When Are Mortgage Rates Lowest?

Posted on December 4th, 2019
When Are Mortgage Rates Lowest?

We’re all looking for an angle, especially if it’ll save us some money.

Whether it’s a stock market trend, a home price trend, or a mortgage rate trend, someone always claims to have unlocked the code.

Unfortunately, it’s usually all nonsense, or predicated on the belief that what happened in the past will occur again in the future.

Sometimes history repeats itself, sometimes it doesn’t. We probably only hear about the times when it does because it makes the individual behind it sound like a genius.

In reality, it’s very difficult to predict anything, even the weather, so when it comes to complex stuff like mortgage interest rates, success rates probably move a lot lower.

Today's Rates

Anyway, I set out to see if there were any mortgage rate trends we could glean from available data, using Freddie Mac’s historical mortgage rates that go back to 1971.

Were rates lower in certain months, higher during others, or is it all just random? Let’s find out.

What Time of Year Are Mortgage Rates the Lowest?

mortgage rates by month

I looked at monthly averages for the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage over the past three decades to determine if there’s a winning month out there.

It turns out there is a month when mortgage rates are lowest, and as you might expect, it’s at a time when most folks wouldn’t even be thinking about purchasing a home or refinancing an existing mortgage.

Yes, it’s December. You know, when individuals are more concerned with holiday shopping and traveling to see family then calling up a mortgage lender.

This could explain why mortgage rates are lowest in December. If you recall, lenders pass on bigger discounts to consumers when things are slow.

As alluded to, December is always going to be a slow month for mortgage lenders, which probably has something to do with the discount seen over the past 30 years.

While not massive by any stretch, you might be able to get a rate .25% lower in December versus April. Same goes for October and November.

Speaking of April, that month tends to be prime time for home buying historically, which explains the lack of discount.

The same goes for buying a home during April – it’s a lot less common to see a price reduction during spring.

It all begs the question; should we buy homes when prices, competition, and interest rates are lowest? Probably.

Just one problem – there tends to be less available inventory in the winter months as well. But if you do come across something you like, it could be a great time to snag a deal.

If you’re refinancing a mortgage, there are less obstacles in December since you’ve already got a house.

To sweeten the deal, lenders probably aren’t busy, so you’ll breeze through underwriting a lot quicker. And you could receive a little more attention from your loan officer.

Should I Wait Until December to Get a Mortgage?

In short, probably not. While December had the lowest mortgage rates on average over the past 30 years, there were plenty of years when rates were higher in December compared to other months.

Take 2018, where the 30-year fixed averaged 4.03% in January and 4.64% in December.

Same goes for 2015 and 2016, when rates were markedly higher in December versus the beginning of the year.

All in all, you’re probably better off paying attention to what’s going on in economy if you want to predict the direction of mortgage rates.

Simply put, bad economic news generally leads to lower mortgage rates, whereas positive news tends to propel interest rates higher.

Time of year aside, you might be able to save even more on your mortgage simply by gathering quotes from more than one lender.

Ultimately, timing doesn’t seem to be the biggest driver of rates, nor is it something most of us can control anyway.

(photo: Marco Verch)

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