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How Are Mortgage Rates Determined?



If you’ve been paying attention to the mortgage rate news, you may be wondering exactly how it is banks decide what mortgage rates to offer. Do they just pick a number at random? Mortgage rates may seem somewhat arbitrary, but there’s actually something of a science to them.

So how does your bank or lender determine what your interest rate will be? Here are just some of the factors that go into the equation.

Rates Always Account For Inflation

First and foremost, every mortgage interest rate needs to account for inflation. Inflation is the average annual change in purchasing power brought about by changing economic conditions. When inflation goes up, money loses purchasing power – and when it goes down, money gains purchasing power.

For example, an annual inflation rate of two percent means that a $100 bill minted in 2014 would be able to buy just $98 worth of goods in 2015. Mortgage interest rates always take the inflation rate into account, because if your bank’s mortgage rate were lower than the rate of inflation, your bank would actually lose money on your mortgage.

The Default Risk Premium: Your Likelihood Of Default Impacts Your Rate

The default risk premium is a rate that your lender adds to the inflation rate in order to mitigate the risk of not recovering the loan. Different kinds of loans carry different risk levels, and your lender needs some way of staying profitable even when losses happen. The default risk premium helps your lender to profit more on high-risk mortgages, which mitigates the problems associated with a default.

The more at risk of defaulting on a loan you are, the higher this premium will be.

The Liquidity Premium: Can Your Lender Recoup Potential Losses?

The liquidity premium is similar to the default risk premium, but rather than addressing the possibility that the borrower might default, this premium mitigates the risk of not being able to re-sell the property after the borrower defaults. If a borrower enters default, the lender’s only option is to sell the property in order to recover its losses. However, a home is a non-liquid asset, and it’s very difficult to turn a home into cash – and the liquidity premium compensates the lender for the additional time and effort it takes to sell a non-liquid asset.

Mortgage rates may seem like sorcery, but there’s a clear science and a logical method involved in calculating rates and premiums. To learn more about mortgage rates, or to find out what kind of a mortgage rate you may be eligible for, contact a mortgage professional near you today.


Lee Gosselin, Co-Founder, Owner & Associate Broker

The Lee Gosselin Real Estate Team 

Home with The WILSON Group

Hampton Roads: 757-726-7211

Central Virginia: 804-467-7473 (mobile)

eFax: 1800-401-8350

Coast Virginia Office

505 S. Independence Blvd, Ste 208-A

Virginia Beach, Virginia 23452

Central Virginia Office

1805 Monument Ave, Suite 314

Richmond, Virginia 23220

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