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When Should I Refinance My Mortgage Loan?

By Kira Botkin

mortgage keysRefinancing your mortgage can be a money-saving move, but not in every situation. Since there are costs associated with all refinances, sometimes getting a lower interest rate can actually be more expensive than keeping your current loan. Plus, sifting through all those lender offers can be overwhelming and even misleading.

So how do you determine if a refinance is right for you? First, you need to understand how refinancing works. Then, consider your financial situation and what you want to accomplish with a refinance. Finally, take a look at loans you’re eligible for in the context of your long-term financial goals.

The factors below detail this process and will help you make an informed decision when it comes to whether or not to refinance your current mortgage.

Mortgage Refinancing 101

How Refinancing Works

When you refinance a mortgage on your home, you pay off the original mortgage and replace it with a new one. The terms and interest rate on the new loan may be different, but the property securing the loan is still the same.

Because you already own the property, it’s often easier to refinance than it was to obtain the original loan. Plus, if you’ve owned your property for a long time, you may have significant equity, which can also make refinancing easier.

Refinancing Costs

When it comes to cost, there are two important things to understand. The first is that refinancing comes with nearly as many costs as the initial mortgage. You’ll need to pay closing costs, title insurance, and attorney’s fees, and you may also have to pay for an appraisal, taxes, and transfer fees.

It definitely isn’t free. Though many banks advertise “no-cost” mortgages, there is really no such thing. However, you can get a no out-of-pocket cost mortgage where closing costs are either added to the loan balance (which means you’ll pay interest on the closing costs) or you’ll simply pay a higher rate to cover them.

Therefore, when considering a refinance, it’s vital to determine whether or not the savings you’ll get from a lower interest rate will offset the costs you’ll incur.

The second thing to understand is that closing costs vary according to your rate. In other words, if you want the lowest available rate, your closing costs will be relatively high. Alternatively, if you accept a slightly higher rate, your closing costs will likely be reduced.

For example, a refinance at 6% may cost you $2,000 to close, while a lower rate at 5.75% might cost you $3,000. But if you accept a rate of 6.5%, you might have no out-of-pocket costs at all. In fact, the 6.5% loan may have been advertised as a “no-cost” loan. You can see, however, that you are indeed “paying” for the closing costs in the form of a higher interest rate.

How Refinancing Can Save You Money

You’re probably already aware that a refinance can lower your monthly payment. However, a lower interest rate can also allow you to more quickly build up equity and pay off your loan balance. When you pay your mortgage each month, look at your statement carefully. Because your mortgage is amortized over a long period of time, typically 30 years, interest payments make up a significant chunk of the monthly payment, particularly during the first ten years of your loan.

house interest rateWhen you refinance your mortgage to a lower interest rate, the amount you pay in interest will go down. Moreover, if the term of your new mortgage matches how many years remained on your original mortgage, the amount you pay toward principal will go up. If you can afford it and don’t have other high interest debt, a good strategy is to direct the amount of money you save from a refinance toward extra principal payments. In this way, your monthly mortgage amount doesn’t change, but you can pay off your home much faster.

In most cases, a refinance that involves removing private mortgage insurance (PMI) will also help save you money. If your house has more than 20% equity, you will not need to pay PMI, unless you have a FHA mortgage loan or are considered a high-risk borrower. If you pay PMI and your current lender won’t remove it even though your house has at least 20% equity, you may want to consider a refinance for this reason alone.

Factors to Consider Before Refinancing

Consider the following to get a sense of how likely a refinance is to help you, if you’re eligible for one, and how to go about structuring it:

1. Current Interest Rate
Simply put, if you can get into a lower rate mortgage, a refinance is worth looking into. That said, consider how long it will take you to recoup closing costs.

For example, if you paid $2,000 to refinance your mortgage to a lower rate and your payment dropped by $150 per month, it will probably take you just over a year to break even. Generally, at least a half point to a full point reduction in the interest rate will save you enough money to cancel out the closing costs within a few years.

2. Jumbo Loan
If your initial mortgage was a “jumbo loan,” but you have since paid down the balance to less than $417,000, you may be able to get a “regular” refinance. In other words, there’s a good chance you’ll qualify for a lower interest rate even if rates in general have not gone down significantly.

3. Closing Costs
Since every mortgage, including a refinance, has fees associated with it, you need to understand how you’ll be paying them and if even it makes sense for your situation.

For example, in a “no cost” mortgage, you are either tacking the fees onto the loan balance or accepting a higher interest rate to cover those fees. If you can afford it, you’ll save money over the long-term by paying the fees out-of-pocket. However, if you can’t afford it and plan to stay in your house for a while, adding the fees to your loan balance is likely to work out better than accepting a higher interest rate. But if you expect to move over the next few years, accepting the higher interest rate will be more advantageous.

Consider your whole financial picture when determining whether or not to finance your closing costs. For example, if you have high interest credit card debt, but have cash on hand to afford the closing costs, it might make sense to pay off the high interest debt and finance the closing costs instead. Then, you can direct the payments that would’ve gone to your credit card to your home loan. In this way, you could pay off the closing costs faster than you could have paid off the same amount of credit card debt.

4. Mortgage Prepayment Penalty
Some mortgage brokers and banks offer loans that have a mortgage prepayment penalty. While a loan with a prepayment penalty usually has lower fees or a better rate, if you pay the loan off early, you’ll owe a fee which can be steep. The penalty is in place for a set period of time and can sometimes go down with time. But if you want to refinance your mortgage before the prepayment penalty expires, you’ll have to pay the penalty, which can ultimately make refinancing more expensive than it’s worth.

5. Length of Time You Stay in the Home
This is important in the context of closing costs and especially if you’ll consider a new loan with a prepayment penalty. When it comes to closing costs, you want to make sure you recoup the expense before you move.

For example, if you paid $2,000 in closing costs and you now pay $100 less in interest each month, it will take 20 months before you actually break even and start seeing real savings. If you financed those closing costs by adding them onto the loan balance, it will take even longer.

If you aren’t planning to be in your home for at least two years, it’s probably not worth refinancing at all – unless, perhaps, you refinance from a very high rate to a much lower one, or if you trade out-of-pocket closing costs for a higher interest rate that is still lower than your original mortgage rate.

If you’re entertaining the idea of tacking a prepayment penalty onto your new loan to get a lower rate, you should be committed to staying in your home through the prepayment penalty period, which could be as long as five years or more.

6. Your Credit Score
If your credit has improved since you got your original mortgage, you may now qualify for a lower rate. Check your credit report before you begin the process to confirm whether or not this is the case. Often, a few years of timely mortgage payments will improve your score such that you qualify for a lower interest rate.

Also, compare your debt and income now to what it was when you took out the original mortgage as banks generally require that your debt to income ratio fall below 36%. If you’ve since accumulated significant debt or if your income has declined, you may not qualify for a lower rate or a refinance at all in spite of stellar credit.

7. Amount of Equity in Your Home
Most lenders want to see some amount of equity in order to qualify you for a loan. Generally speaking, the more equity in your home, the easier it will be to refinance. A minimum of 20% is ideal, but you may still be eligible for a refinance even if you have less, such as 10%. However, the terms may not be as favorable.

To refinance with low or no equity, see the “Special Situations” section below.

8. Adjustable-Rate or Balloon Mortgage
Most people who have an adjustable-rate mortgage or a balloon payment mortgage count on refinancing at some point if they plan to stay in their home. Since refinancing can take a while, give yourself enough time to apply and get approved before your rate adjusts or your balloon payment comes due. Double-check your loan documents to make sure you know exactly when this date is and plan ahead.

9. Loan Term
Many people refinance into a new 30-year mortgage over and over, and never get closer to the goal of owning their home outright. Since interest makes up the large majority of your payments in the first ten to fifteen years, you will pay a lot more in interest if you keep resetting the clock.

Therefore, it’s generally a good idea to request a loan term as long as the number of years remaining on your original mortgage, as long as you can afford it. This allows you to pay off your mortgage according to the original schedule, while still reducing your rate. You can even refinance into a shorter term, which may raise your payment, but could get you an even better rate and set you up to pay the loan off sooner.

Remember, don’t focus on the monthly payment to the exclusion of the loan’s term, your rate, and closing costs. For example, some unscrupulous mortgage broker may show you a loan with a lower payment that actually has a 30-year term, high expenses, and a rate that isn’t much lower than the rate on your current mortgage.

10. People Listed on the Refinanced Mortgage
Generally, if you’re trying to add or remove someone from a mortgage, such as after a marriage or divorce, the lender will require you to refinance. This is done to determine whether or not the other person will qualify, or if you will qualify alone.

However, you may be able to work something out with the mortgage lender in order to accomplish your goal without going through a full refinance. This is especially true if the person who will have been on both mortgages can qualify for the mortgage by themselves.

11. Second Mortgage or Home Equity Loan
If you have a second mortgage, a home equity loan, or a home equity line of credit (HELOC), you may be able to save a lot of money by refinancing that into your primary mortgage.

To determine if you can, add up all your home loans together. If your home’s current value exceeds the value of the loans, you may be able to refinance your loans into one. In this way, you’ll pay one low rate on the entire amount instead of one low rate on your primary mortgage and a higher one on the second.

mortgage contract

Special Situations Regarding Home Equity

Either an abundance or a lack of equity can cause problems when it comes to refinancing. The following provides tips on how to best handle both situations:

Low or No-Equity Financing Options

As stated earlier, if you have low or no equity, refinancing can be difficult or downright impossible. However, for certain types of loans and specific situations, special refinancing options are available.

For example, if you have at least 5% equity in your home, you may qualify for a FHA refinance. Or for homeowners who have not missed any payments, the Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP, may help you refinance to a lower rate even if you’re upside down in your mortgage. This program allows homeowners with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac mortgages to refinance up to 125% of their home’s current value.

Alternatively, if you are in imminent danger of losing your home, the Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP, can alter your loan contract via refinance, an extended loan term, and, if necessary, principal reduction to reduce your payments to no more than 31% of your gross income. Assistance is also available if you’re struggling to make payments on a second mortgage, if you’re unemployed, or if you’re already facing foreclosure. Most of these loans are provided by the government’s Making Home Affordable program, but are administered through regular lenders.

An option some homeowners have used in the past is a “piggyback” loan, where a home equity loan is taken out for 10% of the balance and a primary mortgage for the rest. Such an arrangement can mean more favorable terms. However, with the advent of more stringent lending requirements, it can be difficult to find a bank or credit union that is willing to do this type of loan.

Cash-Out Refinances

You may have seen advertising for refinances that say, “put money in your pocket” or “get cash from your home.” These are referred to as cash-out refinances. Here the new loan is larger than the old loan, and you get the difference in cash. But that cash isn’t free – it’s a loan off the equity in your home. In other words, you have to pay it back.

Though banks and brokers may tout this as a great way to pay off debt, take a vacation, or get college money, the problem is that it’s only a temporary fix. In fact, you could end up paying a lot more for that “cash-out” if you don’t have a plan in place for how you’re going to pay it back.

For example, when it comes time to sell your home, you won’t get as much from the sale because you’ll have a larger loan balance to pay off. Or, worse yet, if the real estate market declines, you could become upside-down in your mortgage and actually owe the bank money when you sell.

Cash-out refinances generally come with higher interest rates as well, even if you only take out a “small” amount of cash. Specifically, many banks offer refinancing to pay off your credit cards. But this is a risky move in which you trade unsecured debt (the credit cards) for secured debt (the mortgage). If you’re unable to pay your credit card debt, the worst that can happen is a court judgement to garnish your wages. But if you’re unable to pay the mortgage, you will lose your home.

Make sure you can actually afford a mortgage payment that incorporates your credit card debt before you secure that debt with your home. In fact, if you are having problems paying off debt, contact a credit counselor before you refinance your mortgage.

How to Save Money on Closing Costs

Here are a few ways to minimize the closing costs associated with a refinance:

  • If you need an appraisal and your home has significantly risen in value or there are many comparable sales in your neighborhood, ask your real estate agent if you can use an automated appraisal instead of a full appraisal. This will save a few hundred dollars.
  • Though you will still need title insurance, ask if you can get the “reissue” rate instead of the full rate.
  • See if your current lender can offer you a lower-interest refinance before you sign docs with a new lender. They may be able to get you a reasonable deal without as many costs.

Calculate Your Savings

Use a refinance calculator to figure out how much you can save. Sit down with your mortgage statement and determine how much you pay toward real estate taxes and homeowners insurance as these amounts won’t change when you refinance. However, if your property has gone down in value, you may be able to get your property tax lowered too.

Next, get a ballpark figure on closing costs from the bank or broker that handled your first mortgage. Average closing costs for a $200,000 refinance are $3,741, but amounts vary greatly by region. You will also need to know how long you have left on your loan and decide if you are going to keep the same loan term, or if you are going to shorten or lengthen it.

For example, say that Jim has been in his home and current mortgage for seven years. He initially paid $145,000 for the house and has a monthly mortgage payment of $916 at 6.5%. Even after seven years, he’s only paying off $206 of his principal per month, while $710 of his payment is going to interest. He still owes $130,897 on his mortgage.

He decides to refinance and is able to get a rate of 5% and pays $2,000 in closing costs. He opts to keep the same loan term and his new payment is $799 per month.

Old Mortgage at 6.5%

  • Monthly payment: $916
  • Interest amount: $710
  • Principal amount: $206

New Mortgage at 5%

  • Monthly payment: $799
  • Interest amount: $545
  • Principal amount: $254

Not only will Jim save $117 on his payment each month, but since he will pay less interest, he will pay down more of his loan balance than he was previously. However, when Jim does his taxes, he won’t have as much home mortgage interest to claim, and will lose some benefit there. But depending on Jim’s income tax bracket, that lost tax deduction may more or less wash with the accelerated pace at which he pays off principal. In other words, it will take Jim roughly 17 months to break even, whereby he recoups his $2,000 in closing costs.

In any case, run the numbers regarding when you’ll break even based on how much you’ll save monthly, how much equity you’ll build, and how much of a tax deduction you’ll give up with the lower interest rate. Only then can you determine when you’re likely to break even for your particular situation.

Final Word

Since applying for a refinance will hurt your credit score, determine whether or not you’re likely to qualify before you submit your application. If it seems unlikely, you may want to wait until your home’s value increases, your credit score improves, or your debt to income ratio declines. Also, plan ahead if you wish to apply for another loan, such as a car loan, that will affect your ability to refinance.

Then, once you’ve determined that you’ll qualify, review your financial situation, including your mortgage statement, and what you want to accomplish with a refinance. Be crystal clear on these points when you’re discussing options with a mortgage broker or bank and remember not to focus exclusively on any one thing, such as rate or payment, since you could end up missing an important component of the loan you agree to.

Most importantly, rely on your own assessment of your current mortgage relative to the new quotes you receive, and run numbers on each of them to determine which makes the most sense according to your goals.

Have you ever refinanced your mortgage? What were the main factors that led to your decision and how much did you end up saving?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Kira Botkin
Kira is a longtime blogger and serial entrepreneur who enjoys gardening, garage sales, and finding stray animals. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, where football is a distinct season, and by day runs a research study for people with multiple sclerosis. She hopes that the MoneyCrashers team can help you achieve your goals and live a great life.

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  • http://www.providentplan.com Paul Williams

    Hey, Erik!

    It sounds to me like you all are excellent candidates for a mortgage refinance. The key factor is that you don’t plan on moving until well after you’ve recovered the closing costs.

    I’d encourage you to see if you can negotiate the closing costs at all. Just a 10% reduction could make this deal look even better!

  • Erik Folgate

    Thanks for the comment Paul. Which of the closing costs do you think I could negotiate? I have a good idea of what I would try to negotiate if I was buying a house, but I’ve never done a re-fi before.

    • Serpico

      I’ve been a loan officer for a while now and here’s the thing. You have to take into consideration that your new mortgage is going to put you back into a 30 year fixed, actually extending your loan by 2 years or 24 mortgage payments. Do the math, 1623 minus 1408 = 215 less per month. If you have been in your current mortgage for 2 years you have 28 years left or 336 payments. So 336 payments, saving 215 per payment shows you a savings of $72,240 over the life of the loan. 24 more payments of 1408 = 33792. Also add in the closing costs of 4500, you are now at a cost $38,292 to do this mortgage. So, the math reveals 72240(savings)-38292(refi costs)a total overall savings of $33,948.00
      Thats a pretty good return on investment. Also, do a Bi-Monthly mortgage payment which would equate to 704 on the 1st and 704 payment on the 15th of every month. That would knock off another 5 years on your mortgage. There’s where you really pack on the savings. Plus 4500 bucks in closing costs seems really low for an FHA mortgage. Make sure you are looking at all the costs. Obviously I could look at this for you and give you my thoughts if you’d like. Actually….definitely call me…now I’m intrigued to see if this mortgage company is offering you a legitimate deal, because I work for a Direct FHA Lender and the FHA charges 2.25% as an UFMIP (upfront mortgage insurance premium)…right there’s $5962.50 …..send me an email. We’ll talk.

      • Stefanie

        Hello, Your post is exactly what I’m trying to figure out on my property, but it’s too confusing. I just got a letter from James B. Nutter & Company offering to refi my property only adding $2000 to my principal, but we plan on moving as soon as we can. Here’s our stats: We owe approx $137,000 @ 6%. We have been the house for 2.5 yrs. on a 30 yr. fixed rate FHA. They are offering 4.5% with no closing costs and no re-qualifying. They said that they will keep the loan in house and never sell it. (I asked them how they will make money off this loan if there were no fees). He said that the only reason why the principal will go up is because of UFMIP that you mentioned. My payments will go down about 150.00 per month. I currently pay $1200. I have not received the Good Faith Estimate yet. They said they cannot pull my credit until I approve. This is all new to me. My property value has gone down subsantially, but we have to move. Our neighbor just got accused of molesting three little girls across the street and I have a daughter the same age. They moved because they were renters. The Realtors I’ve called won’t even call me back because of the economy. I’ve called three different Realtors with no luck.

  • http://www.providentplan.com Paul Williams

    I’d try to negotiate things like the application fee, processing fee, or documentation fee – anything that sounds like something “extra” for the bank. Also, you might be able to pit a couple competitors against each other or use the offers you have to negotiate with your current mortgage holder. They may be willing to cut out some costs just to keep your loan.

    You just have to be careful to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples when you are working with several quotes. It’s easy to change the total cost of a mortgage (or total profit from the bank’s viewpoint) by adjusting the APR, points, origination fee, or closing costs. I’d use a good mortgage calculator like the ones at dinkytown.net to compare total costs for your various options.

  • Kira

    I agree with Paul, negotiating the closing costs down would make a huge difference, and a good mortgage broker should be able to get you some leeway since you are (I assume) an excellent candidate creditwise.

    These brokers might be up your alley – http://www.upfrontmortgagebrokers.org/ – they get a set fee from you instead of getting paid by your spread, and they might be able to do better on the closing costs since it’s not going into their pockets.

  • http://www.dougwarshauer.com Doug Warshauer

    Sounds like it makes sense to refinance, but the critical question is when you are going to move. I’d spend a lot of time thinking about this first. With a baby coming soon, how long will your current home serve your needs? Are you planning to have another baby, and would that force you to move?

    Moving frequently is a real wealth destroyer because of the closing costs involved. I usually encourage people to think about having two homes: a starter home and a permanent home. It sounds like you already have the starter home, so the ideal situation would be to stay there until you could afford the home you want to spend the bulk of your life in.

    Once you have a clear plan on when you’ll be moving, the refinance decision will be pretty clear.

  • Kira

    Useful reference for what fees you can negotiate:


  • http://www.paramusmortgage.com Jeff Lutcza

    I would try to get an accurate estimate of your home’s value before going any further. Low appraisals have been a real obstacle to refinancing for many people lately.
    A good thing about FHA is you have the option of a streamline refinance without doing an appraisal. The downside though is that you won’t be able to include your closing costs in the new mortgage.
    You might consider a “no cost” refi. Streamlines run a little cheaper anyway so you could probably find a lender to do a “no cost” streamline at a very reasonable interest rate.

    • john

      Do you need a loan if Yes Email : [email protected] for more informations on your loan.

  • Pingback: Friday Scoop on Credit Karma & Housing Market News | Credit Karma Blog

  • http://change-is-possible.net H Lee D

    What are the long-term financial consequences? We are in the midst of refinancing, but we only decided to do it when both our monthly payment and our overall interest paid would both be lower.

    If you are eligible to refinance through Make Housing Affordable, there is no appraisal, so you wouldn’t need to worry about that.

  • http://seniorreversemortgageservices.com/ Bullseye

    I agree with Paul. My previous work was related to loans and other bank offers. The bank usually can remove or give you some discounts on the fees especially when they feel like you are really interested with their offer and you are just comparing theirs with another offer from a different bank. Make sure that you also have understood all the terms and conditions first of the offer as some banks may charge some “hidden fees” which will only surprise you once you already have it started.

  • julia

    I just locked in a refi rate of 5.25 down from 6.25. they are rolling the UFMIP of 2700 into the loan amount bringing up my balance to 150,000 from 147,00 rounding off numbers—a 2.3 yr recovery time. Closing paid by lender. Is the streamline refi worth it?

  • Ronald Flanigan, Sr

    I currently have a 20 year fixed rate home loan at 5.25%. My monthly payment PI is $872 and I have made 86 payments. The loan balance is $99,200 on a $130,000 original loan. If I refinance what interest rate on a 15 year loan would make it to my advantage?

    • Erik Folgate

      Hi Ronald,

      Your situation is sort of a gray area, because you already have a pretty low interest rate, and your loan balance isn’t huge. If you can get 3.75% 15 year fixed and the closing costs are under $2,500, then I think it’s worth it to go with the re-fi as long as you play on staying in the house for the long term.

  • VC

    I currently have a 30 year fixed rate home mortgage at 5.75%. Monthly payment is $1531 and the balance is at $240,000. The new loan I am considering is a 15 year fixed rate at 3.8%, with $1600 in closing costs. It seems like a no-brainer, but should I take the plunge if I plan to move in the next 5 years? I am having trouble trying to figure out if it is worth it. I do qualify for the Making Homes Affordable Program.

    • Erik Folgate

      VC, yes this is a no-brainer and you should do it as long as you don’t plan on moving in the next two years, because if you stay at least two years, the money you’ll save on your monthly payment will pay you back for the closing costs you’ll incur for the re-fi.

  • Stephanie

    I am considering refinancing. I am currently 8 years into my 30 year mortgage with an interest rate of 5.75%. The offer I am looking at is a 5 year fixed rate of 2.99% and my balance is 76,000. Closing costs are estimated at $976. I am unsure if I should take advantage of this as after the 5 years I can either make a balloon payment to pay off or refinance at the “then” rate. I am concerned because of the economy and could inflation set in leaving us with high rates in 5 years??

    • Erik Folgate

      Stephanie, DO NOT do this deal. You should refinance, but you can get a 15 year fixed rate of 3.5 to 3.75%. Whoever your lending officer/mortgage broker is, stay far away from them. There is NO reason to do a 5/1 ARM with a balloon payment.

      The rates are at HISTORIC lows, so should definitely assume that the rates will be higher in 5 years. If you want a good broker that won’t try to milk a huge commission off of you, try Churchill Mortgage, they’re a national broker recommended by Dave Ramsey.

  • Louise

    I currently have a 30 year fixed rate home mortgage at 5.875%. Monthly payment is $1101 and the balance is at $153,000. I am 7 years into the loan but have been paying an extra $100-$200/mo so am into year 13 of the loan. The new loan I am considering is a 15 year fixed rate at 3.8%, with $1600 in closing costs. I also have a $6500 home equity loan. I plan on living in home until retirement which is approximately 12 more years. I would like to have my house paid off before I retire. My house was valued at $250,000 but dropped to $198,000. Should I refinance or continue with current loan and pay extra money per month? Do I have to pay off my home equity loan before I can refinance?

  • stosh

    purchased my home for 535,000 in May of 2006. 6.75% payment 3,400. I owe 406,000 appraised last appraised about 320,000. What can I do to refinance. Both my wife and I have excellent credit. Can afford to put some money down. Any advise, Thanks

  • jimbob

    am considering refinancing. I am currently 8 years into my 30 year mortgage with an interest rate of 5.75%. The offer I am looking at is a 5 year fixed rate of 2.99% and my balance is 76,000. mortgage refinance Closing costs are estimated at $976. I am unsure if I should take advantage of this as after the 5 years I can either make a balloon payment to pay off or refinance at the “then” rate.

  • jimmy dean

    My previous work was related to loans and other bank offers. The bank usually can remove or give you some discounts on the fees especially when they feel like you are really interested with their offer and you are just comparing theirs with another offer from a different bank. should i refinance my mortgage or should I stay as I am? I’m not sure but I tink that at the present conditions a refi soulds like a good idea.

  • Jeff Ernst

    Hi Erik,

    Question about refinancing my existing mortgage for a shorter term @ lower rate.

    We are trying to own our home sooner and reduce amount of interest paid. Yours & other comments welcome! Here’s a quick synopsis of our situation: We currently have 15-year fixed-rate mortgage (13.3333 years left) @ 4.375% ($2,040 per month including escrow funds for taxes , with balance of $196,000 left on loan. Hope to obtain 10-year fixed rate re-fi @ either 4% (no points) or 3.5% paying 1.5 points, to lower interest even more!

    Considering also making bi-weekly mortgage payments to pay-off loan even sooner (is their a way to calculate how much earlier you can pay-off mortgage with bi-weekly payments)….Also considering making extra principal payment each month, to accelerate process.. We also have opportunity to consolidate student loan debt of $38,500 through equity cash out (monthly payment of $282 @ 3.25%)….But hesitent due to increasing amount of new mortgage! Wondering if not better to simply pay down loans faster by increasing principle payments eah month…Would also be nice to rid ourselves of the monthly burden of student loan payment & have it rolled in to new mortgage….paid off in 10 years or less vs. probably alot more years making that extra payment (original student loan was $52,000 in 2005, so we’ve only paid $13,500 in loan principle in six years of making payments)…

    Common sense is telling me that we will save a bundle on total interst paid on new loan + reducing number of monthly mortgage payment from 160 left (current mortgage) to 120 months or less (refinanced mortgage).

    Any advice you and/or others can offer? Would be so appreciated! :)

    Jeff Ernst

  • Rich C

    I am in a similar boat. My lender contacted me asking if I wanted to refinance under the HARP program. I was intrigued as I am upside-down on my home and my lender called me! My wife and I have excellent credit and we have never been late on a payment. So, I am curious as to why my lender called me wanting me to reduce my interest rate?? They said they wanted to ensure we stayed with them and with the new government program they could lower my interest rate without harming my credit because it was a refinance rather than a loan modification. Here are the details! Can someone help me see something I am missing, or is this a good deal and I am being too skeptical?
    I am 36 months into a 30-year fixed conventional loan. I currently owe $356K with an 6.875% interest rate! My currently lender offered me a 30 year loan with $6K in closing costs at 5.5% interest. That is based on a current home value of $320K. My home hasn’t been officially appraised, so it could come in a little higher, so that would mean a slightly better rate, but I am still upside-down. The new rate would shave $350 off my monthly mortgage that my wife and I would roll back into the principle. We would also like to do the split monthly payment as well. My only out of pocket fees would be $358 for the appraisal. Which is the lesser of two evils, the 6.875% interest rate or adding $6K on top of an already upside down mortgage? Any Good advice would be welcome!

    Thank you.

    • Bada1147

      Hi Rich,
      My husband and I are in a similar situation, and it also peeked my curiousity as to why they contacted us. I looked up the HARP program and realized that the lenders are receiving money from the government for each homeowner that participates in these governement programs. Recently they added a new provision to the HARP program that allows homeowners who actually pay their mortgage on time but owe more then their home is worth to also qualify for a “break”. I am assuming that this is to prevent people from just walking away from their homes because they can not sell them d/t their mortgages being upside down. These programs are real. Right now, you don’t even need an appraisal to qualify for the program and most lenders are not making you pay closing costs, but you still have to pay title and tax fees. We are considering this options as well, but it will depend on how long we plan on living in our home. If we plan on staying there for five plus years then we will go ahead and and do it, but if we plan on selling, then it is not worth it because our morgage is already upside down and tacking on an additional $2900 for title and tax fees would make it nearly impossible to sell!
      Hope this helps!

  • http://aumfs.com.au Dave

    I think a good way to tackle refinancing a mortgage (I am in Aus) is to go split. Get a portion fixed and a portion variable. Pay the minimum on the fixed because there are early repayment fees on fixed loans and pump in your extra repayments to your variable to avoid the fees.

  • Ann Johnson

    We are 2 years into a 30 yr fixed at 5.125%., current balance is 400,000. We are considering a refinance into a 20 yr fixed at 3.75% to pay down the principle faster while not decreasing–and perhaps slightly increasing–our monthly payment. Issue is, I am worried that we may not quite have 20% equity with a new appraisal. We made a 20% down payment when the home was purchased for $545,000. We own another property outright that has an associated HELOC (variable 3.99%), current balance 85,000, available credit 170,000. Would it make sense for us to “purchase” extra equity with our HELOC in order to avoid PMI? We are aggressively paying off the HELOC so the slightly higher interest rate shouldn’t be an issue.

    • Kira Botkin

      Well, it doesn’t sound like you’d have any extra costs associated with taking some money out of the HELOC and paying down the mortgage to avoid PMI, but it might be worth getting the appraisal first, since you’ll have to get one anyway for a refinance, and see if it’s even necessary.

  • Janet

    I also was contacted by my lender to refinance under the HARP. We are 8 years into a 30 year fixed at 5.75%. They are offering a 20 yr at 4% and a 30 year at 3.75% with no closing costs. We are considering the 30 year to lower the payments so we have more cash on hand for needed improvements. We would like to sell in a few years when the market is better in FL.

    Erik, could we get advice whether it is a good idea for us to get into the 30 year loan? A lower payment right now looks good but how does all this come into play when we sell the house?


    • Kira Botkin

      It sounds like a good deal, but I’d want to see that in writing – it’s a bit unusual to have a 30 year cost LESS than a 20 year. But if there are really no closing costs, and the rate is real, there’s no reason not to do it. I’m just always wary when the lender reaches out to you to offer you a seemingly great deal!

      • Janet

        Kira, That was my error. It’s 30 year at 4.25%. Our balance is $117k and we have 22 years left on the mortgage, currently at 5.75%. The refi would save us $198.00 a month. The lender states that they are extending these offers to good customers as well as those under water to satisfy the government program.

  • Gloria

    I’m currently on year 7 of a 30 year loan with interest of 6.25. I’ve been making biweekly pmts for 7 years. I have knocked it down to 18 years.
    I have the opportunity to refinance at 3.6 for 15 years. Closing costs are 8,000.00. I’m keeping my home forever. If I do it and continue making biweekly pmts how much more can I reduce on the life of a 15 year loan. I need to pay off asap since I’m near retirement age.

    • Kira Botkin

      I can’t say how quickly you could pay it off after refinancing without knowing the amount of the mortgage and the current payments – but you should check out the calculators at Bankrate and play around with them a little and you should be able to figure it out. However, unless this is a very large loan or you are paying points to lower the interest rate, $8,000 is on the far upper end of closing costs. If you have paid it down quite a lot, have good credit, and have a lot of equity in the home, you should be able to get a mortgage pretty much anywhere.

  • WTH2112

    I feel like I was taking! I just refinanced my home from 5% to 3.75% with a 30 fixed after living there for a little less than two years. My monthly payments was $1520 and now it is $1455, I am only saving $65? It was 1435 but I rolled the closing costs into the loan. I used my VA Loan and I live in Texas. About a couple of weeks after closing I ran across a friend of mine who also used the same bank and he ended up saving $450, same percentage change, same VA loan. Even before I made my first payment they sold my policy to another bank. While I was going through the paperwork and he told me what my monthly payments were I asked why so little and he told me that using a VA Loan in Texas. Did I get lied to, can I do something about it?

    • Kira Botkin

      Well, the first thing I would do is take your mortgage documents to a bank you trust and ask someone to go over the documents with you. I really couldn’t say from this information whether there is something funny going on, but if you signed documents, you are not going to be able to get out of this loan without refinancing again unless you can prove outright fraud and want to hire a lawyer. If your real estate taxes and homeowners insurance are included in the payment, you should double check that those are correct too.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/NVJ7N2XC2NWETBQSRHWBY4DR5A Spud

    I have a 6.25% and am 5 years into a 30yr fixed. I can re-fi down to 3.75% for 30yr fixed but will likely sell my home in 2-3 years. My “break even” point based on how much pre month I will be saving is 9 months. Is this smart?

    • Kira Botkin

      It sounds like it’d be worth it money-wise, and you never know if you’re going to end up spending more time owning your home than you think you will (deciding to rent it out, difficulty selling, etc.) I’d double check your numbers when you are at closing, and make sure that you’ve accounted for any closing fees or other expenses like an appraisal.

  • http://www.homemortgagewhiz.com/ Home Mortgage

    There are one-time costs associated with re-financing. This technique does not add up financially unless the change between your current interest amount and the currently available amount is large enough to protect this cost.

  • Richie

    Hi! I’m not sure if I should refinance or not. I need your advice please? Here is what I have in detail.

    1. I have 7 years to go on my mortgage of 15 years with 4.75% fixed rate. The balance is about 67,000 original loan was about $135,000; monthly P&I $1058.00 a month.
    2. I have an Equity line of credit with a balance of 85,000 at a variable rate (2.75% now) with 3 more years to borrow from it and then I cannot borrow no more. Equity Monthly Payment is about 10% of the outstanding loan. AFTER THE 3 MORE YEARS I HAVE LEFT, I have then 10 more years to pay it off at whatever rate the federal reserve may be.
    3. I have a rental property; all paid off. Its value may be about $80,000
    4. My home value may be about $300,000
    5. My primary home insurance is about $650 a year and $245 for my rental insurance.
    6. My rental income is $1050
    7 My Association is $326 a month
    8. My rental real estate taxes are about $3300 a year and my home about $6300 a year.
    9.My weekly income from work is $800 with $1000 bonus a year.
    10. I have 5 children and a non working wife. One is a junior, a freshman, 7th, 6th and 4th grader. I do not have a bank account but a 401k account worth about 25k; lost a lot during the economy recession.
    11. I’m 53 and my wife’s is 51.

    Given that, what do you recommend to do, should I refinance for 15 years or not?
    Ps. I do have a side cash job; barely keeping up with the bills: Gas, Elec., Water, food and etc… but no car monthly payments or other long term installments payments. And, with my children college expenses coming up in two years, I will be in big trouble soon.

    • Kira Botkin

      I don’t see how refinancing your primary mortgage on your home is going to change most of those numbers, but if you want to have more cash on hand, refinancing back to a 15 year loan is going to give you much lower payments. You should probably go into a bank and have them run some numbers for you, but I’d be more concerned about that line of credit – perhaps see if you could roll that into your mortgage when you refinance, unless you think you can pay it off well before the 13 years on it are up.

  • sue

    applied to a refinance on my mortgage with my mortgage bank and was told I was approved for a 15 year at 4 % interest my original loan is 30 year at 6%. Now after a week was told that my income is not enough and they will give me a loan with 20 years at 4.37% interest. I have 20 years left on my mortgage and I will be saving 125 a month but my closing cost will be close to $6000.00. Does this loan sound good to you? and why do I qualify for a 20 year loan but no a 15 year loan and this loan is with a big bank?

    • Kira Botkin

      A 20 year mortgage has a lower payment than a 15 year mortgage, and if your income is not high, that could be why you can’t get the 15 year mortgage. Closing costs vary by region and that seems a little high for a refinance, but I would ask your loan officer what is included in the closing costs. And the fact that it is with a big bank does not give any guarantees as to how you will be treated, unfortunately.

  • megs102307

    I just bought a new car and it has yet to show up on my credit report. I am also in the process of refinancing my house. Is there any way the mortgage company will find out about the new car if it doesn’t show up on my credit report until after closing?

    • Kira Botkin

      I wouldn’t be so confident it won’t show up before closing. Credit reports sometimes update faster than you think. But no, if it’s not on your credit report, they would have a harder time finding out. They might get wind of it by talking to your bank during income verification or something like that, though.

  • Alleysantiques

    I have a 103,000 30 year mortgage at 4.65% fixed — Would it be wise to refinance and get a 3.75% 30 year fixed? My broker is quoting a payment savings of roughly only $58 – this doesn’t quite seem worth the costs involved to do. Any advice would be appreciated.

  • Lisa

    I have a 30 year mortgage loan @ 5.125% with 9 years into it. We are 1000 dollars away from being 20% paid down. Is it possible to get rid of PMI even though out house is underwater?

    • Kira Botkin

      The short answer is yes but not at 20%.

      You can ask your lender to remove PMI when your house has 20% EQUITY. Since your home is underwater you don’t have any equity. But they will remove it when the loan is paid down 22% (or 25% for some banks). However, keep in mind that for some banks, they will remove PMI when you would have reached 22% (or 25%) paid off according to your original amortization schedule, meaning that if you paid extra towards your mortgage it wouldn’t move up that date when PMI would drop off.

  • Maria Moreno

    Kira, I bough a FHA home for 75k @ 5% interest, I been living in it for 16 mos. I been receiving offers if I want to refinance as low as 3.5% fixed rate, I’am going to keep this house for long time closing costs won’t be a problem. I also used my son as a co- signer and I want to take his name out of the loan. Would you give me any advise? Thanks!

    • Kira Botkin

      Well, that sounds like you have two different issues – you want a lower rate, and you want to remove your son from the loan. If you just want a lower rate, you can do an FHA streamline refinance for very low closing costs since they just lowered the fees, and it’s a fairly simple process. However, if you want to take your son off the loan, I do not believe you can do a streamline refinance and you will have to do a regular refinance which will probably have higher closing costs.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/X3K7DOF2Y3JUW25R5SBVJHOGHM HomeB

    I took out a $115K mortgage at 5.25% rate in 2005. Now I owe about $75K and the loan ends in 2020. I want to refinance for a lower rate but at a 5yr. rate. I’m not having any luck finding lenders to take this loan because they say it’s not worth it to take it since there is not much money to be made on this. Do you know if I can get a mortgage loan for 5yr. with a lower rate. Also, do you think its worth the trouble to seek this out or just stick with my current situation?

    • Kira Botkin

      Well, why does it need to be a five year loan? Wouldn’t a longer loan with no prepayment penalty work just as well? You could probably get a lower rate with a 15 year loan, or a 5/1 ARM, and if there’s no penalty for paying it off early, then you can pay it off in five years if you want to.

  • jmp

    We have a 30 year mortgage at 5.75%. We are 11 years into it. My husband has lost his job and we are about to sign papers for a new 30 year loan at 4.25%. Because of our income now we are not able to get a loan through a different lender, but can refinance through our current lender to lower our monthly costs. The closing costs will be between 3500.- 4000.. We will roll it into the new loan. Our new payment is suppose to be about 265. less a month. We have enough equity to not worry about a PMI. Does this sound like a wise decision or do we have any other options available to us or are there any suggestions you may have that you could share with us?

    • Kira Botkin

      Original reply doesn’t seem to have posted. This doesn’t sound like a bad idea at all. None of the numbers jump out at me as being unreasonable.

  • kit

    hello, can you please advise all this is so very confusing to me, I bought my HUD home in 1993 on a 30 year note fixed at 6% I was blessed and won my bid at 55,000.00 the house in 1993 was valued at 120,000.00 and today is around 140,000.00 since getting the home I have divorced he is still on the home loan but not on the house (quick claim) the house really needs siding bad, and I have no ideal where I am going to get 15,000.00 I owe less then 36,000.00 on the house and my credit is not so good, otherwise I am doing fine paying bills what would be the best thing I could do right now?

    • Kira Botkin

      You should be able to get a home equity loan or home equity line of credit fairly easily with that much in equity in your home. You could refinance if you wanted to, but if all you want is to get money out for repairs, refinancing would take longer and cost more, though you would get a lower interest rate today than the one you have.

  • kencryst

    I am looking at a refi. I am 31 months into a 30 year fixed rate FHA loan at 5.25. I am paying $111 a month just for the PMI. I was recently offered a conventional loan where the lender wound paid mortgage insurance. If I were to pay the PMI I am being offered a loan at 3.75%, with lender paid mortgage insurance I would get 3.875%. There is a balance of $243,485 left on my loan. My home will probably appraise for less than I owe but I have really good credit and I am pretty certain that I can get the loan.
    My loan origination charge would be $1695My credit or charge (points) for the specific interest rate chosen $1616.37
    Appraisal and credit report $425 Title services and lender’s title insurance $1285.41 Title services and lender’s title insurance $1285.41
    Inspection $400Government recording charges $234Initial deposit for your escrow account $3608Daily interest charges $399.07
    This charge is for dailt interest on your loan from the day of your settlement until the first day of the next month or the first day of your normal mortgage payment cycle. This amount is $26.6048 per day for 15 days.
    Total estimated Settlement charges $9262.85
    I am planning on living in this house for at least the next four to five years, maybe longer.
    Does this loan look good?

  • Stevelnc

    I have a 15 year loan with an estimated of 5 years left at 5.250% and considering refinancing at 3.8% but have to go with a 10 year loan, I would rather have a 3 year loan but I guess I cant, would I be saving enough to make it worth while with refinancing and paying the same amount as i have been to pay it off sooner?

  • luigi

    I currently have 7 years remaining on a 10 year loan at 4.5%. I owe 75K and house is worth about 350K. Should I bother with a refi?

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  • rose

    This is to inform the general public that Mr ayoub , a private loan lender has open up a financial opportunity for everyone in need of any financial help. We give out loan at 2% interest rate to individuals, firms and companies under a clear and understandable terms and condition. contact us today by e-mail at: ([email protected]).or call us in the USA on this number +19546669208

  • mr ayoub

    This is to inform the general public that Mr ayoub , a private loan lender has open up a financial opportunity for everyone in need of any financial help. We give out loan at 2% interest rate to individuals, firms and companies under a clear and understandable terms and condition. contact us today by e-mail at: ([email protected]).or call us in the USA on this number +19546669208

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