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Hoping to get a mortgage or refinance your current one? If you want to compare mortgage rates, a mortgage table can come in handy by letting you see at a glance the mortgage rates available from various lenders.

Before you do, though, here are a few tips for using a mortgage table to compare mortgage rates:

1. Make sure you compare apples to apples.

Rates will be different depending on the length of the loan (15- or 30-year, for example) and type of loan (conventional or FHA, for instance). So make sure you are know which type of loan you are looking for.

2. Check your credit.

Mortgage rates are very closely tied to credit scores. With a mortgage, the lender will almost always get a credit score from all three major credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — and then use the middle of those three numbers to determine which programs you qualify for. Get your free credit reports at least three months in advance, if possible, to allow time to fix any mistakes you might find. You should also get your free Credit Report Card, which gives you free credit scores to get an idea of whether your credit is excellent, good or fair.

3. What you see isn’t always what you get.

Is there a large loan amount involved (a “jumbo” loan)? What part of the country do you live in? How much is your down payment (or how much equity do you have if you are refinancing)? All of these factors affect your mortgage rate. As a result, you may get a different mortgage rate quote than the rate you see advertised, and those factors could be why. It’s not that the lender is being deceptive; it’s just that they can’t quote a rate that applies to your situation until getting more information.

4. Be aware that rates change.

Mortgage interest rates change frequently — sometimes even daily or hourly. You won’t be guaranteed the rate you apply for unless you “lock” the rate. Even then, you will have to qualify and the loan must close before the lock expires. If making sure you get a specific rate is a concern for you, be sure to talk with your lender about a rate lock.

5. Shop smart.

Try to limit your mortgage shopping to a two-week period to avoid any potential damage from credit inquiries, which might lower your credit scores. Most credit scoring models will count multiple mortgage-related credit inquiries as one, provided they take place within a limited period of time. That’s usually between two weeks and 45 days, depending on the scoring model being used.

Click here to research and compare mortgage rates.

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