What Is A 30-Year Fixed Mortgage?
Ashley Kilroy9-minute read
June 08, 2023
Any home purchase comes with several decisions, and one of the most important you’ll make is on the type of mortgage you use to buy your dream property.
Don’t be surprised if researching home loans leads you to a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, because this is the most popular home loan. But what is a 30-year mortgage exactly, how does it work and what are the pros and cons of this mortgage option?
Let’s answer these questions and more below.
How Does A 30-Year Fixed Mortgage Work?
A 30-year fixed-rate home loan is a mortgage that will be completely paid off in 30 years if the homeowner makes all the payments as scheduled. With a fixed-rate loan, the interest rate remains the same for the entire span of the mortgage.
In most cases, a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is a conventional loan. Conventional loans don’t receive backing from the government, but it’s possible to get a 30-year fixed FHA, USDA or VA loan, which the government does insure. Rocket Mortgage® doesn’t offer USDA loans at this time, however.
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Parts Of A 30-Year Fixed Mortgage
Your 30-year fixed mortgage includes several components. An awareness of each will help you understand the total cost of your potential monthly payments.
- Principal: The principal is the original amount you borrow from a lender to purchase your home. So, if you buy a $300,000 home, cover the 20% down payment of $60,000 and borrow the remaining amount, your principal would be $240,000.
- Interest: Interest essentially acts as a fee the lender charges for letting you borrow money. Lenders calculate mortgage interest as a percentage of your principal. This rate may be variable or fixed, and most of your loan payment goes toward it early on in the loan term.
- Escrow: Escrow is money put aside that a third party uses to pay costs on your behalf. These expenses typically consist of property taxes and homeowners insurance premiums.
- Mortgage insurance: Mortgage insurance costs can depend on a few factors, including your loan type, the size of your loan, your credit score and how much money you put down, although not all factors apply to all mortgages. For example, with a conventional loan, you can avoid mortgage insurance completely by making a down payment of at least 20%, but this down payment won’t waive mortgage insurance on an FHA loan.
Factors That Impact 30-Year Fixed Mortgage Rates
You might see lenders advertise attractive low interest rates. But several factors determine your mortgage rate, impacting the amount you’ll pay. They include:
- Credit score: Lenders use credit score to help determine whether it’s likely a borrower can realistically afford a loan.
- Down payment: Lenders usually offer slightly lower interest rates to buyers with larger down payments, resulting in lower loan-to-value ratios.
- Location: Interest rates may vary somewhat based on state laws and regulations in the area where your home is located.
- Loan type: Certain loans come with more competitive rates than others. For example, VA loan rates are often lower than conventional loan rates.
Today's Purchase Rates
30-Year Fixed *
7.125 Rate / 7.449 APR
- 30-year Fixed-Rate Loan: An interest rate of 7.125% (7.449% APR) is for the cost of 2.125 point(s) ($5,312.50) paid at closing. On a $250,000 mortgage, you would make monthly payments of $1,684.30. Monthly payment does not include taxes and insurance premiums. The actual payment amount will be greater. Payment assumes a loan-to-value (LTV) of 60.00%.
- Listed rates are offered exclusively through Rocket Mortgage.
- Mortgage rates could change daily.
- Actual payments will vary based on your individual situation and current rates.
- Some products may not be available in all states.
- Some jumbo products may not be available to first time home buyers.
- Lending services may not be available in all areas.
- Some restrictions may apply.
- Based on the purchase/refinance of a primary residence with no cash out at closing.
- We assumed (unless otherwise noted) that: closing costs are paid out of pocket; this is your primary residence and is a single family home; debt-to-income ratio is less than 30%; and credit score is over 720; or in the case of certain Jumbo products we assume a credit score over 740; and an escrow account for the payment of taxes and insurance.
- The lock period for your rate is 45 days.
- If LTV > 80%, PMI will be added to your monthy mortgage payment, with the exception of Military/VA loans. Military/VA loans do not require PMI.
- Please remember that we don’t have all your information. Therefore, the rate and payment results you see from this calculator may not reflect your actual situation. Rocket Mortgage offers a wide variety of loan options. You may still qualify for a loan even in your situation doesn’t match our assumptions. To get more accurate and personalized results, please call to talk to one of our mortgage experts.
Types Of 30-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgages
Your search may yield several types of mortgages, and each one comes with pros and cons. Finding the right type of financing will help you better afford the home you want.
Conventional 30-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage
Conventional loans are split into two categories: conforming and nonconforming loans. Conventional conforming loans meet the regulations for sale to Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. Conventional nonconforming loans, on the other hand, don’t satisfy these guidelines.
Because of the diversity of rules, conventional loans don’t have a set list of qualification requirements. However, they usually have stricter rules than government-backed loans, like FHA loans. Typically, you need a minimum credit score of 620 and debt-to-income ratio (DTI) of 50% or lower.
Conventional loan interest rates vary daily, but they’re usually slightly higher than rates on VA, FHA and USDA loans, which, again, are all government-insured.
FHA 30-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage
The Federal Housing Administration, which works under the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), guarantees FHA loans. So, the FHA protects the owners of your mortgage in case you default on the loan.
With some lenders, you can qualify for an FHA loan with a down payment as small as 3.5% and a credit score of 580. Your lender may also want evidence of steady employment and a debt-to-income ratio below 50%. While FHA loans tend to be fairly accessible, you’ll have to pay mortgage insurance if you finance your home purchase with an FHA mortgage.
VA 30-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage
A VA loan is backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), so it poses less risk to mortgage investors. You’ll need a VA Certificate of Eligibility (COE) proving you qualify, though. Active-duty military members, veterans and surviving military spouses are eligible if they meet certain requirements.
VA loans have generally lenient borrowing terms (including credit requirements), low interest rates and no minimum down payment requirement. Borrowers also don’t have to pay mortgage insurance. However, keep in mind that terms and rates vary among lenders.
Pros Of A 30-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage
Home buyers tend to prefer 30-year fixed-rate mortgages. Here are some of the advantages they provide.
Lower Monthly Payments
A 30-year mortgage spreads out the cost of your home over the 30-year term, giving you additional time to pay the loan back. As a result, you make a lower monthly payment than you would with a 15-year or 20-year mortgage for the same property.
Some lenders allow you to make extra principal-only payments every month, helping you save money in the long run by reducing the amount you pay in interest.
Months where you have a little extra cash, you have the option to put more down and work toward paying off your mortgage faster.
Not every lender handles extra payments the same, however, so it’s possible you could be subject to a penalty if you end up paying off your mortgage early. Rocket Mortgage doesn’t charge any penalties for prepayment, so look for similar opportunities with your loan.
Ability To Afford A More Expensive Home
When you choose a 30-year term loan, you may be able to purchase a more expensive home since spreading your mortgage payments out over the maximum number of years affects your debt-to-income ratio.
When applying for a loan, your lender considers how your mortgage repayments will impact your DTI. For example, they may allow someone with a 15-year term to borrow $140,000. But someone borrowing on a 30-year term may be able to borrow $300,000. This is because, with a 30-year loan, a smaller portion of your monthly income has to go toward paying your mortgage.
Cons Of A 30-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage
A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage promises some advantages for homeowners, but this loan might not be the best choice for everyone. It’s therefore important for you to consider the drawbacks we’ll describe next.
You’ll Pay More In Interest
A 30-year mortgage will likely come with a higher interest rate than a shorter-term loan. That’s because it takes longer for a lender to be reimbursed the money the home buyer has borrowed. Lenders charge a slightly higher interest rate to help minimize any potential loss from unexpected inflation during the loan term.
It’ll Take Longer To Pay Off The Loan
A 30-year mortgage is the longest length for a mortgage term that most lenders offer. That draws out your repayment period, meaning you’ll pay more in interest than you would with a shorter loan term.
It’ll Take Longer To Build Equity
As you pay the principal part of your mortgage, you slowly gain ownership of your home. This ownership is known as equity. However, it takes a longer time to build equity with a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. This is because you aren’t paying as much toward your principal balance as you would be with a shorter loan term.
Historical 30-Year Fixed Mortgage Rates
Mortgage rates have fluctuated significantly over the previous decades. The 1970s, to start, saw consistent rate increases due to high inflation.
In response, the Federal Reserve raised the federal funds rate, and this process repeated until it resulted in a 30-year interest rate of 18.63% on the week of October 9, 1981. This remains the highest weekly mortgage rate ever recorded. By increasing the funds rate, the Federal Reserve slowly curbed inflation, and inflation levels remained normal through the ‘90s and early 2000s, during which mortgage rates stayed for the most part below 10%.
Eventually, the housing crisis struck in 2008, and average 30-year mortgage rates declined over several years until they hit a then-all-time low of 3.31%. Throughout the 2010s, demand for homes was weak and both interest rates and home prices remained low. Those who did buy a home were able to take advantage of the low sale prices and low rates, locking in affordable monthly payments.
Another major decline in rates occurred in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. At the time, the Federal Reserve cut the federal funds rate down to 0%. Meanwhile, according to Freddie Mac, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages fell to a new record low of 2.65% in January 2021.
Since late 2021, mortgage rates have increased.
How Often Do 30-Year Mortgage Rates Change?
The interest rates of 30-year fixed-rate mortgages change frequently. A few factors influence those changes, including:
- The federal funds rate: The Federal Reserve decides the federal funds rate, which is the rate financial institutions pay to borrow money.
- The financial markets: When financial markets are down, mortgage rates tend to lower. The opposite is also true. When financial markets are up (especially if there is an increase in inflation), rates tend to rise.
Don’t panic if interest rates increase between the time you start looking for a house and contact a lender. A slightly higher rate will not significantly impact your monthly payments.
In addition, you’ll want to consider the other terms or services a lender offers. You might find a low rate, but the lender may not provide support or other favorable terms.
Refinancing A 30-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage
If you already have a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, you may want to refinance your mortgage at some point. .For instance, if you think your mortgage payments are too high or you’re struggling with repayment, you could refinance the loan into a new 30-year mortgage. This would lower your minimum monthly payment amount because you’ll have more time to pay off the loan. However, keep in mind that refinancing into another 30-year loan will likely increase the amount of interest you’ll pay on your mortgage over time.
You also might want to refinance if current interest rates are lower than when you purchased your home. Refinancing to a lower rate will save you money each month.
Another reason some homeowners refinance is to cash out part of the equity in their home. With significant equity, typically 20% or more, you can consider what’s called a cash-out refinance. This provides you with a sum of money you can use for home renovations, investing or other purposes.
Factors That Influence 30-Year Fixed Mortgage Refinance Rates
If you’re thinking of refinancing a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage into another 30-year loan, you’ll want to make sure the interest rates work in your favor. This means understanding the factors that influence the types of rates you can expect to pay. Such factors include your home’s price and location, your credit score and debt-to-income ratio and the average market interest rates.
Is A 30-Year Fixed Mortgage Right For You?
As popular as 30-year fixed-rate mortgages are, they’re not the perfect fit for every home buyer.
If you’re looking for a way to keep your mortgage payments as small as possible and don’t mind paying more interest over the long haul, a 30-year fixed mortgage may be ideal. However, if you want to pay your mortgage off quickly or want to save on interest, a shorter loan term will be a better option.
Think about your financial situation and your budget before you apply for a mortgage, so you can choose the right loan type for your goals.
FAQs About 30-Year Fixed Mortgages
You may still have a few questions about 30-year mortgages. Here are answers to some common queries concerning 30-year fixed-rate mortgages.
Is a 30-year fixed mortgage really paid off in 30 years?
If you follow your repayment schedule, you’ll pay off your 30-year fixed-rate mortgage in 30 years. However, many homeowners have the option to pay it off early.
What happens if I pay off a 30-year fixed mortgage early?
Paying off your mortgage early can help you save money, perhaps even thousands of dollars in interest. However, paying ahead of time may not work for you if you have other high-interest debt or your lender charges prepayment penalties.
How does interest work on a 30-year mortgage?
The interest you pay on a 30-year mortgage will largely depend on your loan type. A fixed-rate loan will apply the same rate throughout the loan term, but the interest rate on an adjustable-rate mortgage will change periodically.
Is a 30-year mortgage better than a 15-year mortgage?
Both 30-year mortgages and 15-year mortgages have the potential to work well, but the “better” choice depends on your finances. A 15-year loan will have a higher payment each month, but it comes with a lower interest rate – saving you money in time.
The Bottom Line
A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has its benefits and disadvantages. While you have lower monthly payments and repayment flexibility, you’ll pay more in the end because the longer your loan’s term, the more you’ll pay in interest. However, the smaller monthly payments may free up cash you can use to pay down other debts, build your savings or cover regular expenses so you’re not as stressed about your budget.
Since a 30-year fixed-rate loan doesn’t work for every homeowner, it’s vital to explore your mortgage options before committing to a new home loan.
If you’re ready to find the right loan for your needs, apply online with Rocket Mortgage.
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