With regard to mortgage lending, the “par rate” is the interest rate a borrower will qualify for with a given bank or mortgage lender assuming there is no interest rate manipulation.
In other words, the borrower would receive the par interest rate if there was no yield spread premium taken by the broker or lender in exchange for an above par rate, and no discount points paid by the borrower to get a below par rate.
Additionally, there should not be a lender credit, as it would also bump the interest rate above the market price.
The par rate, otherwise known as the base rate, is also determined by a borrower’s particular loan scenario, which includes mortgage pricing adjustments for things such as loan amount, credit score, property type, loan-to-value ratio, and so on.
Keep in mind that the par rate for a high-risk borrower will always be much higher than that of a low-risk borrower because of adjustments, but a mortgage broker or lender can still manipulate a low-risk borrower’s mortgage rate by taking an excessive amount of yield spread premium.
Let’s look at an example of par rate:
6% 0.00 (par rate)
In the example above, we see a list of interest rates with corresponding fees or rebates. A rate of 6% is the par rate, assuming there are no adjustments, because it falls directly on zero.
This means the loan originator isn’t making any extra money for offering that specific rate, and the borrower doesn’t have to pay anything (discount points) to obtain it.
However, your particular loan scenario may have a pricing adjustment for loan amount of say .25%, and an additional credit score adjustment of .25%, so your total “adjustments to fee” would be .50%.
You would need to factor in these adjustments to figure out your actual, or adjusted par rate, so in the preceding example, total adjustments of .50% would bump the par rate up to 6.25%.
Put simply, the par rate is the difference of the adjustments to fee of .50% and the price of -.50, which equals zero, or par.
If you had no pricing adjustments, putting you at a par rate of 6%, but wanted the lower rate of 5.75%, you would have to pay .50% in discount points.
In the same scenario, if you didn’t want to pay some or all closing costs out-of-pocket, you could elect to take a higher-than-par rate of say 6.5%, and get a 1% credit.
In many situations, borrowers may not realize that their particular loan scenario carries few, if any adjustments, which will ultimately allow them to qualify at a low par rate.
Watch out for unscrupulous brokers and lenders who tell you that your deal is trickier than it seems.
And be sure to review the mortgage adjustments section of this site to see what lenders hit borrowers for, and always ask the bank or broker what your adjustments to fee are, and how much yield spread premium they are charging.
Otherwise you could end up with a higher mortgage rate than you deserve, which will cost you big if you hold onto the mortgage for years to come.