Mortgage Rates: Why Can’t I Get Record-Low Rates?

October 17, 2010 Updated: October 1, 2015

Mortgage rates have reached historic lows in the past several months. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Mortgage rates have reached historic lows in the past several months. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Mortgage rates are at or near record lows, but what if it seems like you just can’t nab those juicy rates that everyone else is getting?

Keep in mind that mortgage rates released by Freddie Mac (4.19 percent for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs), and 3.62 percent for 15-year FRMs, as of Oct. 14) are national averages, which means that some potential homeowners will get rates higher than the average, and others will get rates that are lower.

Where you want to buy a house could influence if your rate quotes are higher than average or not. A breakdown of rates for FRMs by Freddie Mac shows that the Northeast U.S. and Southeast U.S. have higher rates, on average, than the Midwest and the Western U.S.

If you can’t control where you are planning on living, you can still control other factors that may decide how high – or low – your rates could be. Keeping track of your credit score, and actively trying to improve your score, is the best way to control your prospects for a more attractive rate.

Before you plan on shopping for a mortgage rate, get a copy of your credit report. The only federally-sanctioned site for your annual credit report is www.annualcreditreport.com, and be sure to check it thoroughly for errors. If there are mistakes, report them promptly.

Boost your credit score by paying bills on time and lowering your total amount of credit card and other debts. Try not to take out student, car, or personal loans or getting a new credit card in the months before you apply for a mortgage.

When you finally get that rate that you’ve been looking for, or a rate that seems like a good deal, act quickly to lock in the rate. After all, if you lollygag for too long, the rates you’ve found could change and could be unavailable for months, even years.