Selling Your Home During the Holidays? 7 Tips to Help Sell It Fast

November 30, 2020 December 14, 2020 by Julia Weaver

Updated on December 14th, 2020

Believe it or not, the holiday season can be a great time to sell your home. It’s true that the housing market typically heats up during the spring. However, the holiday season is often overlooked as a prime time to sell, especially this year. 

Why? First of all, there is typically less inventory in the housing market, allowing your home to easily stand out among the available inventory. And though there are technically fewer buyers overall, the homebuyers that are looking are far more serious about finding a home within a specific timeframe. So, make your home warm and inviting and open it up to those looking to buy, because selling your home during the holidays might be your best present this year. 

Selling your home during the holidays

Selling your home during the holidays

1) Stage for the holidays. Think clean, cozy, simple.

Yes, you should absolutely decorate your home during the holidays even if you are trying to sell it. The real question you should be asking is, how much

One thing that happens to all homeowners is that we tend to accumulate a lot of stuff. This is especially true of holiday decorations. As you begin decorating, channel your inner stager or designer. This year, for the sake of appealing to the buyers touring your home, use your best decorations as holiday accents without drawing attention away from your home’s best selling features.

Your home may have large windows with a great view or an expansive kitchen fit for a chef. Whatever sold you on your home when you first bought it is most likely the same feature(s) that will sell your home during the holidays. Don’t cover up your view with an excessively large Christmas tree and avoid filling your living room in snow globes, nutcrackers, and a large nativity scene. You want to accentuate your home with holiday decor, not bury it.

Holiday decor can help prospective homebuyers imagine your house as their future home. If you have a fireplace, decorate it with garland and hang stockings from the mantle. Use candles and essential oil diffusers with iconic scents of the season, such as pumpkin spice or balsam and cedar. You especially want to keep your home clutter-free and need to clean it regularly. Belongings can easily begin to pile up during the holidays, so make sure you stay on top of it. Create an environment that makes prospective homebuyers feel comfortable and warm the moment they walk through your front door. You want them to feel at home.

Consider working with a professional home stager to create the perfect holiday look to help your home stand out from the competition.

Selling your home during the holidays

Selling your home during the holidays

2) Price your home to sell 

You and your listing agent will most likely come up with a pricing strategy together based on comparable homes in the area, what the current housing market is doing, and what the demand for housing looks like or is projected to do. Ultimately, several variables go into pricing your home to sell, however, there are a couple of easy tricks that can help attract homebuyers.

Price your home competitively

If your home looks like all the other homes on the block with similar features, then a lower price point will definitely draw in more traffic than your rivals. However, if your home is the largest one on the block, has more acreage, or a double car garage and pool, you can price your home based on the increased value it provides. Check out online estimates for how much your home is worth and then compare them to other houses in your area.

Use strategic price points when listing your home

Have you ever noticed while you’re grocery shopping that almost all prices end in .99, such as $1.99 or $4.99? This simple manipulation of pricing is called setting strategic price points and actually makes the price of something appear smaller (or cheaper) than it really is. The same exact concept works when pricing your house to sell. For example, if you decide your home could sell for $500,000, pricing it at $499,000 can (theoretically) draw in more traffic and possibly more offers.

3) Make your curb appeal a top priority

Your neighborhood may actually look more appealing to homebuyers during the holiday season. You don’t want to go overboard with your exterior holiday decorations, but you want to make your house shine along with the other homes on your block.

During these winter days, your lawn may not be that lush green it usually is during the summertime and your trees may currently be barren. That’s why making your curb appeal a top priority is necessary when selling your home in winter. Make sure to pick up all the sticks, dead leaves, and any other debris and that your lawn is neatly trimmed. Even during the colder months, a few weeds that poke up from the ground can make your lawn seem neglected. If you have pictures of your home at alternative times of the year when your curb appeal is burgeoning with flora, these may also be a good idea to have available for homebuyers during home tours. This way, instead of homebuyers trying to picture your house in other seasons, they can just see it for themselves.

4) Keeping your property safe for homebuyers

Outside temperatures are well below freezing during the holiday season in most of the United States. Driveways and walking paths are blanketed in snow and ice, and icicles hang from gutters like glass curtains. A legitimate concern for home sellers in one of these colder climates is how to keep your property safe for homebuyers. The only thing you can really do is be proactive and break out that snow shovel and start clearing a path.

If you’re expecting snow on an almost weekly basis, then it might be best to hire out professionals to come by once a day and make sure your driveway, front steps, and any walking paths are cleared for people touring your home.

Yellow shovel for shoveling snow when selling your home during the holidays

Yellow shovel for shoveling snow when selling your home during the holidays

5) Turn on the (holiday) lights

To complement the coziness of your home, you’ll also want to make it bright. Turn on all the lights in your house during open houses and virtual home tours. It may be the darkest time of year outside but you can make sure it doesn’t feel that way inside your home.

This is a great time to replace burnt out light bulbs and fix light switches that aren’t working. You may also want to consider making all your interior lighting the same color temperature, such as a soft white which brightens rooms without giving you that institutional feel. This will help with consistent lighting throughout your home, creating a balanced feel as potential homebuyers walk through each room.

6) Take professional real estate photos when selling your home during the holidays

The best thing you can do for your house in terms of marketing it to potential homebuyers is getting professional real estate photos taken. In fact, research shows that professional photos can help sell your house faster and for more money. This is the one time you don’t want to have your holiday decor on display. In fact, getting your professional photos taken of your house before you decorate is a must because holiday decorations essentially create a time-stamp of your home. 

If you have trouble selling your home during the holidays be sure your house isn’t still rocking holiday lights in the listing photos come February or March, or you risk turning off potential homebuyers. Plan on hiring a professional photographer as soon as possible so you can decorate for the holidays and enjoy the season.

7) Get Santa’s perspective with aerial photography

It doesn’t matter if you live in sunny Tampa, FL, or buried in snow in Minneapolis, MN, consider aerial photography to help make your home stand out this holiday season. If your home has acreage, a view, or any other amenity that cannot be fully captured unless it’s done by air, then aerial photography may be just what you need. 

Drone photography offers buyers a unique perspective of your home and can help make your listing stand out among the other homes for sale online. It also gives potential buyers an overview of your neighborhood along with other amenities that may be within walking distance of your home.


Fender chief Andy Mooney tunes into the market with a $13.5-million offering

After two decades in Hollywood Hills, Andy Mooney is ready for a change of scenery. The CEO of Fender — the guitar and amp manufacturer founded in Fullerton in the 1940s — just listed his estate above the Sunset Strip for $13.5 million.

Perched on a promontory lot, the property combines two parcels for a total of nearly an acre. Buyers have two options: Keep the existing house, a humble 4,700-square-foot traditional, or raze it and erect a mansion of up to 14,565 square feet.

The location is the story here, as the scenic setting takes in views stretching from downtown L.A. to the Pacific Ocean. The house itself wraps around an elegant courtyard, and the compound also holds a guesthouse and swimming pool surrounded by landscaping and vegetable gardens.


Built in the ’50s but updated since, the house holds four bedrooms, 5.5 bathrooms and a handful of sunny, open-concept living spaces. Black accents break up the whitewashed interior, bringing contrast to the windows, doors and checkered-tile floors in the primary suite bathroom.

The most impressive space is the formal living room with a fireplace, which sits under vaulted beamed ceilings and opens to a second-story deck overlooking the city. Other highlights include a gym and indoor-outdoor lounge lined with built-in cabinetry.

James Harris of the Agency and Josh Flagg of Rodeo Realty Beverly Hills hold the listing.

Mooney joined Fender Musical Instruments Corp. as CEO in 2015. Before that, he held executive roles at Quiksilver and the Walt Disney Co., where he created the Disney Princess media franchise as chairman of Disney Consumer Products.


807: Samantha DeBianchi of Million Dollar Listing: Make a Name for Yourself in Real Estate

You’re a real estate professional. You know your market and the best ways to help clients accomplish their real estate goals. But do the majority of buyers and sellers in your area know you? Listen to this podcast with Samantha DeBianchi of Million Dollar Listing and learn what it takes to make a name for yourself as a real estate expert. In addition to offering tips on blogging and video marketing, Samantha shares strategies for landing spots on television, getting quotes published in the paper, and more.

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Start saving your Bonvoy points: The Ritz-Carlton is coming to Turks and Caicos this summer

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34 Affordable Ways to Refresh Your Home in the New Year

Woman with plant at home
Undrey /

With a new year now underway, there’s no better time to give your home a makeover and get off to a fresh start.

While you may not have the budget to do a major remodel, there are still ways to make your home look good on the cheap.

Following are some great options for sprucing up your digs without spending an entire paycheck.

1. Add indoor plants

Woman reading a book
Nomad_Soul /

Whether fake or real, plants add pops of green throughout your home and freshen your space — sometimes literally. Live plants can improve the air quality by removing impurities, as we explain in “9 Houseplants That Remove Toxins From Your Indoor Air.”

Place potted plants near windows throughout your home if you have a green thumb. If you don’t have the time or inclination to care for real plants, look for realistic-looking artificial plants.

2. Create a cozy corner

Halfpoint /

Consider creating a corner that lets you relax and recharge. Find a quiet space and add a comfortable chair and a small table. Don’t forget a fuzzy blanket and comfortable pillows.

If you enjoy reading, put a small bookshelf and a reading light in the space to make it easier to get lost in your favorite book.

3. Declutter

Kitchen countertops
Anna Andersson Fotografi /

Getting rid of clutter can change the look of your home. You may not realize how having extra stuff on every flat surface and mountains of pillows affects the look and feel of your rooms.

Go through every room in your home and try to clear off most surfaces, leaving only essentials such as lamps or a clock. Remove extra pillows and blankets and get a feel for the room before adding anything back.

Add to your decorating budget by selling items you don’t need. If you don’t clear out enough clutter to hold a yard sale, check out “6 Safe Ways to Sell Your Clutter During the Pandemic.”

4. Swap out your hardware

Woman in front of kitchen cabinets
wavebreakmedia /

Adding new hardware to your cabinets is an easy way to change how your space looks and feels. Cabinet hardware is inexpensive — you can even buy it on Amazon if you don’t want to drive to your local home improvement store. It can completely transform the look of a room.

Unless you plan on drilling new holes, your new hardware will need to have the same dimensions. So, before you pick out new handles and drawer pulls, remove one of your current ones.

Measure the screws and, for pulls with multiple screws, the space between the screws. Or, take a piece of your current hardware with you to the store.

5. Change the artwork

Iakov Filimonov /

After a while, you stop really seeing the art on your walls. It becomes just a part of the decor. But your wall art can set the tone for a room or tie into your color scheme. Mixing things up can breathe new life into a room at a fraction of the cost of remodeling.

If you have framed photos, swap them out for more recent ones. Look through photos from recent vacations and outings and find a few images of nature that you like. Consider blowing them up and framing them to accent your walls.

6. Remix your accessories

Nikodash /

Accessories can add a pop of color or an interesting element to a room. Consider switching throw pillows between rooms or pull out any accessories you have in storage.

Add a new throw blanket to your sofa and experiment with arrangements for lamps, candles and other accessories.

7. Change up your lighting

Woman changing light bulb
New Africa /

Make sure you have sufficient lighting in all of your rooms to fit your needs. Add lamps to brighten up dark corners or shine a light on frequently used areas.

Switch up your lighting by changing up lamp shades or moving lamps around. If you’re up for bigger changes, consider swapping out hard-wired fixtures, such as entryway ceiling lamps or a dining room chandelier.

8. Install new door handles

A handyman replaces a door lock
Andrey_Popov /

Door handles are an often-ignored detail in most homes. However, having just the right hardware can change the look of your house.

For example, if you have old brass-colored door handles and you switch to a new modern look, your doors could get a facelift for less than $100.

9. Rearrange your bookshelves

remote job
Aleksandar Karanov /

Updating the contents of your bookshelves can have a big impact on the look of your home. Here are ways to do this on a shoestring:

  • Group books based on color.
  • Position knickknacks off-center on a shelf.
  • Mix up how books are displayed: Place some in horizontal stacks and use them as bookends.
  • Make a pyramid of books and add a favorite display item on top.
  • Mix framed photos and art with the books.

10. Add new storage options

Iakov Filimonov /

New storage options can add color and function to your home. Colorful baskets or boxes on bookshelves or side tables can hide remotes and other unsightly items.

Adding a storage ottoman or bench gives you more functional seating and a place to hide extra blankets or pillows. Spending a little on key organizing essentials can be money well-spent.

11. Change switch plates and outlet covers

Alexey Rotanov /

It’s the little details that can make a difference in the feel of your room. If you have old or yellowed switch plates and outlet covers, consider updating them with a new look.

Most hardware stores sell them for just a few bucks, so you can update the look of your entire home on a budget.

To add pops of color or extra polish, look for ceramic or stainless steel switch plate options at hardware stores, on Etsy or at Walmart.

12. Give your home a deep cleaning

VGstockstudio /

Nothing beats the feel and smell of a clean home. If you want a great way to update your home in the new year, don’t just wipe the surfaces and give the toilet bowl a quick squirt of cleaner. Instead, consider a deep clean.

Dust the top of cabinets, wash windows inside and out and give baseboards an extra scrub. Throw your pillows and pillow inserts in the washing machine. Don’t forget comforters and blankets.

When you’re done, your house will smell and feel squeaky clean.

13. Add some trim

Woman painting trim
kurhan /

Crown molding can change a home from ho-hum to elegant. Check out this tutorial on the This Old House website showing how to install crown molding.

If adding crown molding seems a little too advanced, start with window and door trim.

Measure three times before making a cut or installing your trim. If you don’t have the tools, some hardware stores will cut the molding you purchase if you give them the dimensions.

14. Spruce up your couch

Andreas G. Karelias /

Couches are big pieces of furniture that take up a lot of real estate in your living room. An easy way to update the look of your home is by adding a pop of color to the area.

This can be in the form of colorful accent pillows or a new throw blanket. If your couch could use a little more help, consider adding a slipcover.

15. Repaint a room

Couple painting a room in their home
sirtravelalot /

If you’re looking to make a big statement on a small budget, change the color of a room. With a few tips, you can paint like a pro. Repaint a main area such as your living room or a smaller space such as a bedroom.

Look through design websites and magazines for inspiration. Before you commit to a color, get a sample of the paint (most are $5 or less) to test it out. Put it on a piece of wood and hold it up to the wall to see how it looks in your space. Home Depot is one place to find paint samples and wall colors.

Keep in mind that a paint color when it’s dry can look different than it looks in the can. Also, the shade can look darker or lighter depending on the lighting in your room.

16. Paint your front door

Monkey Business Images /

First impressions matter: What better way to make a good one than refreshing your front door?

The color you choose will depend on the trim and color of the rest of your house. Consider going with a bright and welcoming shade such as blue, yellow or red.

Some paint colors even can boost the resale value of a home.

17. Add container plants

photoiconix /

Dress up your porch and yard by adding new plants. You can use seeds to start your plants in the spring or dig up a few perennials from your garden and arrange them in pots.

Look for a discount area in your local nursery where you can pick up plants and pots for half-price or less. Container plants are a great way to add a splash of color to your home. You can easily move them around and group them for a bigger impact.

18. Paint photo frames

Woman hanging artwork
New Africa /

If you have photo frames throughout your house, consider changing them up. Buying new ones can be pricey, so consider painting them instead.

Don’t stick to safe and boring options such as black and white. Instead, opt for a few bright colors to add interest and brighten up your home.

19. Add some contrast to bookcases

Elnur /

If you’re not ready to commit to painting an entire room, consider sprucing up your bookshelves. Add a pop of color to the back panel of your bookcases by either painting them or using colorful paper. This can be contact paper, gift wrap or wallpaper with fun shapes and designs.

If you want to do a trial run, cut cardboard boxes to fit the size of each bookshelf opening, and cover or paint it. Place it at the back and add your books and accessories as usual. This will tell you if you like the look before you make a permanent change.

20. Paint furniture

StockLite /

Painting furniture can take it from boring to spectacular. This works best with pieces made of wood, since the paint will stick to it better. Don’t forget to sand it down and strip any lacquer or other shiny coating before painting.

Doing a coat of primer can make your paint go on more evenly and make it more durable in the long run. Start small with a side table or a chair before moving to bigger projects such as a dresser or bed frame.

21. Add path lighting

Grisha Bruev /

Upgrade your walkway or garden by adding path lights. This will make the area safer come nightfall and add a little romance.

Look for solar-powered lights, since they don’t need additional wiring.

22. Paint exterior shutters and trim

Busy House Painter Painting the Trim And Shutters of A Home.
By Andy Dean Photography /

Bring the exterior of your home to the next level by adding a fresh coat of paint. Depending on your home’s design, a little paint can go a long way.

You can refresh your current color or switch it up to another shade within your home’s color scheme.

Short on time? Focus on street-facing trim for maximum impact.

23. Make a new headboard

Woman making a bed
wavebreakmedia /

Change the look of a bedroom by adding a new headboard. This project can be done for less than $50 while dramatically updating the look and feel of the room.

Either refurbish an old headboard or search for free and cheap materials to keep costs down. DIY Network has six ideas for simple headboards anyone can make.

24. Change your house numbers

Frontier Sights /

Your house numbers can set the tone for your home. From classic to sleek and modern, they are more than the numeric display of your address.

Search for new house numbers online or at your local hardware store. And, for something unique, check out Etsy for handmade options.

25. Add a chair rail

ET Drone Home /

Chair rails add elegance and upgrade the look of a room for less than you’d expect. They are easy to install, but require close attention to detail so they are level throughout the room.

Increase the architectural drama of a room by painting the wall above and below in two different shades of the same color.

26. Paint the ceiling

Ilike /

Most people paint their ceiling a boring white, which is why going for something different really stands out.

Consider a neutral color such as a soft blue or gray to draw the eye up without overwhelming the room.

27. Add mirrors

VH-studio /

Strategically placed mirrors reflect light and can make a room appear much larger than it is. If you have a small or dark room that needs pizazz, add a decorative mirror to brighten it up.

Or, add several small mirrors to a dark corner in a main area, such as the dining or living room. Update the look of an outdated bathroom by swapping out the mirror over the sink with one that has an ornate or fun frame.

28. Switch out your window treatments


Add drama to your space by swapping out your window treatments.

Switch up your drapes for a new pattern that ties into your color scheme. If you have blinds, consider adding fabric curtains in some of your rooms for added impact.

29. Rearrange your furniture

Monkey Business Images /

One of the easiest ways to make a change on a budget is by switching your furniture around. This could be as simple as rearranging your couch and chairs, or grouping furniture in a way that encourages conversation.

Consider moving some furniture from a bedroom and using it to mix up things in your main living areas. An armchair or a side table from a different room can change up the feel of a room and add a new element.

If you have a friend with an eye for design, ask for ideas on how to freshen your space.

30. Try a theme /

Going with a theme can take a room from boring to fun. Whether you opt for the French country look in your living room or a nautical theme in your bathroom, choosing the right accessories is key.

Go with a color scheme to tie everything together and blend it with the rest of your home.

31. Paint kitchen cabinets

Benoit Daoust /

If you want to make a big change in your kitchen and you’re on a small budget, paint the cabinets. It will take time and attention to detail, but the end result will be worth it.

Don’t forget to make notes as to which cabinet doors go with which cabinet to make it easier to put back together once you’re done painting. Also, group all the hardware for each cabinet in a plastic bag and label it so you’re not hunting down screws when reattaching the doors.

Considering remodeling? Check out the “19 Home Renovations That Give Owners the Most Joy.”

32. Change rugs and flooring

Monkey Business Images /

The floors set the tone for a room, so switching them up can shake up the feel of your home. Consider adding a soft rug to a bedroom to warm up your feet as you get up in the morning.

Or add an area rug to a living area to define the space and bring in more color and texture. If you’re up for a bigger change, consider refinishing hardwood floors or removing existing flooring and staining the concrete underneath.

33. Add display shelves

SpeedKingz /

Mix up your wall decor by adding display shelves to an empty wall. Shelves are easy to install and can display art, photos, small plants, favorite pieces from traveling adventures and much more.

34. Update your kitchen backsplash

home upgrade
Andrey Burmakin /

If you don’t have a backsplash in your kitchen, adding one can make a big impact. Even if you’re not handy, there are many backsplash options such as peel-and-stick designs you can add with little skill.

For those who have basic DIY skills, consider installing a tile backsplash that will last longer and protect your wall from water, food grease and damage.

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Lessons From Listings Photos: See the Power of Staging in This Pennsylvania Carriage House

It doesn’t matter how perfect your home is—if your listing photos don’t stand out, potential buyers won’t come by to take a look. In our series “Lessons From Listing Photos,” we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes, and how their listing pictures highlight the home’s best assets.

These days, staging a home—redecorating it with furnishings and decor selected to appeal to buyers—is an important step that nearly every homeowner should think about when it’s time to sell their house.

When potential buyers view a home—whether online or in person—you want them to be able to picture themselves in your space. But it’s hard to do that when your personal stuff is everywhere. That’s where staging comes in. It’s a tool to highlight the strengths of each room and eliminate anything that could give potential buyers pause—be that clutter, personal belongings, or design decisions that just aren’t for everyone.

If you’ve ever doubted the power of staging a home before listing it, this Pennsylvania home will make you see the light.

Built in 1925, it has many great features and tons of character, but it still didn’t sell when it was listed for $810,000 in August 2019. In June 2020, it was relisted with brand-new photos of fully staged interiors. We’re talking streamlined furniture and rugs in clean, neutral colors. No more mismatched wooden furniture! And just two months later it was sold for $820,000, a little more than the initial asking price.

Since home staging costs around $2,000 to $2,400 a month (the furnishings are rented), that seems like money well-spent, especially when you consider the money lost on extra mortgage payments while the home sits on the market.

We went right to our experts to find out why the staging of this house attracted a buyer—and how you can have the same success in your home. Here’s what they had to say.

Living room

The living room in this house had a lot of great features, but the original setup didn’t allow them to stand out.

“When you have a feature wall, such as the stone wall shown here, it’s best to showcase that instead of covering it up with bulky furniture,” says Dawn Gerali, a real estate agent with West USA. “The modern, lighter-colored furniture and minimalist artwork works well to make this a comfortable, inviting space.”

“By simplifying the color of all the furnishings, it is less distracting to the eye,” explains Lisa Vail, designer with Vesta. “A potential buyer can easily find themselves stepping into the space and making it their own.

Vail adds that swapping out the furniture is a quick and easy move that gives the perception that the entire house has been updated.


There was nothing really wrong with the original kitchen in this house, but it had a mismatched vibe that made it hard to present a functional, uncluttered space. Yet the magic of staging changed all of that with just a few simple swaps.

“The kitchen island has been staged with bigger stools and place settings, and the shelves have been cleared as well,” says Will Rodgers, a real estate consultant with KW Realty McLean. “This gives the buyer the idea that the kitchen can be a good area for meals, and makes it appear less cluttered.”

Jill Valeri, a home stager and owner of Welcome Home: Interior Design Solutions, says the staged version of the room just feels better to potential buyers.

“The matching stools, place settings, and small vases by the stove create a visually appealing rhythm in the space, while emptying the built-in shelves makes them less distracting,” she says. “The overall effect is that the buyer can now focus on the beautiful marble and vast counter spaces.”

Dining room

Obviously the selling point in this dining room is the gorgeous ceiling beams, but unless the room is staged right, they may look more like a hindrance than anything.

“The ornate furniture in the before photo competes with the wood-beamed ceilings and windows. It detracts from the room’s architectural features,” explains Gerali. “The sleek, modern furniture in the after photo draws attention to the beautiful ceiling and the natural light coming in through the windows.”

Marla Perez, account executive with Vesta, agrees.

“Staging this dining room made it feel larger and more grand,” she says. “Changing the orientation of the dining room table elongated the dining room, and adding a neutral rug brightened the space. The updated furniture and upholstered dining chairs created a more formal dining [area] for entertaining.”


Very little has changed in the bedroom of this home, save for the new furniture and decor, but it feels like a totally different space.

“They have elevated this room simply by adding the appropriate-scale bed and neutralizing the color palette,” says Vail. “The original bed was way too high for the room and drew attention to the odd nook it was set in. But now it looks like the nook was built intentionally for the bed.”

Rodgers emphasizes the impact of the cosmetic changes.

“This bedroom feels more airy and natural after the old chests and dressers were replaced with plants, neutral-colored linens, and a serene piece of art over the bed,” he says. “This gives buyers a relaxing feel upon entering the room, which is perfect for a bedroom.”


Mortgage forbearances rise for second week in a row

The number of mortgages in coronavirus-related forbearance swelled at the end of the month, rising in consecutive weeks for only the third time since the number peaked in May, according to Black Knight.

Forbearances increased by 20,000 from the week before, growing to a total of 2.764 million plans as of Jan. 26. Forborne borrowers represent 5.2% of all mortgages and a combined unpaid principal balance of $551 billion, up from $548 billion week-over-week.

Forbearance totals are ticking upwards at a time when a higher share of such loans are tied to truly distressed borrowers, compared with the beginning of the pandemic, when many borrowers took the COVID forbearance only as a precautionary measure.

“Early on, about 50% of people in forbearance were continuing to make their mortgage payments,” Andy Walden, Black Knight economist and director of market research, said in an interview. “Now that we’ve gotten through December, it’s down to about 12%. So the vast majority of these homeowners in forbearance are behind on payments.”

Among the loan types, only those backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac fell week-over-week, dropping by 4,000 to a total of 925,000. Government-backed mortgages — FHA and VA — rose by 9,000 to 1.149 million overall. Portfolio and private-label securitized loans — which do not fall under CARES Act protections— increased again by 15,000 to a total of 690,000.

“The key date to look at is the end of March because that’s when the first wave of forbearance plans are set to hit their 12-month expirations,” said Walden, who estimated that 600,000 to 700,000 homeowners will reach that expiration. “That’s when we’re really going to understand how that post-forbearance waterfall is functioning, what share of those borrowers are ready to re-perform through a deferral or reinstatement through a modification repayment plan and what additional programs are needed to help.”

Mortgage servicers need to pay advances of $3.4 billion in principal and interest payments and $1.2 billion due in taxes and insurance per month, according to Black Knight’s analysis. Those totals split to estimates of $1 billion and $400 million for government-sponsored enterprise loans, $1 billion and $400 million for FHA and VA, and $1.2 billion and $400 million for private labels.

While the current forbearance program expires on March 31, further extensions are expected. The Biden administration’s latest proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus plan would stretch forbearance, as well as foreclosure and eviction bans, to Sept. 30. While the extensions are necessary to help borrowers in need, servicers will also need consideration in the process, according to Cam Melchiorre, president and director of regulatory compliance at IndiSoft.

“I don’t think we should overlook the financial impact of continued deferrals and forbearance agreements on the servicer. That could take a servicer down because of lack of capital overnight and I would hope legislators are aware of it,” Melchiorre said. “Yes, the consumer is at the front of the line for help but you don’t want to create systemic problems for the industry that’s trying to support everyone.”


How low can we go? 30-year mortgage rate charts tell the story

30-year mortgage rates chart: Where are rates now?

If you look at a 30-year mortgage rate chart, there’s a trend you
can’t miss: Today’s
rates are low.
Really low.

But remember, these are just averages. Your mortgage rate might be higher or lower than the ‘typical’ borrower.

Check your mortgage rates today (Jan 30th, 2021)

In this article (Skip to…)

Mortgage rate trends chart: Where are rates

The coronavirus pandemic pushed mortgage rates to rock
bottom, and most experts think they can’t go down much further.

If anything, mortgage rates are likely to go up in the
coming months and years, as COVID recovery progresses and the economy begins to

Borrowers shouldn’t expect dramatic rate spikes.

But unlike 2020, when mortgage rates hit record lows over and over, we’re likely to see more upward movement for 30-year mortgage rates and other home financing rates. 

Those who are ready to buy a home or refinance now
shouldn’t wait on rates to fall; it’s not likely to happen.

But if your home buying or refinancing plans are further
down the road, you shouldn’t worry about any huge rate increases in the near
future. Affordable financing is here for the long haul.

Verify your new rate (Jan 30th, 2021)

Average 30-year mortgage rates since 1972

For some perspective on today’s mortgage interest rates,
here’s how 30-year rates have changed from year to year over the past four

Year Average 30-Year Rate Year Average 30-Year Rate Year Average 30-Year Rate
1972 7.38% 1988 10.34% 2004 5.84%
1973 8.04% 1989 10.32% 2005 5.87%
1974 9.19% 1990 10.13% 2006 6.41%
1975 9.05% 1991 9.25% 2007 6.34%
1976 8.87% 1992 8.39% 2008 6.03%
1977 8.85% 1993 7.31% 2009 5.04%
1978 9.64% 1994 8.38% 2010 4.69%
1979 11.20% 1995 7.93% 2011 4.45%
1980 13.74% 1996 7.81% 2012 3.66%
1981 16.63% 1997 7.60% 2013 3.98%
1982 16.04% 1998 6.94% 2014 4.17%
1983 13.24% 1999 7.44% 2015 3.85%
1984 13.88% 2000 8.05% 2016 3.65%
1985 12.43% 2001 6.97% 2017 3.99%
1986 10.19% 2002 6.54% 2018 4.54%
1987 10.21% 2003 5.83% 2019 3.94%

Can 30-year mortgage rates go lower?

The short answer is that
mortgage rates can always go lower. But you shouldn’t expect them to.

Mortgage rates operate in
their own market. Lenders have control over the rates they set, and many are
content to keep rates (and profit margins) a little higher.

This helps stem the tide of
home buyers and refinancers and keep their workload manageable.

In addition, mortgage rates
have to answer to end investors.

When rates fall too rapidly, investors start paying less for mortgage-backed securities (MBS) — the financial instruments that drive mortgage rates.

This is because investors assume homeowners will refinance, paying off their loans faster and reducing the returns on interest.

Less money from investors,
in turn, means lenders have to keep their rates a little higher, or charge
borrowers bigger fees for lower rates.

So don’t expect mortgage
rates to keep falling in lock-step with the rest of the market.

They could push lower, but
they’re just as likely to stay stagnant. And sooner or later, they’re bound to
rise again.

Verify your new rate (Jan 30th, 2021)

Historical perspective: Banner years for mortgage interest rates

The long-term average for mortgage rates is about 8%. That’s according to Freddie Mac records going back to 1971.

But mortgage rates can move
a lot from year to year — even from day to day. And some years have seen much
bigger moves than others.

Here’s a look at just a
few, to show how rates often buck conventional wisdom and move in unexpected

1981 — The all-time high

1981 was the worst year for mortgage interest rates on

How bad is bad? The average
mortgage rate in 1981 was 16.63%.

  • At 16.63% a $200,000
    mortgage has a monthly cost for principal and interest of $2,800
  • Compared with the long-time
    average that’s an extra monthly cost of $1,300 or $15,900 per year

And that’s just the average – some people paid more.

For the week of Oct. 9, 1981, mortgage rates averaged 18.63%, the highest weekly rate on record, and almost five times the 2019 annual rate.

2008 — The slump

2008 was the final gasp of the mortgage meltdown.

Real estate financing was
available in 2008 for 6.03% according to Freddie Mac.

  • The monthly cost for a
    $200,000 mortgage was about $1,200 per month, not including taxes and insurance

Post 2008, rates declined

2016 —An all-time low

2016 held the lowest annual
mortgage rate on record going back to 1971. Freddie Mac says the typical 2016
mortgage was priced at just 3.65%.

  • A $200,000 mortgage at
    3.65% has a monthly cost for principal and interest of $915
  • That’s $553 a month less
    than the long-term average

Mortgage rates had dropped lower in 2012, when one week in November
averaged 3.31%. But some of 2012 was higher, and the entire year averaged out
at 3.66% for a 30-year mortgage.

2019 — The surprise drop-off

In 2018, many economists
predicted that 2019 mortgage rates would top 5.5%. That turned out to be wrong.

In fact, rates dropped in 2019. The
average mortgage rate went from 4.54% in 2018 to 3.94% in 2019.

  • At 3.94% the monthly cost for a $200,000 home loan was $948
  • That’s a savings of $520 a month – or $6,240 a year – when
    compared with the 8% long-term average

In 2019, it was thought
mortgage rates couldn’t go much lower. But 2020 proved that thinking wrong

2021 — The lowest 30-year mortgage rates ever

Rates plummeted in 2020 in response
to the coronavirus pandemic. 

By July 2020, the 30-year fixed rate fell below 3% for the first time — and it kept falling to a new record low (in January 2021) of 2.65% for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. 

  • At 2.65% the monthly cost for a $200,000 home loan is $806 a month not counting taxes and insurance
  • You’d save $662 a month, or $7,900 a year — compared to the 8% long-term average

Due to the Federal Reserve’s promise of low interest rates post-COVID, mortgage rates are expected to stay low for years.

But as we’ve seen in the past, predictions about mortgage
rates are often wrong.

That’s why when rates are good, experts recommend locking one in instead of waiting for potentially lower rates in weeks or months.  

Factors that affect your mortgage
interest rate

For the
average homebuyer, tracking mortgage rates helps reveal trends. But not every
borrower will benefit equally from today’s low mortgage rates.

loans are personalized to the borrower. Your credit score, down payment, loan
type, loan term, and loan amount will affect your mortgage or refinance rate.

also possible to negotiate mortgage rates. Discount points can provide a lower
interest rate in exchange for paying cash upfront.

look at some of these factors individually:


A credit
score above 620 will open more doors for lower interest rate loans, though some
loan programs such as USDA, FHA, and VA loans can be available to sub-600

possible, give yourself a few months or even a year to improve your credit
score before borrowing. You could save thousands of dollars through the life of
the loan. 


down payments can shave your borrowing rate.

mortgages, including FHA loans, require at least 3% or 3.5% down. And VA
loans and USDA loans are available with 0% down payment.

But if
you can put 10%, 15%, or even 20% down, you might qualify for a conventional
loan with low or no mortgage insurance and seriously reduce your housing costs.


The type
of mortgage loan you use will affect you interest rate. However, your loan type
hinges on your credit score. So these two factors are very intertwined.

example, with a credit score of 580 you may qualify only for a subsidized loan
such as an FHA mortgage. FHA loans have low interest rates, but come with
mortgage insurance no matter how much money you put down.

A credit
score of 620 or higher might qualify you for a conventional loan, and —
depending on your down payment and other factors — potentially a lower rate.  

Adjustable-rate mortgages traditionally offer lower introductory interest rates compared to a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. However, those rates are subject to change after the initial fixed-rate period.

So an
initially lower ARM rate could rise substantially after 5, 7, or 10 years.


In this
post we’ve tracked rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, but 15-year
fixed-rate mortgages tend to have even lower borrowing rates. 

With a
15-year mortgage, you’d have a higher monthly payment because of the shorter
loan term. But throughout the life of the loan you’d save a lot in interest

At a 3% interest
rate for a $200,000 home loan, you’d pay $103,000 in interest charges with a
30-year mortgage paid off on schedule. A 15-year fixed-rate mortgage would cost
only about $49,000 in interest.


Rates on
unusually small mortgages — a $50,000 home loan, for example — tend to be
higher than average rates because these loans are less profitable to the lender.

Rates on
a jumbo mortgage loan tend to be higher, too, because lenders have a higher
risk of loss. Jumbo loans help shoppers buy high-value real estate.


discount point can lower interest rates by 0.25% in exchange for upfront cash.
A discount point costs 1% of the home loan amount. 

For a
$200,000 loan, a discount point would cost $2,000 upfront. However, the
borrower would recoup the upfront cost over time thanks to the savings earned
by a lower interest rate.

interest payments play out over time, a buyer who plans to sell the home or
refinance within a couple years should probably skip the discount points and
pay a higher interest rate for a while.

Some rate quotes assume the home buyer will buy discount points, so be sure to check before closing on the loan.

Understanding your monthly
mortgage payment

In this
article, we compare monthly payments for a $200,000 home loan at a variety of
interest rates.

that these examples show only principal and interest — the amount you’re paying
each month toward your loan balance and interest generated.

Overall, your monthly mortgage
payment will be higher than just principal and interest. That’s because there
are other costs bundled in, including:

  • Property taxes —City and county governments levy annual property taxes to pay for public services. These taxes are usually prorated over 12 months and paid to your loan servicer along with your mortgage payment
  • Homeowners insurance — Homeowners insurance premiums average about $1,000 a year. As with property taxes, homeowners insurance premiums can be spread out over 12 months and paid with your mortgage via an escrow account
  • HOA fees — Condos, apartments, and gated communities may charge annual Homeowners Association fees which can be broken down into monthly payments added to the mortgage
  • Mortgage insurance — FHA loans, USDA loans, and conventional loans with less than 20% down payment require the borrower to pay for mortgage insurance. Mortgage insurance costs around 1% of the loan amount each year, although rates vary depending on the loan type and down payment. For a $200,000 loan that would equal $2,000 a year or $166 per month added to the mortgage payment

it’s not unusual for taxes, fees, and premiums to add several hundred dollars
to a monthly mortgage payment.

Closing costs affect the cost
of borrowing, too

rates have a huge impact on borrowing costs throughout the life of a mortgage
loan, but it’s important not to forget the cost of upfront fees, too.

Closing costs typically add anywhere from 2% to 5% of your loan amount. Closing costs include loan origination fees, discount points, legal fees, appraisal fees, title fees, and more.

first time home buyers don’t know they can negotiate some closing costs such as
the lender’s origination fee. However, many costs are pre-set by third parties
such as attorneys and appraisers.

In some
mortgage markets the home seller will help with closing costs. But it’s up to
the buyer to negotiate this part of the transaction. A Realtor can help.

choosing a mortgage, home buyers and refinancers should always consider closing
costs along with interest rates.   

Determine your buying power with
a mortgage calculator

charts and graphs on this page show the way 30-year fixed-rate mortgages have
changed over time and continue to change.

To see how today’s mortgage rates affect your borrowing power, use our mortgage calculator that includes PMI and other added costs.

historically low interest rates have increased buying power by lowering monthly
payments for borrowers throughout the spectrum.

When to lock your mortgage rate

Keep an eye on daily rate
changes. But if you get a good mortgage rate quote today, don’t hesitate to
lock it in.

Remember, if you can secure
a 30-year mortgage rate below
3% or 4%, you’re paying less than half as much as most American
homebuyers in recent history. That’s not a bad deal.

Verify your new rate (Jan 30th, 2021)

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