Thinking about taking out a mortgage, but not sure what kind of interest rate you can get? Wouldn't it be nice if they just had a chart where you could see what you can expect to pay with a certain credit score, down payment and other factors?

Well, they do - almost.

Fannie Mae's Loan Level Price Adjustment (LLPA) Matrix and Freddie Mac's Postsettlement Delivery Fee matrices come about as close as you can get to a single chart telling you what you can expect to pay on a mortgage. Both detail the additional fees the lenders assess based on the borrower's credit score, down payment, type of loan, type of property and other factors.

They don't actually tell you what rate you'll pay, but you can figure out what additional fees, if any, you'll have to pay beyond what a "perfect" borrower might. And since the fees are commonly rolled into the interest rate - just the opposite of paying points - it's a fairly straightforward calculation to see how your interest rate might be affected.

Fees tied to credit, loan-to-value

Both the LLPA and PDF break out a lot of possible situations that might cause you to pay more for your mortgage, like a cash-out refinance, high-balance adjustable rate mortgage, mobile home purchase, subordinate financing and the like. But for most borrowers, the primary things they'll want to focus on, at least initially, are the credit score and loan-to-value matrices, or grids.

These grids list credit scores down the sides, and loan-to-value ratios (which correspond to down payments for purchases or home equity for refinancing) across the top. You find the range your credit score is in, see where that row interests with the column for your loan-to-value ratio, and viola! There's the fee you need to pay for that combination of credit score and down payment.

For example, if your credit score is in the 700-719 range, you'll typically pay an additional fee of 0.5 percent of the loan amount, as compared to someone with a higher credit score, according to the LLPA. In the 680-699 range, you'll pay from 0.5 percent from 1.5 percent more, depending on your loan-to-value ratio. Lower credit scores pay even more; the premium ranges from 1.25 percent to 2.5 percent for credit scores in the 660-679 range.

You can also reduce your costs - borrowers with higher credit scores can actually get a 0.25 percent credit if their loan-to-value ratio is less than 60 percent (40 percent equity or more).

More fees = higher interest rate

Rolling the fees into your interest rate generally means you'll pay a quarter percent (0.25 percent) more in interest for each full percent of fees. You can also pay the fees separately as a closing cost.

There may be other factors that will cause your rate to differ from that available to other customers using the same lender, but consulting the LLPA or PDF is a good place to start.

One thing to note - these fees only apply to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages, so you can avoid them by taking out an FHA, VA or other government-backed loan. You can also seek a nonconforming loan, which are not sold to Fannie or Freddie on the secondary market. However, you may find that rates and fees for these types of loans exceed any savings you'd realize.

Published on January 14, 2010