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The rise in mortgage rates broke this week, ending a seven week string of increases that lifted 30-year fixed rates nearly a half percentage point.

As reported by Freddie Mac today, the average offered interest rate for a conforming 30-year fixed-rate mortgage declined by five basis points (0.05%), easing to 3.13%. The average offered interest rate for conforming 15-year FRMs also slid downward, declining three basis points (0.03%) to land at 2.42%. The initial fixed interest rate for a conforming hybrid 5/1 ARM bucked the downward trend seen in its fixed-rate counterparts, rising by eight one-hundredths of a percentage point (0.08%) to 2.92% for the week.

Although there have been key signals that the economy is gaining speed at an accelerating pace, including greater activity in both the manufacturing and service sectors of the economy and surging recovery of hiring. To this, massive fiscal stimulus is starting to further power economic growth, and more such federal spending may be in the works. The Federal Reserve remains committed to both rock-bottom interest rates and QE-style bond buying and expects soon-to-be-rising inflation signs to be transitory.

Awaiting actual evidence of speedier growth and more persistent price pressures, and after the significant run-up in interest rates, investors seem to be content with present levels of yields, and it feels as though rates will be rangebound for a bit until growth, unemployment and inflation all begin to make regular, meaningful moves in their respective right directions (or at least until more signs accumulate that suggest these trends are getting underway).

So after the run-up, a period of settling, perhaps. More clues about the speed of recovery may come next week in the form of the Fed's Beige Book and reports covering retail sales, but until then, mortgage rates may be stable to perhaps just a little softer in the coming days.

In each week's MarketTrends newsletter, we track and discuss economic conditions that affect mortgage rates and their impact on housing markets and consumers. Read the most recent edition on HSH.com or subscribe for email delivery.

Week 30-year-Fixed 15-year-Fixed 5-year-ARM
04/08 3.130% 2.420% 2.920%
04/01 3.180% 2.450% 2.840%
03/25 3.170% 2.450% 2.840%
03/18 3.090% 2.400% 2.790%
03/11 3.050% 2.380% 2.770%
03/04 3.020% 2.340% 2.730%
02/25 2.970% 2.340% 2.990%
02/18 2.810% 2.210% 2.770%
02/11 2.730% 2.190% 2.790%
02/04 2.730% 2.210% 2.780%
01/28 2.730% 2.200% 2.800%
01/21 2.770% 2.210% 2.800%

Mortgage Choices at a Glance

Loan type/terms Fixed 30 years Fixed 15 years/
20 Years
Hybrid ARM Traditional ARM Balloon Mortgage
Rate changes
  • Never; Fully fixed for entire term
  • Never; Fully fixed for entire term
  • Usually after fixed period of 3, 5, 7 or 10 years
  • After that, annual change typical
  • Fully variable
  • Typically changing at one-year intervals
  • Some have shorter change intervals
  • Never; Fully fixed for entire term
  • Low, stable payment
  • Usually easiest qualification
  • Stable payments
  • Builds equity faster
  • Lower total interest costs than 30-year term
  • Lower rates than fully fixed-rate mortgage
  • Can sometimes borrow larger loan amount for same income
  • Can have lowest interest rates
  • Qualification may not depend upon today's interest rate
  • Often has lower interest rate/monthly payment over balloon period than fixed rate
  • Similar to hybrid ARM
  • Can have highest total interest cost over time
  • User may "buy" more rate stability than actually needed, increasing cost
  • Requires higher income to qualify
  • Less affordable monthly payment
  • Funds commited to payment cannot be used elsewhere
  • Stable payment for a number of years, then unpredictable
  • Rates can jump by as much as 6 percentage points at first adjustment
  • Payments fluctuate at each rate change
  • Unpredictable, rates can change as much as 2 percentage points at each adjustment
  • Loan fully due and payable when balloon period ends
  • Must be paid off or refinanced in unknown market conditions
Alternative strategy
  • Consider Hybrid ARM with appropriate fixed period
  • Consider 30-year term and prepaying loan to preserve cash-flow flexibility
  • Consider Fixed rate mortgage or longest possible fixed period, if loan hold period not known
  • Consider Hybrid ARM to ameliorate rate and payment risks for a given period
  • Consider Hybrid ARM to ensure continued loan availability
These may be useful for...
  • Purchasing a home
  • First-time homebuyers
  • Refinancing to improve cash flow/lower payment
  • Refinancing to lower total interest cost
  • Retiring mortgage more quickly
  • Building or rebuilding equity more quickly
  • Purchasing or refinancing when time horizon is seven years or shorter, and where borrower can handle increase in monthly payments
  • Purchasing or refinancing when interest rates are near top of cycle, and are likely to fall, or sale or refinance is anticipated within three years
  • Purchasing or refinancing when time horizon is three years or longer and home will be sold prior to end of balloon period
Consider if
  • Buying or refinancing a home and planning on owning for longer than 10 years
  • Buying second home
  • Refinancing to build equity
  • Paying off mortgage before life event (retirement, etc)
  • Buying a home and expect to move before fixed period ends, or know income will rise to offset payment risk, even in worst-case scenario
  • Buying or refinancing when income can handle frequent payment changes and worst-case scenario for rates over a four-year period
  • Buying a home and expect to move before balloon period ends, or have resources to pay off mortgage if refinance not available
When shopping, ask about
  • "Full cost" vs. "No cost" refinances, prepaying loan to shorten term if desired
  • If 20-year term makes payment too high, whether 25-year term is available
  • Interest rate caps, for first and subsequent adjustments, worst-case scenario
  • A history of the Index the loan is keyed off, margin and caps
  • Whether or not there is any built-in refinancing option when the balloon period ends
Useful tools & resources

Latest Mortgage Rate Analysis

HSH's longer-range outlook for mortgage rates, where we review our last forecast,discuss current market influences and provide our expectations for mortgage rates over the next nine weeks.

Mortgage Calculators

Mortgage rates and more

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