How to Get the Best Mortgage Rate

You can get the best mortgage rate by knowing what lenders are looking for, shopping around and paying aggressively upfront.
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After the sticker price of the home, your interest rate is the biggest influence on your monthly mortgage payments. With a higher rate, interest takes up a larger share of your monthly housing budget, and it might also affect the price range that you can comfortably shop.

Though it can feel like you’re at the mercy of lenders and the market, there are steps you can take to improve the rates you’re offered, potentially saving thousands of dollars and growing your homebuying budget.

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1. Strengthen your financial profile

The best mortgage rates are typically reserved for borrowers with the best credit scores, so you’ll want to know where your credit score will stand with lenders. Scores in the highest range (720-850) are considered “excellent,” while scores in the 690-719 range are “good,” scores in the 630-689 range are “fair,” and scores in the 300-629 range are “bad.”

credit score ranges

You can grow your credit score by paying your bills on time, as well as by paying down debt to reduce the amount of credit you’re using and maintaining low credit balances. Keep your cards open to prevent your utilization from going up. You’ll also want to pay off any debts that have gone to collections.

NerdWallet recommends that you request free credit reports from the three major credit reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) and dispute any errors that might be suppressing your credit score. You can access these reports at AnnualCreditReport.com.

In addition to your credit score, lenders will also consider your debt-to-income ratio (DTI). This is the percentage of your gross monthly income that goes toward paying your debts. This number does not include nondebt expenses, such as groceries or utilities.

Lenders typically want this number to be no higher than 36%; the lower, the better. Paying down credit card debt will also improve your debt-to-income ratio. You can find this number using NerdWallet’s DTI calculator.

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Mortgage loans from our partners

NBKC - PURCHASE logo
Check Rate

on NBKC

NBKC

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
NBKC - PURCHASE logo

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Min. credit score 
620

Min. down payment 
0%

Check Rate

on NBKC

Rocket Mortgage - PURCHASE logo
Check Rate

on Rocket Mortgage

Rocket Mortgage

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Rocket Mortgage - PURCHASE logo

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Min. credit score 
580

Min. down payment 
3.5%

Check Rate

on Rocket Mortgage

Better - PURCHASE logo
Check Rate

on Better

Better

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Better - PURCHASE logo

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Min. credit score 
620

Min. down payment 
3%

Check Rate

on Better