You're in the market for a new home-but before you approach the bank about a mortgage, it's good to know how low you can realistically go. Here, some things you can do up front to secure a better mortgage rate when the time comes.
1. Maintain a Good Credit Score
This number matters a lot when it comes to procuring a lower mortgage rate. In fact, before you start to fill out a mortgage application, you'll want to check your credit score and confirm the report doesn't have any errors that need to be cleared up. The higher the score, the stronger your creditworthiness in the eyes of a lender, a major factor that can help you score a lower rate. (A boost from 600 to 750 could help you get a better rate and save you money in the long term.)
2. Use an Online Mortgage Calculator to Find the Current Rates
Gone are the days when your only option for researching and comparing mortgage rates was in person at a bank. Now you can simply go online and use a mortgage calculator (like this one from Chase) to do your homework and see what the going rates are and how feasible it is to go lower.
3. Consider an Adjustable Rate
If you know you're going to move in a few years, a lower adjustable rate mortgage (also commonly called an ARM) is worth considering. It works like this: You start with a fixed-rate period (the most common is five years) and typically lock down a lower mortgage rate during that time. In some cases, an ARM is a full percentage point less than a fixed-rate mortgage. Once those five years are up, your rate is subject to market fluctuations-which could go up or down-but that's only a factor if you'll still be in the house at that time.
4. Get a Cosigner for the Mortgage
If you're in the position to ask for backup from, say, a parent, it can help you get a lower rate. Here's the deal: If the cosigner has a stable income, good credit and a low debt-to-income ratio, they make you look more attractive ( ahem , less risky) as a borrower, which helps improve your mortgage rate. Be careful about who you ask to be a cosigner, as they take on the responsibility of the loan as much as you do.
5. Put More Money Down (or Less)
Before you sign on the dotted line, it's smart to ask your bank how much the amount of your down payment affects your mortgage rate. Here's why: Depending on the size of the loan, the bank might lower (or increase) your rate. It's situational, of course, but finding a sweet spot for your loan amount based on the size of your down payment could help your mortgage rate overall.