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COVID-19 Could Make Your Mortgage Cheaper

[Updated: Jul 24, 2020] Mar 19, 2020 by Maurie Backman
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In case you've been living under a rock lately (which would actually be a good thing, given today's circumstances), COVID-19 has been battering the stock market, destroying small businesses, and wreaking havoc on the greater U.S. economy. That's bad news, clearly, but the one silver lining is that we may see a drop in mortgage rates as this crisis continues.

What's happened so far

The Federal Reserve announced on Sunday that it was cutting its benchmark federal funds rate to essentially zero, and while mortgage rates aren't tied directly to that figure, they tend to follow a similar path. Does this mean we'll be seeing 0% mortgages in the near future? Don't count on it. But could we see rates for a 30-year fixed mortgage drop below 3%? Quite possibly.

Of course, mortgage rates have hardly been steady over the past few weeks. While they fell to a record low a short while back, an influx of refinance applications overwhelmed lenders and caused mortgage-backed bond investors to balk. The result? Rates actually climbed a bit. But can we expect them to go down in the coming weeks? Many industry experts say yes.

Is now the right time to buy?

Locking in a competitive interest rate on a fixed mortgage is a good way to keep your housing costs low for the long haul. But should you be buying a home at a time when we could see housing values plummet should a full-fledged recession take hold?

It depends.

If you're planning to buy a home and live there for a number of years before contemplating selling, then it pays to take advantage of what will probably be some of the lowest mortgage rates we've seen in years (keeping in mind that rates were already competitive before the COVID-19 crisis took hold).

On the other hand, if you wait a few months, you may find that home values drop as the economy continues to struggle and desperate homeowners start listing their properties in an attempt to get out as quickly as possible. As such, think about your living situation right now and whether it's imperative that you buy immediately, as delaying could pay off, even if it means snagging a mortgage rate that isn't the lowest of the low.

If you are inclined to buy sooner and lock in a mortgage in the very near future, make sure you're in a financially stable place -- namely, that you have a sizeable down payment, a healthy level of emergency cash left over, and a steady job that's unlikely to get compromised should the need for longer-term social distancing become evident.

Finally, if you're going to buy, shop around for a mortgage before locking in a rate. That's a smart move under normal circumstances, and an especially wise move at a time when doing your due diligence could help you score an enviable rate for the next three decades.

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