Metro Atlanta mortgage rates continue to be in the news. With the recent rise in interest rates by the Federal Reserve, and the likelihood of additional increases on the horizon, the obvious question remains, “Is it still a good time to purchase a home?”
Let’s look at what’s transpired in recent months since the presidential election in November. The average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage increased from 3.68% to 4.2%, based on Freddie Mac's mortgage rate survey report. However, despite the increase, even a 4% rate is very low compared to historical averages. To put that into perspective, for roughly 30 years from 1971 to 2001 mortgage interest rates were above 7% most of the time. In October 1981, they peaked at 18.16%. It wasn’t until 2008, just over eight short years ago, that interest rates began to drop consistently below 6%.
While Metro Atlanta mortgage rates are expected to continue to rise slightly this year, most agree that aggregate increases will be less than 1% – meaning rates should remain below the 5% level. With that in mind, relatively speaking, mortgages will still be affordable for most home purchasers. And, as mentioned above, compared to where interest rates were just a decade ago, a 4% to 5% interest rate will seem like a bargain!
Since 2009, the Federal Reserve has purchased significant amounts of mortgage-backed securities. The recent strength of the stock market – as a result of the presidential election results – has meant those purchases have temporarily been suspended. In addition, the Fed has indicated they may raise the federal funds rate at different intervals this year. The fed funds rate is the rate at which banks loan money to each other. However, there is a loose relationship between the fed funds rate and the longer-term mortgage interest rates.
A small increase in the Fed’s actions may translate to a slight increase in mortgage rates and their monthly payments. As an example, on a $200,000 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 4% the payment would be roughly $955 per month. At 4.5% the payment would be approximately $1,013. A 5% mortgage rate would equate to payments of roughly $1,074 per month.
As you can see, the impact of slightly higher rates isn’t really a significantly higher monthly payment. It likely would only impact those homebuyers who were watching their budgets carefully, or those that would be on the borderline of loan qualification.
A greater concern than Metro Atlanta mortgage rates seems to be the rising home prices continuing to occur throughout the U.S. The median sales price of a home in 2016 rose 5.5% from the previous year. Experts expect a 5.3% increase this year. And therein lies the real issue. The “double-whammy” of higher interest rates combined with higher sales prices may be the deterrent to may home buyers – especially first-timers.
Let’s take a look at six factors that may have more impact than interest rates on your monthly mortgage payment.
Your Credit Score
Higher credit scores translate to lower interest rates for applicants with good credit. A score of at least 740 will likely get the best rate from most mortgage lenders.
Your Down Payment
A popular misconception is that you have to have a down payment of at least 20% in order to buy a home. However, if you do have 20% to put down you can avoid having to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI), a type of insurance that protects the lender against the borrower defaulting on their mortgage payments. According to Freddie Mac, the PMI premium can run anywhere from $30-$70 per $100,000 of your mortgage amount. Naturally, with a larger down payment, the monthly payment amount is less since you’re financing a lower loan amount. That's always true, regardless of what Metro Atlanta mortgage rates do or don't do in the future.
"Points" are actually percentage points of the loan amount – 1 point equals 1% of the loan amount – so, if you’re borrowing, say, $200,000, a point would be $2,000. You can pay points to lower your interest rate. Since points are prepaid, be sure you “do the math” and determine whether buying down the interest rate is the best financial decision for you at the time – and to make sure it’s saving you interest in the long run.
The Term of the Loan
While a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loan is the most popular selection, if you can afford the increased payment it may be worth looking at a shorter term. A 15-year term will not only be issued at a lower interest rate, but you’ll save more than 50% in total interest repayments over the life of the loan. Even borrowers who opt for a 20-year or 25-year term are pleasantly surprised at the interest savings they can enjoy by paying slightly more money each month. Ask your mortgage lender for an amortization schedule with different terms for comparison and see which term fits your financial capabilities best.
Closing costs and fees vary from one lender to the next. It’s worth shopping around to find the best deal on closing costs. In addition, some fees are negotiable, so ask questions and make the best deal you can. Lastly, remember who pays the closing costs is strictly between you and the seller of your home. So, be prepared to negotiate with the seller for him to pay part – or all – of the closing costs as part of the contract.
Home Sales Price
Naturally, a higher price tag for a more expensive home translates to higher monthly mortgage payments. Make sure you are looking for homes in your affordable price range. What’s the joy in buying a home if you have to struggle to make the monthly payments – even if you qualify for a higher amount? Consider selecting and buying a less expensive home, even if you have to do without certain features or extras. You’ll sleep better at night.
You can find more articles pertaining to the Metro Atlanta mortgage rates in the "Atlanta Mortgage Info" section of articles just below Atlanta Real Estate Categories in the column to your right.
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