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Mortgage Rates in California — Plus Stats, First-Time Homebuyer Programs and Mortgage Refinancing

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Mortgage interest rates in California are among the lowest in the nation at 3.24%, which is fourth-lowest in the U.S. and well below the national average of 3.37%. That means the country’s biggest state is also one of the friendliest for getting a mortgage.

That doesn’t translate into lower payments, though. California homeowners pay an average of $1,663 a month on their mortgage — second-highest in the country — due to the state’s notoriously high housing prices.

Beyond mortgage rates in California, we’ll also look at the state of the mortgage market in the Golden State and its largest cities and towns, as well as the state’s first-time homebuyer programs.

Mortgage rates in California, plus more stats on the Golden State

How California mortgages compare to the rest of the U.S.
U.S. California Difference Difference % Rank among states
Average borrower credit score 734 742 8 1.1% 4
Average mortgage size $284,152 $382,437 $98,285 34.6% 2
Average mortgage monthly payment $1,252 $1,663 $411 32.8% 2
Average mortgage interest rate 3.37% 3.24% -0.13% -3.8% 4
Average mortgage APR 3.61% 3.43% -0.18% -5.0% 4

Source: LendingTree internal data.
Note: Includes 30-year mortgages closed in 2020. State rankings go from high (1) to low (50) for credit score, mortgage size and monthly payment. State rankings go from low (1) to high (50) for interest rate and APR.

How California mortgage-holders compare to the rest of the U.S.
U.S. California Difference Difference % Rank among states
Median home value $239,100 $523,000 $283,900 118.7% 3
Median household income $93,884 $113,056 $19,172 20.4% 7
Median monthly housing costs $1,595 $2,357 $762 47.8% 4
Median real estate taxes (annual) $2,750 $4,280 $1,530 55.6% 9

Source: American Community Survey (2019 5-Year Estimates), U.S. Census Bureau.
Note: Real estate taxes are for homes with active mortgages. Home values are estimated by surveyed owners. State rankings go from high (1) to low (50).

While mortgage rates in California are low, the state also stands out for its high cost of living and relatively affluent population.

  • Home values are extremely high. California’s median home value is $523,000, the third-most-expensive in the country and more than double the national median of $239,100. This translates to a large average mortgage size — second-highest in the country at $382,437. High housing costs can make it more challenging for first-time homebuyers to make the jump to homeownership.
  • Incomes and credit scores are high, too. Making things a little easier is the state’s relatively high median income among households with a mortgage. At $113,056, this is 20.4% higher than the U.S. median among households with a mortgage. California also has the country’s fourth-highest average borrower credit score, at 742.

Mortgage facts in California’s biggest cities and towns, from Alameda to Yucaipa

LendingTree also analyzed housing market data for California’s largest cities and towns — those with populations of 50,000 or more. Given its status as the country’s most populous state, it should be no surprise this list clocked in at a whopping 185 municipalities. The next two most populous states, Texas and Florida, each have fewer than 80.

While California as a whole is already relatively expensive, some of its biggest cities have even higher costs of living. Thirteen of its big cities have median home values north of $1 million, with Tesla’s headquartered city — Palo Alto — as the priciest at $2 million-plus. Cities with home values above $1 million:

  • Palo Alto ($2 million+)
  • Newport Beach ($1,860,800)
  • Cupertino ($1,733,300)
  • Mountain View ($1,453,400)
  • Santa Monica ($1,390,500)
  • Redwood City ($1,309,700)
  • Sunnyvale ($1,300,500)
  • San Mateo ($1,119,400)
  • San Francisco ($1,118,200)
  • Arcadia ($1,066,500)
  • Santa Clara ($1,037,700)
  • Berkeley ($1,036,700)
  • Santa Barbara ($1,027,500)

It’s still possible to find more affordable cities in the state. Porterville has a median home value of just $174,700, lowest among cities in our analysis. Only seven California cities with populations of 50,000 or more have home values lower than the national median of $239,100:

  • Porterville ($174,700)
  • Delano ($187,300)
  • Tulare ($213,100)
  • Hanford ($225,300)
  • Victorville ($228,000)
  • Madera ($229,000)
  • Hesperia ($238,600)

Top 5 and bottom 5 in California

In these large cities and towns, there’s a wide range in terms of the percentage of homes with an active mortgage and median property taxes paid.

3 first-time homebuyer programs in California

With sky-high home values, it can be difficult to become a homeowner for the first time in California. Fortunately, there are a number of first-time homebuyer programs that can help. Many are through the California Housing Finance Agency, as the ones highlighted below are.

CalHFA Conventional Program

The CalHFA Conventional Program offers low- to moderate-income homebuyers a fixed-rate, 30-year conventional loan at a competitive interest rate. While not restricted to first-time homebuyers, the program can be a good fit for new homeowners and matches favorably with Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans in terms of down payment requirements and ongoing costs like mortgage insurance.

Who qualifies?

Eligible applicants must meet income limits and complete homebuyer education counseling. The home must be a single-family home or condo.

CalPLUS Conventional Program

The CALPLUS Conventional Program is similar to the CalHFA program, but it features a higher interest rate in exchange for financing closing costs with a second loan at zero interest.

Who qualifies?

Eligible applicants must meet income limits and complete homebuyer education counseling. The home must be a:

  • Primary residence
  • Single-family home or condo

MyHome Assistance Program

The statewide MyHome Assistance Program offers first-time homebuyers a second loan that helps cover a down payment and closing costs.

Payments on these loans are deferred and cover up to 3.5% of the purchase price on an FHA loan or 3% on a conventional loan. The loan comes due when the home is sold, completely paid off or refinanced.

Who qualifies?

Eligible first-time homebuyers must meet income limits and complete homebuyer education counseling. The home must be a single-family home or condo.

How to refinance your mortgage in California

When interest rates go down or your personal financial situation changes, refinancing your mortgage can be a good option. Refinancing means taking out a new mortgage that pays off and replaces your old one. You may want to do this to:

  • Get a better interest rate
  • Extend the loan term
  • Lock in a lower monthly payment
  • Pay off your house more quickly

Start by figuring out how much a refinance would save you, if it would at all. Consider using a refinance calculator to help. Then, shop around with various mortgage companies, getting at least three quotes to compare the terms offered to you.

Keep in mind that if you used one of the homebuyer programs above, refinancing means you’ll have to pay back the second loans that helped you pay for closing costs and down payments.

Sources

  • LendingTree proprietary and anonymized 2020 customer data
  • U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey, 2019 5-year estimates (latest available)
 

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