Mortgage and refinance rates today, October 20, 2020

Peter Warden
The Mortgage Reports editor

Today’s mortgage and refinance rates 

Average mortgage rates held steady yesterday. And conventional loans today start at 3.063% (3.063% APR) for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage. 

Markets drooped during yesterday as investors saw their early hopes for a new stimulus package melting away. Today’s looking much the same — and still over the same stimulus. Will the early optimism last in coming hours? Or will it again dissipate?

Find and lock a low rate (Dec 3rd, 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% 3.239% -0.01%
30 year fixed VA
30 year fixed VA 2.938% 3.115% -0.06%
15 year fixed VA
15 year fixed VA 2.25% 2.571% Unchanged
5 year ARM VA
5 year ARM VA 2.5% 2.419% -0.01%
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 (Dec 3rd, 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?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently observed that it would be next to impossible to get a stimulus package passed into law before Election Day if a deal weren’t agreed by this evening.

What happens to mortgage rates today will very much depend on whether such an agreement is reached. They could rise if one emerges. But they could fall if all hope for one dies.

Other drivers of these rates seem to suggest they might have a little further to fall. For example, COVID-19 infection rates continue to rise sharply, something that’s bad for the economy and good for rates.

And the possibility of a disputed presidential election result would also raise the chances of lower rates.

That’s not to say lower rates are a surefire bet. Limited, short-term rises are likely from time to time. And the possibility of sharp rises (perhaps on the announcement of a credible vaccine) remains real.

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 yesterday morning, were:

  • The yield on 10-year Treasurys inched up to 0.79% from 0.78%. (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 fell to $40.46 from $40.89 a barrel. (Good for mortgage rates* because energy prices play a large role in creating inflation and also point to future economic activity.) 
  • Gold prices nudged down to $1,904 from $1,912 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 moved lower to 63 from 69 out of a possible 100 points. (Good 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 uncertain for mortgage rates. It’s all about whether a stimulus package is announced in coming hours.

Find and lock a low rate (Dec 3rd, 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 (Dec 3rd, 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.