If you're a homeowner, have you refinanced your mortgage lately — to slash your interest rate and monthly payment? Maybe you've been thinking you need to refi and take advantage of historically low mortgage rates, but you've been putting it off and putting it off.
Well, none other than Warren Buffett would probably tell you to stop procrastinating. Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages have been sliding and are averaging just 2.98% this week in the nearly 50-year survey from mortgage giant Freddie Mac. That's a new all-time low.
"This is a very good time to borrow money, which means it may not be such a great time to lend money, but it’s good for the country that it’s a good time to borrow money," the billionaire investor said recently during his company's annual shareholders meeting, held online.
Buffett himself has been on a borrowing binge, and at some truly unbelievably rates. You can do pretty well, too, if you follow his lead.
Borrow like Buffett
To shore up an economy taking a pounding from the coronavirus, the Federal Reserve in mid-March slashed a key interest rate nearly to zero, matching an all-time low it established during the 2008 financial crisis and the Great Recession.
Buffett hasn't figured out a way to borrow at zero interest (at least not yet), but his Berkshire Hathaway company did come close as it recently benefited from the low-rate environment the Fed helped create.
In an April filing with U.S. regulators, Berkshire said that through a bond offering priced in Japanese yen, it would be taking on the equivalent of over $1.8 billion in debt — at rates ranging from 2% to just 0.674%.
You won't find mortgage rates way down in that neighborhood, but they have been breaking records thanks in part to the Fed's extreme rate cutting and its other moves to help the economy. Thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages are popping up at unbelievably low rates below 3%.
During a 2017 CNBC interview, Buffett called the 30-year mortgage "the best instrument in the world" — because of your ability to refinance when you find a lower rate.
"If you’re wrong and rates go to 2%, which I don’t think they will, you pay it off," he said at the time. "It’s a one-way renegotiation. It is an incredibly attractive instrument for the homeowner and you’ve got a one-way bet."
Still on the fence? Jump off
Many households have seized upon the sliding rates on home loans. During some recent weeks, Americans were applying for refinance mortgages at three and four times the levels seen a year ago, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
"With many homeowners still facing economic and employment uncertainty, these refinance opportunities will allow them to save money on their monthly payments, which can then be used to help other areas of their budgets," says Joel Kan, the trade group's vice president of forecasting.
More than 16 million homeowners are sitting on loans that could be refinanced and bring monthly savings averaging $283, according to a report released in early June by the mortgage data firm Black Knight.
Still waffling? You're in a good position to refinance and score a sensationally low mortgage rate if you currently have a 30-year mortgage at 4% or higher and if your credit score is exceptional (800 or higher) or very good (740 to 799).
Warren Buffett says it's a good time to borrow money. Maybe it's your time to slash the cost of your mortgage.