Super-low mortgage rates, which took hold back in early April, are now amazingly stretching into summer, giving many who didn’t refinance yet a second chance.
“The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate is 3.56%, close to the record low of 3.50%,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com.
Essentially, mortgage rates have hovered below 3.6% ever since the U.S. economy was rocked by widespread shutdowns to stem the spread of COVID-19, particularly in major metros such as Detroit and New York.
What’s possible: Mortgage rates could remain quite low for several weeks or months. The catch, if you will, is that many bargain rates will be available mainly to borrowers with good credit, proof of income and enough equity built up in their homes as lenders try to limit their losses should a recession last far longer than many would expect.
What happens if your credit score is below 700? Higher hurdles and tighter lending standards could prove to be a roadblock for some who would like to take advantage of lower rates, including small business owners and others who may have difficulty documenting their income.
“Credit has tightened notably for borrowers with credit scores below 700, those seeking a cash-out refinance, or for jumbo fixed-rate mortgages,” McBride said. Jumbo loans, which often require larger down payments, apply to mortgages that exceed $510,400.
If you are looking to refinance or take out a new mortgage, it’s increasingly important to make sure that you have checked your credit report for free at AnnualCreditReport.com, pay down your credit card debt, and stay clear of opening new credit cards. You want to make sure you pay on time every month.
High jobless rates — and the expectation that home values ultimately will drop or soften in the future — are driving some lenders to take a more cautious approach, according to Keith Gumbinger, a mortgage expert and vice president at HSH.com, a mortgage information website.
“Certainly, with risks on the rise,” Gumbinger said, “it’s to be expected that at least some lenders would be trying to limit their exposure to potential future loss.”
Even so, not all lenders are reacting the same way.
JPMorgan Chase, for example, now requires that customers who apply for a new mortgage must have a credit score of at least 700 and make a down payment equal to 20% of the home’s value. Chase also has stopped approving new home equity lines of credit. Wells Fargo has stopped doing cash-out refinancing and is no longer accepting applications for new home equity lines of credit.