 3.063% (3.063% APR) for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage. 

Find and lock a low rate (Nov 29th, 2020)

Current mortgage and refinance rates 

Program Mortgage Rate APR* Change
Conventional 30 year fixed
Conventional 30 year fixed 3.063% 3.063% Unchanged
Conventional 15 year fixed
Conventional 15 year fixed 3% 3% Unchanged
Conventional 5 year ARM
Conventional 5 year ARM 3% 2.743% Unchanged
30 year fixed FHA
30 year fixed FHA 2.25% 3.226% Unchanged
15 year fixed FHA
15 year fixed FHA 2.25% 3.191% Unchanged
5 year ARM FHA
5 year ARM FHA 2.5% 3.245% Unchanged
30 year fixed VA
30 year fixed VA 3% 3.179% Unchanged
15 year fixed VA
15 year fixed VA 2.25% 2.571% Unchanged
5 year ARM VA
5 year ARM VA 2.5% 2.426% Unchanged
Rates are provided by our partner network, and may not reflect the market. Your rate might be different. Click here for a personalized rate quote. See our rate assumptions here.
Find and lock a low rate (Nov 29th, 2020)

COVID-19 mortgage updates: Mortgage lenders are changing rates and rules due to COVID-19. To see the latest on how coronavirus could impact your home loan, click here.

Should you lock a mortgage rate today?

Most of the current drivers that might move mortgage rates noticeably seem on our side at the moment. In other words, they’re more likely to push them down than up. These two are arguably the big ones:

  1. COVID-19 — A second wave is hitting Western Europe hard. And it might be breaking here. New cases in the US hit 60,000 in one day last week, the highest since early August
  2. The election — Markets seem relaxed about who wins. But a disputed result that leads to a long period of uncertainty would be bad for investors

Of course, there’s plenty of scope for good economic news (such as last Friday’s retail sales data and this morning’s good growth figure for China) that could push mortgage rates higher. But such reports tended to have limited and brief effects.

How reliable is this expectation of lower rates? Not very. A new, proven, effective vaccine could send them soaring. And other “dangers” always lurk.

The most immediate of those is a new stimulus package. And talks are continuing over this. However, the clock’s running down. Over the weekend, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said a deal would have to be struck by tomorrow (Tuesday) evening in order for measures to have any hope of being enacted before the election.

But, on balance, I think these rates are more likely to continue to gently fall overall (with occasional rises around good economic news) than to move significantly higher for a sustained period.

So my personal recommendations are unchanged:

  • LOCK if closing in 7 days
  • LOCK if closing in 15 days
  • FLOAT if closing in 30 days
  • FLOAT if closing in 45 days
  • FLOAT if closing in 60 days

But, with so much uncertainty at the moment, your instincts could easily turn out to be as good as mine — or better. So be guided by your gut and your personal tolerance for risk.

Market data affecting today’s mortgage rates 

Here’s the state of play this morning at about 9:50 a.m. (ET). The data, compared with about the same time last Friday morning, were:

  • The yield on 10-year Treasurys rose to 0.78% from 0.73%. (Bad for mortgage rates.) More than any other market, mortgage rates normally tend to follow these particular Treasury bond yields, though less so recently
  • Major stock indexes were appreciably higher on opening. (Bad for mortgage rates.) When investors are buying shares they’re often selling bonds, which pushes prices of those down and increases yields and mortgage rates. The opposite happens when indexes are lower
  • Oil prices climbed to $40.89 from $40.34 a barrel. (Bad for mortgage rates* because energy prices play a large role in creating inflation and also point to future economic activity.) 
  • Gold prices rose to $1,912 from $1,909 an ounce. (Neutral for mortgage rates*.) In general, it’s better for rates when gold rises, and worse when gold falls. Gold tends to rise when investors worry about the economy. And worried investors tend to push rates lower.
  •  CNN Business Fear & Greed index jumped to 69 from 64 out of a possible 100 points. (Bad for mortgage rates.) “Greedy” investors push bond prices down (and interest rates up) as they leave the bond market and move into stocks, while “fearful” investors do the opposite. So lower readings are better than higher ones

*A change of less than $20 on gold prices or a matter of cents on oil ones is a fraction of 1%. So we only count meaningful differences as good or bad for mortgage rates.

Before the pandemic and the Federal Reserve’s interventions in the mortgage market, you could look at the above figures and make a pretty good guess about what would happen to mortgage rates that day. But that’s no longer the case. The Fed is now a huge player and some days can overwhelm investor sentiment.

So use markets only as a rough guide. They have to be exceptionally strong (rates are likely to rise) or weak (they could fall) to rely on them. Today, they’re looking bad for mortgage rates. Markets still hope a stimulus package might be agreed. And they’re impressed by China’s GDP figure.

Find and lock a low rate (Nov 29th, 2020)

Important notes on today’s mortgage rates

Here are some things you need to know:

  1. The Fed’s ongoing interventions in the mortgage market (way over $1 trillion) should put continuing downward pressure on these rates. But it can’t work miracles all the time. So expect short-term rises as well as falls. And read “For once, the Fed DOES affect mortgage rates. Here’s why” if you want to understand this aspect of what’s happening
  2. Typically, mortgage rates go up when the economy’s doing well and down when it’s in trouble. But there are exceptions. Read How mortgage rates are determined and why you should care
  3. Only “top-tier” borrowers (with stellar credit scores, big down payments and very healthy finances) get the ultralow mortgage rates you’ll see advertised
  4. Lenders vary. Yours may or may not follow the crowd when it comes to rate movements — though they all usually follow the wider trend over time
  5. When rate changes are small, some lenders will adjust closing costs and leave their rate cards the same
  6. Refinance rates are typically close to those for purchases. But some types of refinances from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are currently appreciably higher following a regulatory change

So there’s a lot going on here. And nobody can claim to know with certainty what’s going to happen to mortgage rates in coming hours, days, weeks or months.

Are mortgage and refinance rates rising or falling?

Over the last few months, the overall trend for mortgage rates has clearly been downward. A new all-time low was set early in August and we’ve gotten close to others since. Indeed, on Oct. 15, Freddie Mac said that a new low was set that week.

But certainty is in very short supply at the moment. So don’t assume anything.

It all depends on countless variables, most of which are unknowable.

Expert mortgage rate forecasts

Looking further ahead, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) each has a team of economists dedicated to monitoring and forecasting what will happen to the economy, the housing sector and mortgage rates.

And here are their current rates forecasts for the last quarter of 2020 (Q4/20) and the first three of 2021 (Q1/21, Q2/21 and Q3/21).

Note that Fannie’s (published Oct. 19) and the MBA’s (Sept. 21) are updated monthly. However, Freddie’s are now published quarterly. Its latest was released on Oct. 14.

The numbers in the table below are for 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages:

ForecasterQ4/20Q1/21Q2/21Q3/21
Fannie Mae2.9%2.8%2.8%2.8%
Freddie Mac3.0%3.0%3.0%3.0%
MBA3.1%3.1%3.2%3.2%

So predictions vary considerably. You pays yer money …

Find your lowest rate today

You can save literally thousands by comparison shopping for your mortgage or refinance across multiple lenders. So don’t cut your own throat by just going with one, no matter how well you know it or how highly it’s recommended.

You need to find your best deal possible. And that can change from lender to lender and from day to day.

That advice is especially important now. Some mortgage companies have withdrawn certain products or amended their offerings in response to the pandemic. And you may have to shop around to find a good deal on a cash-out refinance, a loan for an investment property, a jumbo loan or if your credit score is damaged.

So be prepared to kiss a lot of frogs in order to find your lender prince — or princess.

Verify your new rate (Nov 29th, 2020)

Mortgage rate methodology

The Mortgage Reports receives rates based on selected criteria from multiple lending partners each day. We arrive at an average rate and APR for each loan type to display in our chart. Because we average an array of rates, it gives you a better idea of what you might find in the marketplace. Furthermore, we average rates for the same loan types. For example, FHA fixed with FHA fixed. The end result is a good snapshot of daily rates and how they change over time.