How Are Mortgage Rates Determined?

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Charles Stallions Real Estate Services

A little FYI by Michael Deery in Pacific Beach, CA that may help my borrowers here in Pensacola, Pace and Gulf Breeze to understand the process. Of course I refer all my borrowers to the lady that her Yes means Yes and her NO means No. Debbie Herrel of Fairway Mortgage 850- 477-5999.

If you leave a comment here please also leave a comment on the author's post. Thank you!

Courtesy of Charles Stallions, Pensacola Homes for sale – Pensacola Short Sale and Investment Expert



Original content by Michael Deery

Mortgage rates are a very popular topic right now, as media channels across the US are telling everyone that interest rates are currently at record lows and now is a great time to afford a home. Understanding what determines a borrowers rate or what causes mortgage rates to go up or down is quite simple once you understand some basic economic fundamentals. So if anyone asks you "Why are rates so low" or "What will my rate be", or "Do you see rates increasing when I am ready to buy in a few months?", here is a quick guide to use that will help you answer some of these questions correctly.  

What Economic Events Force Rates to Go Up or Down? 

So what causes mortgage rates to go up or down? These are tied to some fundamental economic activities that take place everyday in our markets, by understanding these you will now be able to better predict and understand what direction rates will probably move. of the main reason mortgage rates are so low!

One of the main reasons US mortgage rates are so low right now is because of financial events in Europe. There is a debt contagion spreading throughout the countries of the European Union that is starting to unravel.

Greece, Portugal & Ireland have already requested bailouts, Italy and Spain are probably next in line. So why does the Euro crisis affect rates in the US? Anytime you hear of financial problems coming from Europe, this usually causes a "flight to safety" of investor money into US markets. 

A "flight to safety" occurs when overseas investors are nervous about owning European debt and risky assets like stocks, but do not want to miss out on earning a return on their funds, so they allocate money into risk-free U.S Treasury debt to provide a safe-haven AND an investment return. As Treasury yields fall, prices of mortgage bonds move higher which in turn lowers mortgage rates.

Stocks and bonds compete for investment 

Stocks and Bonds compete everyday for investors dollars in the open markets, stocks pay a higher rate of return so they are more risky, bonds have a lower return so they are seen as more stable and less risky. Remember: When there is weak economic news (European debt problems, higher unemployment etc), this normally causes money to flow out of Stocks and into more stable Bonds, helping Bonds and mortgage rates improve

But strong economic news (lower unemployment, more homes sold etc) normally has the opposite result, so investors will pull their money from bonds and put it into more risky stocks, thus causing mortgage rates to increase. It is an interesting dynamic that good economic news is bad for mortgage rates!

The Relationship between The Fed, Mortgage Bonds & Mortgage Rates  

The reason that mortgage rates move up or down everyday, is because Mortgage Bonds are traded everyday just like stocks. They either go up or down in price on a daily basis. Here is a mortgage bond trading chart below from the past 18 months. When mortgage bonds are trading higher, mortgage rates move lower, and when mortgage bonds trade lower, rates will move higher. As you can see below, mortgage bonds are currently trading at all time record highs!

When mortgage bonds trade lower, lenders raise their mortgage rates and republish these higher rates to the public. This daily trading of mortgage bonds directly correlates to the mortgage rates we see everyday from lenders. It is not unusual for mortgage rates to sometimes change 2 or 3 times in just one day!

Currently the Federal Reserve is artifically supressing rates by buying these mortgage bonds outright via their Quantitative Easing programs or "QE" as they are known, so this should keep rates from rising too much over the next year or two.

The Relationship between Credit Scores and Mortgage Rates    

It is no secret that having good credit scores are important for buyers in this market to score the best rates! For example, did you know a buyer with a 695 credit score purchasing a $400k home with 20% down, will pay an additional fee of 1.5% (see conventional risk pricing below) to get the same rate as a buyer with a 740 score, which amounts to an extra $4,800 the buyer has to pay at closing, or they can take a .375% higher interest rate instead that incorporates this 1.5% cost!


To maintain great credit, everyone should get a copy of their credit report once a year so they can make sure they are keeping their scores as high as possible, so when they are ready to obtain financing for anything, they are in a position to score the best rates! Here is a tip to obtain a free copy of your credit report, consumers are entitled to a FREE credit report once a year from

The Impact of Rising Rates on Buyer Affordability

Did you know that just a 1% increase in interest rates means a buyer loses 10% in purchasing power or affordability! Here is a great chart to share with your buyers, that shows if a buyer is shopping in a $400k price range today, if rates increase by just 1% the same buyer can now only afford $360k, a 10% drop in price! (*see how the payment at $400k with a rate of 3.5% is roughly the same as the payment at $360k with a rate of 4.5%).


A Look at mortgage rates over the past 40 years

I think it is important that buyers today understand where current rates are in relation to historical averages. For example, this chart below shows the average 30 year fixed mortgage rate over the past 40 years has been 8.7%, and 6.5% over the past decade! So for any buyers still on the fence looking at buying a home, they are very fortunate that they will be able to qualify for a rate that is at 40 year lows. 

Its important today's buyers understand Cost vs Price!

It is very important that today's buyers understand that waiting for a reduction in price is not the only way to get a great deal on a home. What is just as important is factoring in the overall cost to buy a home and that includes the interest rate and financing costs. Because as noted above, when rates increase by just 1%, buyers now lose 10% in purchasing power or affordability. 

There is no guarantee that interest rates are going to stay at the record low levels they are currently at, yes the Federal Reserve is artifically supressing rates by buying mortgage backed securities outright, but as the US economy continues to improve and add jobs, this means rates will also rise in tandem! For the 2nd week in a row now rates have increased and are now almost at 3.625% as of the second week in January, they were are at 3.375% just before the Christmas holidays. Therefore I believe we are at the bottom of the market in terms of "overall cost" to buy a home! 

P.S. If you have any questions about mortgage rates, feel free to contact me directly at 858-200-9602. Also if you would like to be updated faster on any new loan programs or important industry updates that come out, please join my Facebook page "Free Resources For Real Estate Agents". There are currently over 5,500 real estate professionals sharing tips and ideas on this page.


Best regards


Comments (1)

Charles Stallions Real Estate Services
Charles Stallions Real Estate Services Inc - Gulf Breeze, FL
Buyers Agent 800-309-3414 Pace and Gulf Breeze,Fl.

I only work with buyers and tenants so you get my undivided attention, expert advice on what a home is worth not what a seller or Landlord thinks it is worth. Whether you would like to see one home or ten count me in because it is all I do. I have an appraiser, title company, pest control man, general contractor and most important 3 specialized lenders on speed dial and at your beckon call.

Sep 20, 2013 02:16 PM