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Ways to Land the Best Mortgage

Sammy and Demi Thomas, right, pictured September 29, 2013, refinanced their Ridgewood, New Jersey home from a 30 year to 15 year loan to save money. (Kevin R. Wexler/The Record/MCT)

Sammy and Demi Thomas, right, pictured September 29, 2013, refinanced their Ridgewood, New Jersey home from a 30 year to 15 year loan to save money. (Kevin R. Wexler/The Record/MCT)

After riding a swift updraft earlier this year, mortgage rates have steadied at around 4.5 percent for a 30-year fixed loan.

But there’s a good chance they’ll resume their upward path. That’s one of a number of things borrowers need to know now to get the best loan.

“For planning purposes, if I were thinking of getting into the market next spring, I’d be working with numbers in the 5 percent range,” said Keith Gumbinger, vice president of HSH.com, a Riverdale, N.J.-based publisher of mortgage information. That would be up from around 3.5 percent earlier this year.

The market got some rate relief recently, when the Federal Reserve decided to continue its policy of buying bonds to keep mortgage rates low, in an effort to stimulate the housing market and the economy.

But the Fed has also made it clear that it will taper off such buying at some point, as the economy improves.

So does that mean buyers should speed up their timetables and jump into the market before rates start to rise again?

Not necessarily. For one thing, analysts aren’t predicting a huge increase.

And the mortgage rate is “only one part of the (home-buying) transaction,” Gumbinger said.

For most people, the decision to buy or sell is less influenced by the financial markets, and much more influenced by what’s happening in their lives: a new job, marriage, divorce or the birth — or departure — of children, said Greg McBride, an analyst with Bankrate.com.

And even if rates start to rise, they are likely to remain affordable, by historic standards.

“Mortgage rates are not, and won’t be for some time, an impediment to well-qualified borrowers,” McBride said.

“If the difference between a 4.5 percent and 5 percent rate on your mortgage is the difference between being able to afford a home or not, you’re stretching yourself too far.”