Winter isn’t typically the hottest season for the real estate market, but a new study suggests that the months of December, January and February may be the best time of the year to get a mortgage.
A new study from Haus, a home-finance start-up, said January offers the best rates followed by December then February.
The company analyzed Freddie Mac loan data of 8.5 million mortgage originations between 2012 and 2018 and found that rates are about 20 basis points lower in January than they are in June — real estate’s hottest month.
In second place was December with rates 18 basis points lower. The third-best month was February with a 14-basis-point discount compared to June.
“While we can’t say for exact certainty why rates are lower in January than in the summer months, we can speculate that competition for customers matters,” wrote Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist and senior vice president of analytics at Haus, in a report about the study. “Since home buying and refinancing is seasonal, there is less mortgage origination in winter months, so it could be that lenders must lower their rates to stay competitive and attract business.”
If the study’s conclusions are accurate, this year’s winter buyers could see a double benefit: that from seasonally low rates as well as from the pandemic-induced record-low rates. In fact, Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of mortgage rates showed the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaging 2.73% this week — a near record low.
However, buyers may need to act quickly as some economists have warned that rates may rise in the coming months.
If you’re in the market to buy a home or get a mortgage, here are a few tips for getting the best rates possible:
Shop for rates
Mortgage terms are confusing and comparing lender and third-party fees can sometimes be difficult, but it’s worth making the extra effort to reap the savings.
Looking at the country’s largest lenders, the Haus study found a 75 basis-point spread between rates — even taking into account factors like down-payment size, existing debt and credit score.
“So this means that, all else equal, the same borrower would get a 5% rate with the most expensive lender and a 4.25% rate with the least expensive lender,” McLaughlin wrote.
Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website, Consumer.ftc.gov, to learn more about how to shop for a mortgage.
Work on your credit
The Haus study also found that credit scores do matter. For those who had excellent credit — scores above 800 — they received mortgages that were 42 basis points lower than those with scores under 650. Even raising a score from under 650 to 750-799 resulted in rates that were 41 basis points lower.
Check out your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com to make sure all of your financial-related information is accurate.
Work with a Realtor
Another benefit of house-hunting in the winter is the fact that there are usually fewer buyers, which means less competition for the homes for sale. Typically, winter sellers are also motivated to sell quickly.
Although this year’s unseasonably active market may be an exception to the usual trends, a Realtor can help you navigate through the process. This includes helping you understand current market conditions and working as a negotiator to help you get the best terms possible.
A Realtor can also give you the names of several lenders to help you get started as you shop and compare mortgage rates.
To learn more about getting into Utah’s real estate market this winter, contact a local Realtor. Find one at MyRealtorStory.com.