Mortgage rates are under 5 percent now, the lowest they’ve been in 60 years. The current mortgage loans may well be a chance-of-a-lifetime to get a rock-bottom interest rate.

 "Mortgage rates can make a huge difference in the affordability of a house," said Annie Rockwell of Celia Dunn Sotheby’s International Realty. "Given the current interest rates, now is an excellent time to purchase a home."
Denise Denison, senior mortgage loan officer with Darby Bank & Trust, agrees the rates are wonderful.
"People need to realize the opportunity that’s there," Denison said. "Home prices have come down, and coupled with low interest rates, it’s the perfect time to buy."
"It’s like the icing on the cake," Denison said of the low mortgage rates. For perspective, people in the 1980s saw interest rates well north of 12 percent.

Jeff Grossman, loan officer with SunTrust, is also thrilled with the mortgage rates, which have hit as low as 4.5 percent this month.
"I’ve been doing (mortgage loans) 23 years and I’ve only seen these rates for a two-week period several years ago," Grossman said. "It’s tremendous. Figuring on a $200,000 house, that client has $40,000 more in buying power, or $200 less a month in payments."
Grossman said many people don’t realize mortgage loans are readily available for people with good credit.
"I’d say one out of three people feel it’s unattainable or impossible for them to qualify for what they want right now," Grossman said. "But people with good credit can get mortgages."
Denison works with experienced and first-time buyers. She’s found that many think money for mortgages isn’t available.
"We absolutely have money to lend," Denison said. Many first-time buyers especially are nervous after reading the credit crunch news. "They almost don’t want to fill out an application, they’re afraid you’re going to say no. Then they’re surprised, they’re relieved" when they get approved, she said.
Denison is a fan of the federal government’s FHA loan program, which allows buyers to put down only 3.5 percent on a 30-year fixed mortgage. There are no income restrictions, but the mortgage can’t exceed $271,050. And the rate for mortgage insurance (required if you don’t put down 20 percent of the cost of the home) is less than for conventional mortgages.
For a $100,000 mortgage, a 7 percent interest rate will mean a monthly principal and interest payment of $676.95. A 5 percent interest rate will make the monthly payment $546.22, a difference of $132.73 every month. For a family who stays in their home for seven years (an average length), that adds up to almost $11,000 less.
Even a one percent difference in mortgage rates can make a real difference over time. For that $100,000 mortgage, you would pay $62.73 a month less than you would for a loan at 6 percent. That payment is for mortgage principal and interest only and doesn’t include taxes and insurance.
For a $150,000 30-year-fixed mortgage at 5 percent, the monthly principal and interest payment is $819.32. That’s $94.10 lower a month than for a loan of the same amount at 6 percent.
So you can save a lot of money each month on a lower interest rate, or you can afford a larger mortgage. With a $1000 a month principal and interest payment, that would be a $120,000 mortgage at 7 percent. But that same monthly payment would allow you to have a $143,000 mortgage at 5 percent.
Grossman has started to see the effect of the low interest rates and lower home prices, starting in December or January. He’s seen more second-home purchases here by out-of-towners and more people buying in the upper tier prices above $400,000. The second-home purchases have been a mixture of locations, with many downtown and some in vacation-like settings, such as on or near the water.
The current lower interest rates are driven by the federal government’s decision to buy mortgage-backed securities in November.
"In November, the rates fell off a cliff," Denison said.
Lin Walsh of Accu-Mortgage Walsh & Associates suggests that people should pay close attention to the mortgage, and make sure they understand the terms, the rate, closing costs and other items. And she says it is important to choose your mortgage professional wisely.
"Find the right mortgage professional that has been in the business and is seasoned with the knowledge to genuinely help you not just make you a loan," Walsh advises.
Known for its tradition of integrity, Celia Dunn Sotheby’s International Realty specializes in residential and commercial properties in Savannah and the Low Country of Georgia and South Carolina. Founded in 1981, Celia Dunn Sotheby’s International Realty is noted for outstanding service to its clients, thorough knowledge of Savannah and the South Carolina Low Country, and excellent staff, in addition to having one of the region’s top property management departments. The owners are natives of Savannah who have more than 60 years’ combined experience in real estate. The offices are located at 9, 13, and 17 West Charlton Street on Madison Square in Savannah and 6 Bruin Street in Bluffton, S.C.
For more information, call Celia Dunn Sotheby’s International Realty at (912) 234-3323 or visit To contact the Bluffton office, call (843) 836-3900.

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