Here's What the Average American Mortgage Costs

By Markets Fool.com

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As of this writing, the average 30-year mortgage interest rate in the United States is 3.73%, but that only tells part of the story. The cost of your mortgage depends on your credit score, the type of loan you choose, and the fees and other closing costs charged by your lender. Here's some more information on the average cost of a mortgage by credit score and type of loan, and how you can estimate your own mortgage payment.

The average mortgage interest rate

As I mentioned, the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate is 3.73% as of this writing. This is a good representation of the U.S. population -- after all, about 80% of mortgages originated in 2016 are 30-year fixed-rate loans.

However, some homebuyers choose to get different types of mortgages. To name the two most common alternatives, a 15-year mortgage comes with a lower average interest rate of 2.97%, while a 5/1 adjustable rate 30-year mortgage has an average initial interest rate of 3.15%.

Your credit score also plays a major role in the mortgage process, and can make a big difference in your interest rate. To illustrate this, here are the current average mortgage rates, broken down by FICO credit score.

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FICO Score Range

30-year fixed rate

15-year fixed rate

5/1 ARM

760-850

3.248%

2.593%

3.087%

700-759

3.47%

2.815%

3.309%

680-699

3.647%

2.992%

3.486%

660-679

3.861%

3.206%

3.7%

640-659

4.291%

3.636%

4.13%

620-639

4.837%

4.182%

4.676%

Source: www.myFICO.com

It's worth mentioning that you can get certain types of mortgages, such as FHA loans, with credit scores below 620, but they come with their own set of fees and expenses.

Also, the figures in this chart refer to the average annual percentage rate, or APR, not the loan's stated interest rate. APR includes certain closing costs to give a more accurate picture of a loan's true cost.

Calculate what your mortgage payment will be

A mortgage amortization calculator like this one can help you determine what your potential mortgage payment could be. Using the interest rate corresponding to your credit score and loan type, along with how much you plan to spend on a home, can tell you how much you can expect to pay each month.

Keep in mind that this only includes the principal and interest. Your mortgage payment will also include your property taxes, prorated on a monthly basis. This can vary dramatically depending on where you live, and you can find tax records on properties of interest either through your county record office or on real estate websites such as Zillow.

You'll also have to pay hazard insurance with your monthly payment, which along with your tax payment will be placed in an escrow account until your annual insurance payment is due. For most people, a standard homeowner's policy is fine, but if your home is in a high-risk area, you may need additional types of coverage such as flood insurance and windstorm coverage, just to name a couple of possibilities. A local real estate professional can give you a good idea of what to expect.

Finally, if you put less than 20% down on your mortgage, you'll probably have to pay mortgage insurance, unless you get a special loan like a VA or USDA mortgage. If you get a conventional mortgage, you can drop the mortgage insurance once your loan-to-value ratio drops to 80% or less. However, with an FHA loan, mortgage insurance generally remains for the life of the loan.

For these additional costs, the mortgage calculator can estimate them, but keep in mind that it will use national averages. Your costs may vary, so do a little research to get personalized estimates if you want the most accurate estimate.

How to save money on your mortgage

With all of that in mind, there are some smart things you can do to make your own mortgage as affordable as possible.

  • Shop around -- It's unfortunate how many people simply accept the first mortgage they apply for. Sure, it takes time to apply for quotes through different lenders, but even a seemingly tiny variation in interest rates can mean thousands of dollars in savings over the life of the loan. As long as all of your applications take place within a "shopping period" of 14 days, your credit score won't be adversely affected.
  • Consider a 15-year mortgage -- If you can afford it, a 15-year mortgage typically comes with a significantly lower interest rate, which combined with a shorter amortization period can produce big-time savings.
  • Save for a bigger down payment -- You can get a mortgage with as little as 3% down, but doing so will result in a higher monthly payment, as well as mortgage insurance tacked on to your payments. By waiting until you have a little more cash on hand, you could make your financial life significantly easier for the next 15 or 30 years.
  • Work on your credit -- As we've seen, a small improvement in your credit score can translate into thousands of dollars in interest savings. Here are some tips to help you get started.

This isn't an exhaustive list, but it's a good start. And now that you know these national averages, you'll have a better idea of what to expect when you go shopping.

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