When you're buying a home, getting the best possible mortgage rate can have a positive effect on your finances for years to come.
Depending on how large your mortgage is and how long you stay in your home, it can save you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.
The following are five ways to ensure that you're getting the best mortgage rate possible:
Look beyond a 30-year fixed rate.
A 30-year fixed rate is the standard loan, but it's not the only option. If you can handle a higher monthly payment, you can save a significant amount over time by getting a 15-year mortgage.
Although you'll pay more each month, you'll get a lower interest rate and be able to pay off your home much quicker. In addition, more of your early payments go toward paying down the principal, according to The Motley Fool.
Improve your credit score if it's low.
It's important to keep your credit score in good shape because it helps determine how many loan options you'll have as well as the interest rate you'll pay. Check your score with each agency – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – and correct any mistakes. If needed, delay getting a loan until you can improve your score by paying off debt and paying every bill on time.
The Simple Dollar looked at mortgage interest rates based on three different credit rates. The lowest credit score used (620) would cost the borrower more than $99,000 over the life of the loan when compared to a higher score (over 760).
Beef up your down payment.
Most lenders like to see at least a 20 percent down payment in order to get the best mortgage loan rate, according to Forbes. If you pay less, you may have a higher rate since the lender will consider you to be at higher risk of defaulting.
You'll also have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI), which protects the lender's interests in case you default on the loan.
Get more than one quote.
Most people get just one mortgage quote, consumer adviser Clark Howard says. He recommends shopping around and getting quotes from multiple lenders, including a local bank, a credit union and a few online lenders.
Each inquiry will be recorded on your credit report, so you should get your quotes within a two-week period. That way, it doesn't look like you're applying for multiple loans.
Consider paying points.
Lenders will often give you the option of paying for discount points up front in exchange for lowering your interest rate. These fees are paid directly to the lender, and one point costs 1 percent of your mortgage amount.
The reduction in interest depends on the lender, and you'll need to run the numbers to determine when you'll break even by consulting a mortgage point calculator. If you plan to live in your home for a long time, paying points may make sense, according to Money.