Navigating Today’s 15-Year Mortgage Rates: Trends, Factors and Benefits

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ByChristopher Boston
Edited byCasie McCoskey

Updated: October 29, 2023

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Prospective homebuyers or existing ones considering refinancing can benefit from keeping track of current 15-year mortgage rates. You’re more likely to make informed decisions about your mortgage if you understand these rates, leading to potential savings worth thousands of dollars over the life of your loan. Mortgage rates rise and fall over time due to many factors like inflation and the Federal Reserve’s decisions. With the right knowledge, you can take advantage of these shifts and use other strategies to find the best 15-year mortgage rates for you.

Current 15-Year Mortgage Rates

The average interest rate for a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage sits at 6.11%, and the 15-year refinance mortgage rates hovers in a similar range. 15-year mortgage interest rates are generally lower than 30-year rates, resulting in potential savings over your loan’s life. However, many factors influence these rates, such as market conditions, individual financial factors and loan types. Comparing your options can help you find the best 15-year mortgage interest rates available.

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Factors Affecting 15-Year Mortgage Interest Rates

According to FRED Economic Data, the average rates for 15-year mortgages increased by almost 1% from late January to late July 2023. Rate fluctuations are common, influenced by a combination of macroeconomic and personal financial factors. Knowing these can provide insights into the direction rates will likely go, allowing you to make informed decisions, such as the best time to secure a mortgage.

Some key factors that influence 15-year mortgage rates include the following:

  • Federal Reserve Policy: It becomes more expensive for banks to borrow from one another when the Fed raises the federal funds rate. In turn, lenders increase mortgage rates to pass that cost to borrowers.

  • Inflation: Generally, higher inflation is associated with higher interest rates because lenders need to ensure their return on investment doesn't fall behind the rising cost of goods and services.

  • Economic Conditions: In a strong economy, demand for mortgages may increase, potentially driving up rates. Conversely, rates often drop in weaker economies to stimulate borrowing.

  • Housing Market Conditions: When demand for homes is high, mortgage rates can increase as lenders capitalize on the strong market. In periods of lower demand, lenders may reduce rates to encourage borrowing.

  • Individual Financial Situation: Your credit score, loan-to-value ratio and debt-to-income ratio determines your risk profile. Lenders are more likely to offer less risky borrowers lower rates because they're more likely to repay their mortgage on time.

Recognizing these factors provides a strategic advantage when pursuing a mortgage or refinance. If you can estimate when rates might increase or decrease, it can help you determine the best time for mortgage applications.

Types of 15-Year Mortgages

Another factor affecting 15-year mortgage interest rates is loan type. Since borrowers can choose between several, understanding the differences between each can help you secure a mortgage that aligns with your financial and homeownership objectives.

  • Conventional 15-Year Mortgages: A conventional mortgage is a home loan not guaranteed by a government agency. They are ideal for borrowers with a strong credit score, stable income and the ability to make a substantial down payment. Conventional loans often have stringent requirements but can offer competitive interest rates and terms.

  • FHA 15-Year Mortgages: These are mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). An FHA 15-year mortgage typically requires a smaller down payment and has more lenient credit requirements than a conventional loan.

  • VA 15-Year Mortgages: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) guarantees these loans. Besides veterans, these are also available to active duty service members and certain military spouses. VA loans offer advantages such as zero down payment and no mortgage insurance requirement.

  • USDA 15-Year Mortgages: Backed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), these loans are for low- to moderate-income homebuyers purchasing homes in rural areas. USDA loans offer competitive rates, and you can often obtain them with no down payment.

  • Jumbo 15-Year Mortgages: These loans exceed the conforming loan limits set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which the Federal Housing Finance Agency set at $726,200 for 2023 ($1,089,300 for high-cost areas). Due to the larger loan amount, lenders see jumbo mortgages as a higher risk, leading to more stringent eligibility requirements.

  • 15-Year Fixed Rate Mortgages: The interest rate for these mortgages stays the same for the duration of the loan term, offering predictability and stability.

  • 15-Year Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs): The interest rate on these mortgages can change over time. It typically starts lower than fixed-rate mortgages but may increase or decrease after a specified period based on changes in a reference interest rate.

Identifying the right mortgage type for your situation can help you optimize your financial plans by ensuring your mortgage choice aligns with your unique circumstances.

Specialty 15-Year Mortgage Products

Besides conventional and government-backed home loans, some mortgage types cater to individual circumstances. Specialty mortgages offer creative solutions beyond the scope of traditional mortgages. Some allow for lower initial payments, some offer a shorter-term interest-only period, while others streamline the refinancing process. Here are several examples:

  • Balloon Mortgages: While typically associated with shorter terms, you can structure balloon mortgages around a 15-year term. Borrowers make regular payments for 15 years, after which a large lump sum (the "balloon") is due.

  • Interest-Only Mortgages: After the interest-only period, the loan either needs to be paid in full or begins to require principal and interest payments.

  • Streamline Refinance Mortgages: You can use streamline refinance options to refinance into a 15-year term. It's a popular choice for those who want to take advantage of lower rates or pay off their home faster.

  • Convertible Mortgages: Convertible ARMs start with a fixed interest rate for a specific period. After that, you can convert the loan to an adjustable rate for the remainder of the term.

Specialty 15-year mortgage products can be excellent choices if you have a unique circumstance or need more flexibility than what traditional mortgage products provide. However, they may also come with additional risks and complexities, so be sure to research your options thoroughly.

Advantages of a 15-Year Mortgage

Taking on a 15-year mortgage is a significant commitment, and understanding its advantages can help you understand why it remains popular for borrowers. Here are some benefits associated with it:

  • Faster Equity Buildup: A 15-year mortgage schedule contributes more of your monthly payment towards the principal balance, allowing you to build equity in your home faster.

  • Lower Interest Rates: Lenders often offer more attractive interest rates for 15-year mortgages than loans with longer terms. It means paying less interest over the life of your loan.

  • Long-Term Savings: The combination of lower interest rates and a shorter loan term results in substantial savings on the total cost of your home.

  • Quick Path to Full Ownership: With a 15-year mortgage, you can achieve the financial security of owning your home outright in half the time compared to a traditional 30-year term.

  • Less Interest Rate Risk: The shorter term of a 15-year mortgage means less exposure to potential interest rate fluctuations, reducing your risk.

While a 15-year term might come with higher monthly mortgage payments, benefits like rapid equity buildup, long-term savings, and quicker homeownership can make them an appealing choice. Remember, the right mortgage hinges on your financial circumstances and long-term goals.

Comparing 15-Year and 30-Year Mortgages

The 15-year and 30-year mortgage terms are the most commonly selected options in the home loan market. Knowing these advantages and trade-offs can help align your financial goals with the appropriate mortgage term. Here's a comparative snapshot of 15-year and 30-year mortgages:

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Deciding between a 15-year and 30-year mortgage involves assessing your long-term financial goals, monthly budget and risk tolerance. A clear understanding of these aspects can lead to an informed choice.

How To Find the Best 15-Year Mortgage Rates

Applying for a home loan requires lenders to evaluate your financial health. Favorably positioning yourself can help you secure the best possible rates for a 15-year mortgage. Here are several strategies to consider:

1

Shop Around

Don't limit yourself to your current bank or the first mortgage lender you encounter. Different lenders can offer different rates, even for the same type of loan. Take time comparing offers from multiple lenders to ensure you're getting the best deal.

2

Boost Your Credit Score

Lenders use your credit score to determine your creditworthiness. A higher score can help you secure lower interest rates. If your score isn't excellent, consider taking steps to improve it before applying.

3

Consider the Loan-to-Value Ratio

The more equity you have in your home (or, the larger your down payment if you're buying), the lower your loan-to-value ratio, which can get you a lower interest rate.

4

Watch Economic Trends

Many factors, including economic trends and Federal Reserve policy, influence mortgage rates. While you can't control these, being aware of them can help you time your mortgage application for when rates are low.

5

Negotiate

Don't hesitate to negotiate your mortgage’s terms with potential lenders. Every fraction of a percentage point matters when it comes to interest rates, and successful negotiation can lead to significant savings.

Securing the best 15-year mortgage rates can make the benefits even more attractive. Don’t hesitate to use this knowledge and these strategies to navigate the process better.

Refinancing to a 15-Year Term: Yae or Nay?

You've heard about 15-year mortgages, explored the variety of options available, and understood their benefits. But what if you already have a mortgage? Is it possible (or even sensible) to switch to a 15-year term? The simple answer is yes, and it's called refinancing.

Refinancing your mortgage means replacing your existing home loan with a new one, usually with different terms. It could include a lower interest rate, a shorter term or both. However, refinancing comes with risks, such as the following:

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Refinancing to a 15-year mortgage can be an excellent option if you're in the right financial situation. We recommend weighing all the pros and cons and considering your overall financial health and long-term goals before deciding.

Frequently Asked Questions

There are many factors to consider before deciding whether to go for a 15-year mortgage. And after that, there’s more work involved to get the best rates. Here are some commonly asked questions to provide additional information.

Yes, a 15-year mortgage typically has less total interest compared to a 30-year mortgage. There's less time for interest to accumulate because you're repaying the loan over a shorter period.

Converting a 30-year mortgage to a 15-year one can offer potential benefits, including lower interest rates and faster equity building. However, it also comes with higher monthly payments. It's essential to carefully evaluate your financial situation and goals before deciding.

Yes, it’s possible to refinance from a longer-term mortgage into a 15-year term. The benefits can include lower interest rates and quicker home equity accumulation. However, you'll also need to consider that monthly payments will be higher, which might impact your budget.

While a 15-year mortgage often comes with lower rates, you also need to make higher monthly payments due to the shorter repayment term. It could put more pressure on your monthly budget and limit your financial flexibility.

A 15-year fixed-rate mortgage provides more stability because the interest rate and monthly payment remain the same for the life of the loan. Interest rates for adjustable-rate mortgages may change over time, potentially leading to increased payments.

Refinancing to a 15-year mortgage can lead to substantial savings and faster home equity buildup. However, it also results in higher monthly payments and potential upfront costs related to refinancing. It's essential to weigh these factors against your long-term financial goals.

Paying points, which are upfront fees paid to the lender, can lower your mortgage rate, but it's not always necessary. If you plan to stay for many years, paying points for a lower rate might be beneficial. But if you don’t, it might be an unnecessary expense.

Closing costs for a 15-year mortgage are typically between 2% to 5% of the loan amount and cover various services the lender performs, such as loan origination, underwriting and processing fees.

While specific requirements may vary between lenders, commonly considered factors include a strong credit score, stable income, a low debt-to-income ratio and a sufficient down payment. Meeting these criteria helps to secure more competitive rates.

Choosing between a 15-year and a longer-term mortgage depends on your financial situation, budget and long-term goals. Speaking with a financial advisor can provide personalized advice based on these factors, helping you reach an informed decision.

About Christopher Boston


Christopher Boston headshot

Christopher (Croix) Boston was the Head of Loans content at MoneyGeek, with over five years of experience researching higher education, mortgage and personal loans.

Boston has a bachelor's degree from the Seattle Pacific University. They pride themselves in using their skills and experience to create quality content that helps people save and spend efficiently.


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