Mortgage rates are on the rise, but home loans remain very affordable

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Mortgage rates are headed up.

The average rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage -- the most popular type of loan -- rose to 5.35% in our latest weekly survey of major lenders taken April 7.

That's the highest it's been since early November.

But looking back at how much home loans have cost over the years, it's still incredibly cheap to buy or refinance a home right now.

Current rates are still pretty close to the survey's record low of 5.00% reached in late November.

Search our extensive database of mortgage rates, and you'll still find lenders in most cities offering 30-year, fixed-rate loans for 5% with no points and fees of $2,000 or less.

That means your principal and interest payments will be just $537 a month for every $100,000 you borrow. (Our mortgage calculator can show you the payment for any loan, any amount, rate and term.)

Pay a point or two, and you may be able to cut that to 4.75% and lower your payments to $522 a month for every $100,000 you borrow.

By any historical standard, a 30-year, fixed-rate loan that costs less than 6.5% is a good deal. So what does that make today's rates? A very good deal, indeed.

Qualify for one of these loans, and you'll never have to refinance or worry about your mortgage again.

They're safe, totally predictable loans that carry none of the risks associated with interest-only or adjustable-rate mortgages. You'll never have to fret about interest rates going up, principal payments kicking in or any other nasty surprises that could drive up your housing costs a few years down the road.

Economists have expected rates to rise now that the Federal Reserve has ended its campaign to flood the mortgage market with cheap money, having bought $1.25 trillion worth of home loans over the past year or so.

They expect that to push the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate loans to between 5.5% and 6.0% by summer.

You've probably heard that banks and mortgage companies have tightened their requirements for getting a mortgage after unwisely lowering their standards during the housing boom.

They have. But that return to reasonable underwriting standards is a good thing and shouldn't stop most borrowers from getting the loans they want.

You'll have the best chance of getting a low rate with low fees if you:

Have an average credit score. That's a FICO score of 720 to 730.

If you have below-average credit, you should probably pursue an FHA or VA loan.

Borrowers with lower credit scores can increase the odds of having their application approved by getting the government to guarantee the loan's repayment.

Earn enough money to repay the loan. Be able to fully document your income, assets and debts.

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