Alaska Mortgage Rates

Living in Alaska

Known as America’s Last Frontier, Alaska remains well-known as the home of Eskimos and dog-sled racing and as a popular cruise destination. But it’s also home to nearly 750,000 residents. Many live in the state’s three largest cities — Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau — but many more also are scattered throughout the country’s largest state.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median home value in Alaska is $261,900 (current at time of writing). This is significantly higher than the national median home value, which is $193,500. Additionally, Alaska is set to see 0.4% increase in job growth, which could bode well for those looking to sell their homes as job seekers move to the state.

People planning to sell their homes should act fast, though. Because of its location and weather patterns, which result in a short summer and longer, darker winter, the best time for selling a home in Alaska is from May through July. Of course, where the home is located could play a role in how quickly it sells. For instance, in Anchorage, homes stay on the market for an average of 61 days. However, in and around towns like Kenai and Soldotna, on the southern Kenai Peninsula, that stay is a bit longer, with homes averaging as many as 95 days on the market.

The rules and costs of buying a home in Alaska

When purchasing a home in Alaska, there are certain rules and laws that must be followed to ensure the transaction will be legal and valid.

Home seller and buyer laws

Unlike many other states that require disclosure before the sale is final, Alaska requires full disclosure on a property before buyers can even make a written offer on the home. The state has a nine-page form with a checklist of all of the items regarding a home’s condition and maintenance that must be disclosed upfront. These items include property features, structural components, drainage, leakage, fireplace or wood stove, heating and sewer systems, water supply, utility costs, setbacks and restrictions, environmental concerns, improvements and pest control, among others.

Whether a state is a judicial or non-judicial foreclosure state determines how a home is handled in the event the owner fails to pay the mortgage as agreed. In Alaska, while both judicial and non-judicial foreclosure processes are available, most foreclosures are non-judicial. Rather than going through the court system in front of a judge, the foreclosure is handled outside of court by a trustee.

In Alaska, in the event of divorce, all real and personal property considered marital property will be divided equitably, but not necessarily 50/50, between the parties. In general, marital property is considered to be any property accrued after the date of the marriage until the date of separation. Other property, such as that received through inheritance, Social Security benefits and military disability payments, is not considered marital property.

When deciding how to divide property in a divorce, the judge will consider a number of factors including but not limited to the length of the marriage, the parties’ station in life during the marriage, the age and health of each party, the parties’ earning capacities, the parties’ financial situation and the parties’ conduct as it relates to marital debt and assets.

When purchasing a home in Alaska, you do not need an attorney present at the closing transaction. Instead, as an escrow state, an escrow agent, closing agent or title company representative will complete the transaction.

Taxes

While many states charge transfer taxes on a real estate transaction, Alaska does not; it is one of the 13 states that does not have this tax.

In Alaska, the median property tax rate is 1.04% of a home’s assessed fair market value. This equates to a median property tax of nearly $2,724 per year for a home with the current median value of $261,900. However, given how large the state is and the various population centers, those values vary greatly depending on location and property value.

For instance, those living in Anchorage pay the highest property taxes, with an average of $3,563 due per year. However, in the southern portion of the state in the Hoonah-Angoon Census Area, annual property taxes average just $678.

In Alaska, the state mandates an exemption up to the first $150,000 of assessed value on the primary residence of two key groups: residents age 65 and older, and disabled veterans with a service-related disability level of 50% or more. There is a deadline for applying for this exemption, which is dictated by the local municipality. However, the municipality has the option of waving this deadline with good cause.

Per Alaska state law, there are additional exemptions available, but these are not mandatory and must be implemented at the local level. For instance, an exemption of up to $50,000 of a primary residence may be applied by a municipality. This exemption may be applied on top of the state’s mandatory exemption for senior citizens and disabled veterans, providing additional tax savings for them. When purchasing a home, you should call the local tax assessor’s office to find out what exemptions are available to you.

Conforming loan limits

Throughout the state of Alaska, the maximum conforming loan limit is $726,525 for one-unit properties.

Simply put, a conforming loan meets all terms and conditions as required by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which include qualifying requirements for borrowers, maximum loan amounts and suitable properties for mortgages.

Programs for homebuyers in Alaska

When purchasing a home in Alaska, it may be possible to receive assistance through certain state and local programs. Contact your local city and county government housing departments to see if there are options available in addition to these programs.

Tax-Exempt First-Time Homebuyer Program

Through this program, eligible first-time homebuyers in Alaska will receive a lower interest rate.

Who qualifies:

  • Borrowers must be first-time homebuyers, meaning they have not owned a primary residence in the last three years, or they must be qualified veterans or purchasing property located within specific targeted areas (HUD-designated census tracts)
  • Borrowers must meet maximum income limits and acquisition cost limits
  • Properties must meet specific requirements with regard to type and age

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Taxable First-Time Homebuyer Program

Similar to the tax-exempt program, this program offers a reduced interest rate to eligible first-time homebuyers. Unlike the tax-exempt program, eligible homebuyers do not have to meet maximum income limits or acquisition cost limits.

Who qualifies:

  • Borrowers must be first-time homebuyers, meaning they have not owned a primary residence in the last three years
  • Qualifying properties must meet specific requirements with regard to type

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Affordable Housing Enhanced Loan Program

Through this program, qualified borrowers can receive down payment assistance or secondary financing.

Who qualifies:

  • Borrowers must meet the payment assistance provider’s requirements
  • Borrowers cannot own other residential real property in the same general geographical area
  • Properties must meet specific requirements regarding type and age
  • Borrowers must complete an approved homebuyer education class

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Energy Efficiency Rate Reduction

For those purchasing energy-efficient homes (both new and existing), this program offers interest rate reductions for the first $200,000 of the loan amount. For loans more than $200,000, borrowers will receive a blended interest rate rounded up to the next 0.125%, dependent on the home’s access to natural gas.

Who qualifies:

  • Properties must meet specific requirements based on the Alaska Building Energy Efficiency Standard

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Interest Rate Reduction for Low-Income Borrowers

For eligible low-income homebuyers, this program offers subsidized interest rates.

Who qualifies:

  • Borrowers must meet specific income limits
  • Borrowers must have not owned a primary residence in the last three years and must not currently own other residential property within 50 miles of the new home
  • Borrowers must complete an approved homebuyer education class
  • Properties also must meet certain requirements based on the type and age

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State Veterans Interest Rate Preference

Through this program, qualified veterans can receive a 1% interest rate deduction on the first $50,000 of the loan amount. In the event your loan is more than $50,000, you will receive a blended interest rate on the remaining balance that is rounded up to the next 0.125%.

Who qualifies:

  • Active duty members, honorably discharged veterans and reservists who served a minimum of five years may qualify.
  • A widow or widower of a qualified veteran also may qualify.
  • Borrowers must meet the “State Vet” income limits

Learn More

Rate shopping tips

When shopping for a mortgage rate, it’s imperative to shop around to find the best rate. In doing so, follow these four tips to help you secure the best rate.

Contact at least three lenders on the same day

Mortgage rates change frequently, so it’s important to get and compare offers from multiple lenders on the same day. This will ensure you get a full picture of which offer is the best.

Give each lender the same information

By providing the same financial information to each lender, you can be sure the mortgage offers you receive are fair and true to your financial standing. Information you may need to provide includes paystubs, W-2s, tax returns, checking and savings account statements and investment account statements.

Add up all lender fees to confirm the costs

It’s easy to get lost in the numbers on a loan estimate as well as a closing document. Therefore, it’s imperative to add up all of the individual costs on each document to make sure they match the amount listed on the loan quote.

Know when to lock in the rate

Because mortgage rates change frequently, you never know if the rate you are quoted today will be available tomorrow. If rates have been holding steady for a while, you might be OK to hold off on locking the rate. However, if rates have been varying greatly, it might not be a good idea to wait. Talk with your lender to see what options it has in place regarding a mortgage rate lock, which secures your rate for a specific period of time.

The information in this article is accurate as of the date of publishing.