September 18, 2021

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Mortgage and refinance rates today, March 18, 2021

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Today’s mortgage and refinance rates 

Average mortgage rates edged higher yesterday. But it was one of the smaller rises we’ve seen over the last four working days.

But it may not be the last. Unfortunately, it’s looking as if mortgage rates may rise today, perhaps sharply.

Find and lock a low rate (Mar 18th, 2021)

Current mortgage and refinance rates 

Program Mortgage Rate APR* Change
Conventional 30 year fixed 3.203% 3.206% -0.05%
Conventional 15 year fixed 2.613% 2.622% -0.12%
Conventional 20 year fixed 3.099% 3.106% Unchanged
Conventional 10 year fixed 2.413% 2.451% -0.1%
30 year fixed FHA 3.002% 3.684% Unchanged
15 year fixed FHA 2.662% 3.246% -0.04%
5 year ARM FHA 2.501% 3.207% -0.05%
30 year fixed VA 2.625% 2.8% Unchanged
15 year fixed VA 2.25% 2.571% -0.09%
5 year ARM VA 2.5% 2.386% -0.02%
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 (Mar 18th, 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?

My feeling is that you should lock as quickly as you can. Mortgage rates have been rising quickly and there’s little sign they’re going to stop.

Of course, there will be occasional falls along the way. And there’s always a possibility of some cataclysmic event causing a sharp and sustained drop. But the chances of that happening are slim compared to the likelihood of further rises.

So my personal rate lock recommendations remain:

  • 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

But 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 Treasurys rose to 1.75% from 1.67%. (Very bad for mortgage rates.) More than any other market, mortgage rates normally tend to follow these particular Treasury bond yields, though less so recently
  • Major stock indexes were mixed on opening. (Neutral 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 happens when indexes are lower
  • Oil prices were lower at $63.04, down from $64.41 a barrel. (Good for mortgage rates*.) Energy prices play a large role in creating inflation and also point to future economic activity.) 
  • Gold prices edged down to $1,721 from $1,728 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 index — Edged up to 56 from 54 out of 100. (Bad 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 calls. And are usually right. But our record for accuracy won’t achieve its former high levels until things settle down.

So use markets only as a rough guide. Because they have to be exceptionally strong or weak to rely on them. But, with that caveat, so far mortgage rates today look likely to rise. Just be aware that intraday swings (when rates change direction during the day) are a common feature right now.

Find and lock a low rate (Mar 18th, 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 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. But some types of refinances are higher following a regulatory change

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

Many saw yesterday’s Federal Reserve news conference as a triumph for Chair Jerome Powell. CNBC hailed him a “maestro” because he “managed to keep the volatile bond market calm and the stock market rallying, during what could have been a turbulent afternoon of trading.”

But the calm in the bond market didn’t last overnight. Indeed, yields on 10-year Treasury bonds were at 1.75% at 9:50 a.m. (ET), up from 1.66% as the news conference began. That’s a big jump compared to normal daily movements.

And higher yields on those particular bonds frequently translate into higher mortgage rates. The two aren’t yoked together. But those rates often shadow those yields.

You can’t blame Powell for any of this. The Fed gave a high growth (gross domestic product) forecast of 6.5% for 2021. And he said he expected to keep interest rates low through 2023. But investors have nagging doubts about the inflation that could trigger.

For more background on my wider thinking, read our latest weekend edition, which is published every Saturday soon after 10 a.m. (ET).

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 rates then rose. And Freddie’s Mar. 18 report puts that weekly average at 3.09% (with 0.7 fees and points), up from the previous week’s 3.05%.

Expert mortgage rate forecasts

Looking further ahead, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) each have 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 rates forecasts for each quarter of 2021 (Q1/21, Q2/21, Q3/21, and Q4/21).

The numbers in the table below are for 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages. Fannie’s were updated on March 17 and the MBA’s on Feb. 19. But Freddie now publishes forecasts quarterly and its figures are from mid-January:

Forecaster Q1/21 Q2/21 Q3/21 Q4/21
Fannie Mae 2.9% 3.1% 3.1% 3.2%
Freddie Mac 2.9% 2.9% 3.0% 3.0%
MBA 2.8% 3.1% 3.3% 3.4%

However, given so many unknowables, the current crop of forecasts may be even more speculative than usual. And there’s certainly a widening spread as the year progresses.

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 (Mar 18th, 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.

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