Today's mortgage and refinance rates: May 21, 2021 | Rates decrease

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All mortgage and refinance rates have gone down since last Friday, and most are down since this time last month. It could be a good day to lock in a low rate.

Mortgage rates should remain relatively low for at least a few months, so you don’t need to hurry to buy to take advantage of low rates if you aren’t ready.

But if you know you want to buy soon, you should probably start the process of applying for preapproval and locking in a rate. According to a study by Redfin, over half of homes in the US are selling in two weeks or less right now. So once you’re ready to buy, you’ll want to be able to act fast.

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Today’s mortgage rates: Friday, May 21, 2021

Mortgage typeAverage rate today
15-year fixed2.45%
30-year fixed3.35%
7/1 ARM3.68%
10/1 ARM3.65%
30-year FHA2.73%
VA mortgage loan2.72%

Conventional rates from; government-backed rates from RedVentures.

Learn more and get offers from multiple lenders »

Mortgage rates are low overall today, with all rates under 4%.

Rates for conventional mortgages, which you may consider “regular mortgages,” are already low right now. But you can usually get an even better rate with a government-backed mortgage through the FHA and VA, depending on which term length you choose. Government mortgages are good options if you’re eligible.

Today’s refinance rates: Friday, May 21, 2021

Mortgage typeAverage rate today
15-year fixed2.65%
30-year fixed3.76%
7/1 ARM4.21%
10/1 ARM4.31%
30-year FHA2.72%
VA mortgage loan2.73%

Conventional rates from; government-backed rates from RedVentures.

Compare offers from refinancing lenders »

Refinance rates are low in general, but you could pay over 4% for an adjustable-rate mortgage.

How to get a low mortgage rate

Mortgage rates are at all-time lows, so you may consider locking in a low rate.

But a rate increase soon is seemingly unlikely, so you don’t have to rush. Rates will probably remain low for several months, if not longer. You have the opportunity to change your financial situation and receive a lower rate. 

To get the best possible rate, consider these steps before applying:  

  • Improve your credit score by making payments on time, paying down debt, or letting your credit age. You’ll get a more agreeable interest rate with a higher score, and many lenders will lower your rate with a score of at least 700. 
  • Save more for a down paymentThe minimum down payment you’ll need depends on which type of mortgage you are after. You’ll probably get a better rate with a higher down payment.
  • Lower your debt-to-income ratio. Your DTI ratio is the amount you pay toward debts each month, divided by your gross monthly income. Most lenders want to see a ratio of 36% or less. To improve your ratio, pay down debts or look for ways to increase your income. 

You can secure a low rate now if your finances are in good shape, but you don’t need to rush to get a mortgage or refinance if you’re not prepared. But homes are selling fast. So if you know you’ll be ready to buy in the next couple months, you may want to lock in a rate soon so you can act quickly when it’s time to buy.

Mortgage and refinance rates trends

Mortgage rate trends

Mortgage typeAverage rate todayAverage rate last weekAverage rate last month
15-year fixed2.45%2.51%2.50%
30-year fixed3.35%3.41%3.38%
7/1 ARM3.68%4.78%4.37%
10/1 ARM3.65%4.74%4.00%

Fixed mortgage rates have decreased a little since last Friday, and adjustable rates are down significantly. Mortgage rates have also gone down since this time last month.

Refinance rate trends

Mortgage typeAverage rate todayAverage rate last weekAverage rate last month
15-year fixed2.65%2.69%2.71%
30-year fixed3.76%3.81%3.72%
7/1 ARM4.21%4.89%4.53%
10/1 ARM4.31%5.22%4.73%

All refinance rates are down since last Saturday, and most have decreased since this time last month. The exception is the 30-year fixed refinance rate, which has gone up by a few basis points since April 21.

How do 15-year fixed rates work?

A 15-year fixed mortgage locks in your rate for the entire 15 years you’ll spend paying down your loan.

Your monthly payments will be higher with a 15-year term than a 30-year term because you’re repaying the same mortgage principal in half the time. 

But a 15-year fixed mortgage will cost less than a 30-year fixed mortgage in the long run. It will take you fewer years to pay off your mortgage, and you’ll get a lower interest rate.

How do 30-year fixed rates work?

With a 30-year fixed mortgage, you’ll pay off your mortgage over 30 years, and you’ll pay the same interest rate for the life of the loan. A 30-year term has a higher interest rate than a shorter term.

You’ll pay more in interest with a 30-year fixed mortgage than with a 15-year fixed mortgage, as you’re paying a higher interest rate for an extended period. 

On the flip side, you’ll pay less per month with a 30-year term than with a 15-year fixed term, because you’re dividing your payments over more years. 

How do adjustable rates work?

A fixed-rate mortgage keeps your rate the same for your whole loan period. But with an adjustable-rate mortgage, you’ll pay a set rate for a predetermined period, then that rate will change periodically. A 10/1 ARM locks in your rate for a decade. Then your rate will vary once per year.

Adjustable rates are low these days, but a fixed-rate mortgage may still be the better deal. Fixed rates are starting lower than adjustable rates, and you can lock in a very low rate without risking your rate increasing later with an ARM.

If you’re thinking about getting an ARM, discuss with your lender what your rates would be if you chose a fixed-rate versus an adjustable-rate mortgage.

How do government mortgages work?

We’re also providing rates for FHA and VA loans, two kinds of government-backed mortgages. 

Government mortgages are backed by federal agencies. The agency pays the lender back should you default on your mortgage payments.

These mortgages are less risky for lenders than conventional mortgages, so lenders usually have more lenient requirements for your credit score, debt-to-income ratio, or down payment. Government mortgages also charge lower interest rates.

Government-backed mortgages are great options if you qualify. Here are the different types:

  • FHA mortgage: This mortgage isn’t limited to a certain type of person. But it’s particularly useful if your credit score isn’t good enough to qualify for a conventional mortgage.
  • VA mortgage: VA loans are for active military members, veterans, and their family members.
  • USDA mortgage: You may qualify if you live in a rural area and fall under a certain income limit.

Mortgage and refinance rates by state

Check the latest rates in your state at the links below. 

New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Washington DC
West Virginia

About the authors

Laura Grace Tarpley is an editor at Personal Finance Insider, covering mortgages, refinancing, and lending. She is also a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF). Over her five years of covering personal finance, she has written extensively about ways to navigate loans.

Ryan Wangman is a reviews fellow at Personal Finance Insider reporting on mortgages, refinancing, bank accounts, bank reviews, and loans. In his past experience writing about personal finance, he has written about credit scores, financial literacy, and homeownership.

Best Mortgage Rates Today: Friday May 21, 2021

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