Question: Are there any good ways to lower my interest rate?
Answer: I probably don’t need to spend time educating you on how high interest rates have gotten
over the last 6 months (they’ve more than doubled in most cases), but we’re now seeing rates in the
upper 5% to mid-6% range on most loans. Unfortunately, the current economic environment makes it
more likely that rates continue to climb and most lenders I speak to tell me they’re expecting rates in
the 7-8% range later this year.
While there isn’t much you can do to change your rate in a significant way, just like you can’t do much
about the price of gas, there are some strategies you can use to help. I spoke with Jake Ryon
(firstname.lastname@example.org) of First Home Mortgage about things he recommends to help bring down your
Consider ARMs (Adjustable Rate Mortgage)
ARMs got a terrible reputation during the housing crisis because many borrowers didn’t understand
the terms of their loan. Some of these options allowed for negative amortization so borrowers opting
for the lowest rate ended up owing more on their loan than when they started. Many of these options,
and the sometimes predatory approach to lending, have been outlawed so the ARMs you see today
are a distant relative of the ARMs of the housing crisis.
What is an ARM?
Simply put, an ARM is a loan with an interest rate that is locked for a set period of time (usually 5, 7,
or 10 years) that can adjust (up or down) after that set period, based on market rates. The rate will
continue to adjust up or down based on market rates with limits on how much a rate can change each
year and throughout the life of the loan.
Why should you consider it?
In the current interest rate environment, you’ll usually see lower interest rates on an ARM than on a
standard 30-year fixed mortgage. The difference can be roughly .5-1%, which is a significant savings
on interest payments.
What about the risk?
The risk of an ARM is that if rates remain high or end up higher at the end of your lock period, your
rate will adjust upwards. The gamble you’re taking (based on historical rate trends, it’s a good bet) is
that rates will drop enough to justify refinancing into a lower 30yr fixed rate before your ARM lock
Over the last few years when rates were so low, ARMs didn’t make sense because they were so
close to a 30yr fixed rate (sometimes higher), so you haven’t heard people talk much about their
benefit until more recently when the spread between the two has increased.
Buy Origination Points
In most cases, you can buy “points” on your loan to decrease the interest rate. One point equals 1%
of your loan amount and for a while, you were seeing a reduction of around .25% in rate for a point. In
the current interest rate environment, buying a point may lower your rate by as much as .5-.75%.
Discuss this with your lender up-front so you’ll know if you should budget additional cash to lower
your interest rate. Your lender can also calculate the break-even point on this investment, which is essentially calculating how long you need to be in the loan (own the property) for the money saved in
interest payments to exceed the amount you paid for the point.
Increase Down Payment
Sorry if this seems obvious, but for years when rates were so low, many buyers were choosing to put
less money down, even if they had more funds available, because the cost of borrowing was so low,
they felt they could use the extra cash more effectively in other savings/investment vehicles.
That financial strategy is no longer as attractive and using as much down payment as you can muster
is gaining favor in financial advisory circles. In general, you achieve the best interest rates with a 20-
25% down payment, with little improvement beyond that. However, putting more money down can still
make a lot of financial sense even if it doesn’t lower your rate because the interest payments on
borrowed money are so high now.
There are still plenty of loan options for buyers with less (3-5%) to put down, but those rates have
shot up and carry higher mortgage insurance premiums.
It’s now even more important to get pre-approved and open discussions with a trusted lender at the
beginning of your home search (here’s a link to an article I wrote about picking a good lender). If you
have any questions about finding a lender or want recommendations, don’t hesitate to email me.
If you’d like to discuss buying, selling, investing, or renting, don’t hesitate to reach out to me
If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column or to discuss buying, selling, renting, or investing,
please send an email to Eli@EliResidential.com. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.
Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist.
Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with RLAH Real Estate, 4040 N
Fairfax Dr #10C Arlington VA 22203. (703) 390-9460.