Mortgage and refinance rates today, Sept. 22, 2021

Peter Warden
The Mortgage Reports editor

Today’s mortgage and refinance rates 

Average mortgage rates held steady yesterday. It’s as if key markets are holding their breath as they await the Federal Reserve’s crucial statement (2 p.m. (ET)) and news conference (30 minutes later) this afternoon.

Depending on what’s said, those Fed events could (though I suspect they won’t) change everything for mortgage rates. So I can’t predict what might happen to those rates today. However, I can report that they were inching higher first thing this morning.

Find and lock a low rate (Oct 17th, 2021)

Current mortgage and refinance rates 

Program Mortgage Rate APR* Change
Conventional 30 year fixed
Conventional 30 year fixed 2.995% 3.012% Unchanged
Conventional 15 year fixed
Conventional 15 year fixed 2.373% 2.397% Unchanged
Conventional 20 year fixed
Conventional 20 year fixed 2.845% 2.875% Unchanged
Conventional 10 year fixed
Conventional 10 year fixed 2.284% 2.337% Unchanged
30 year fixed FHA
30 year fixed FHA 3.012% 3.769% +0.02%
15 year fixed FHA
15 year fixed FHA 2.408% 3.051% Unchanged
5/1 ARM FHA
5/1 ARM FHA 2.16% 2.971% -0.01%
30 year fixed VA
30 year fixed VA 2.841% 3.031% +0.03%
15 year fixed VA
15 year fixed VA 2.612% 2.96% -0.02%
5/1 ARM VA
5/1 ARM VA 2.421% 2.272% 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 (Oct 17th, 2021)

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?

There’s a real chance that the Fed’s news conference this afternoon could push mortgage rates higher. But most observers (including this one) think it more likely that the announcement that could thrust them upward will come at the beginning of November or even in mid-December.

But other threats to low rates could hang around for weeks. And factors that might push them lower seem relatively unlikely.

So my personal rate lock recommendations are:

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

However, I don’t claim perfect foresight. And your personal analysis could turn out to be as good as mine — or better. So you might choose to be guided by your instincts and your personal tolerance for risk.

Market data affecting today’s mortgage rates 

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

  • The yield on 10-year Treasury notes inched up to 1.33% from 1.32%. (Bad for mortgage rates.) More than any other market, mortgage rates normally tend to follow these particular Treasury bond yields
  • Major stock indexes were higher after 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 may happen when indexes are lower
  • Oil prices increased to $71.75 from $70.68 a barrel. (Bad for mortgage rates*.) Energy prices play a large role in creating inflation and also point to future economic activity. 
  • Gold prices nudged up to $1,777 from $1,775 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 indexheld steady at 25 out of 100. (Neutral 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 40 cents on oil ones is a fraction of 1%. So we only count meaningful differences as good or bad for mortgage rates.

Caveats about markets and 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. We still make daily calls. And are usually right. But our record for accuracy won’t achieve its former high levels until things settle down.

Find and lock a low rate (Oct 17th, 2021)

Important notes on today’s mortgage rates

Here are some things you need to know:

  1. 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
  2. Only “top-tier” borrowers (with stellar credit scores, big down payments and very healthy finances) get the ultralow mortgage rates you’ll see advertised
  3. Lenders vary. Yours may or may not follow the crowd when it comes to daily rate movements — though they all usually follow the wider trend over time
  4. When daily rate changes are small, some lenders will adjust closing costs and leave their rate cards the same
  5. Refinance rates are typically close to those for purchases. And a recent regulatory change has narrowed a gap that previously existed

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?

Today and soon

This afternoon’s news conference, following a two-day meeting of the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy body, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), just might bring an announcement about “tapering.”

With apologies to regular readers who must be bored to tears by this topic, “tapering” will occur when the Fed scales back its current “quantitative easing” (aka easy-money) program. Right now, that includes buying each month huge quantities of mortgage-backed securities (MBSs), the type of bond that largely determines mortgage rates.

And you don’t need a Nobel Prize in economics to work out that those purchases are keeping mortgage rates artificially low. Nor that tapering will virtually inevitably push them higher.

That’s certainly what happened the last time the Fed tapered a similar program back in 2013.

How likely is a tapering announcement today?

Personally, I doubt that a tapering announcement will come today. Recent economic data haven’t provided the ammunition that’s probably needed for hawkish Fed officials to convince a majority of FOMC members to push the button.

But such an announcement today is far from impossible. The Fed’s highly likely to begin to slow its easy-money program this year. And it’s running out of room to kick this can farther down the road.

The other looming threat to low rates

But whatever the Fed does today, there’s another threat to low mortgage rates that’s growing bigger every day. And that’s the debt ceiling.

On Capitol Hill, the House yesterday passed a bill to raise the ceiling. But that faces a serious political standoff in the Senate. And if the ceiling isn’t raised before the middle of next month, the nation would face a government shutdown and probably begin to default on its debts.

This political football last came into play in 2011. And, while the holdout legislators caved at the last minute, the mere fact that they took it to the brink resulted in the US’s credit rating being downgraded — and interest rates rising.

If we’re taken back to the brink this time, we’ll be in mid-October. And, just a couple of weeks later, the Fed will be revisiting tapering. So the omens for mortgage rates aren’t good.

Over the weekend, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wrote in The Wall Street Journal:

The US has never defaulted. Not once. Doing so would likely precipitate a historic financial crisis that would compound the damage of the continuing public health emergency.

But, of course, it’s always possible that some momentous event will come along in the meantime that seriously disrupts the economy. And, if that happens, mortgage rates might fall again.

Recently

Over much of 2020, the overall trend for mortgage rates was clearly downward. And a new, weekly all-time low was set on 16 occasions last year, according to Freddie Mac.

The most recent weekly record low occurred on Jan. 7, when it stood at 2.65% for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages. But then the trend reversed and rates rose moderately.

However, in April and after, those rises were mostly replaced by falls, though typically small ones. And, more recently, rates have hardly budged. Freddie’s Sept. 16 report puts that weekly average at 2.86% (with 0.7 fees and points), down from the previous week’s 2.88%.

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 rate forecasts for the remaining quarters of 2021 (Q3/21 and Q4/21) and the first two quarters of 2022 (Q1/22 and Q2/22).

The numbers in the table below are for 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages. Fannie’s were updated on Sept. 20 and the MBA’s on Aug. 19. But Freddie’s were last refreshed on July 15 because it now publishes these figures only quarterly. And its forecast is looking seriously stale.

Forecaster Q3/21 Q4/21 Q1/22 Q2/22
Fannie Mae 2.9% 2.9%  3.0% 3.1%
Freddie Mac 3.3% 3.4%  3.5% 3.6%
MBA 2.9% 3.3%  3.5% 3.7%

However, given so many unknowables, the whole current crop of forecasts might be even more speculative than usual.

All these forecasts expect higher mortgage rates soon or soon-ish. But the differences between the forecasters are stark. And it may be that Fannie isn’t building in the Federal Reserve’s tapering of its support for mortgage rates while Freddie and the MBA are.

Find your lowest rate today

Some lenders have been spooked by the pandemic. And they’re restricting their offerings to just the most vanilla-flavored mortgages and refinances.

But others remain brave. And you can still probably find the cash-out refinance, investment mortgage or jumbo loan you want. You just have to shop around more widely.

But, of course, you should be comparison shopping widely, no matter what sort of mortgage you want. As federal regulator the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says:

Shopping around for your mortgage has the potential to lead to real savings. It may not sound like much, but saving even a quarter of a point in interest on your mortgage saves you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.


Verify your new rate (Oct 17th, 2021)

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.