How to Unpack Mortgage News

In June 2020, average mortgage interest rates fell below three percent for the 30-year-fixed-rate mortgage – the lowest level in modern recorded history, according to Mortgage News Daily. What caused such a dip?

A stock market sell-off sent investors to the relative safety of the bond market, wrote housing journalist Diana Olick. Mortgage rates loosely follow the yields on 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds. As more bonds were purchased, the yields went down, and mortgage rates followed. But that’s not all that happened.

Also in June, the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Mortgage Credit Availability Index hit its lowest number since June 2014. The simple reason is that lenders don’t like uncertainty, so to secure those lower interest rates, borrowers are subjected to higher credit score qualifications (700 or higher per JP Morgan Chase), the temporary shelving of some loan programs (no new jumbo loans per Wells Fargo) and higher down payments (at least 20 percent). Other criteria lenders use to limit risk includes lower loan-to-value ratios and higher income-to-debt ratios from borrowers.

Yet, despite a rocky economy, June mortgage applications were up a whopping 13 percent over the previous year. Freddie Mac forecasts that interest rates will remain at or near record lows and that housing prices will moderate throughout 2021.

So, what does this mean to you, the homebuyer or homeowner? If you have good credit, steady employment, and a sizable down-payment, you’re in great shape to get or refinance a mortgage loan. In other words, nothing’s changed except tighter qualifications for higher-risk borrowers.


Prequalify, Preapprove – What’s the Difference?

Some mortgage terms can be confusing, none more so than the similarities and differences between prequalification and preapproval. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but they mean very different things to lenders, real estate professionals and home sellers.

Prequalifying is a rough-idea process that tells you how much money you’ll likely be able to borrow to buy a home. You can prequalify yourself on any banking or real estate-related website simply by putting your salary, type of loan you want, down payment amount and a ballpark home price into a mortgage calculator. You can talk with a lender, who will also give you a ballpark amount without a credit check.

When you apply for a mortgage loan, you’ll share your income records, the source and amount of your down payment, and your social security number so the lender can pull your credit. This is the key difference between prequalification and preapproval – when the lender is able to review your application and verify your credit standing to make a lending decision.

The lender will get back to you within three days or less with a preapproval letter stating the maximum amount of money you’re approved to borrow.

Preapproval gives you the real numbers so you know exactly how much you can spend on a home. It lends you credibility with real estate professionals and with sellers who will take you seriously as a buyer.

Prequalification becomes preapproval once you have a purchase contract on a home. Then, the preapproval is real.