- 7 min read
- A mortgage refinance may reduce your monthly payment and save money over time.
- Make sure that your savings justify your closing costs.
- Programs exist to help underwater homeowners refinance.
The Scoop on Mortgage Refinancing (with video)
What is a ‘Refinance’?
A mortgage refinance involves taking out a brand new mortgage, the proceeds of which are used to pay off your old home loan.
The mortgage refinance process involves the same steps as finding a mortgage for a home purchase. Both a purchase and refinance loan involve finding a good lender, submitting a mortgage application and producing a host of supporting documents, having a credit report pulled, having your home appraised, and dealing with title insurance, escrow and closing. All that’s missing in the refinance process from the purchase loan process is finding a real estate agent and a new home you want to buy.
Generally, there are two kinds of refinances: rate and term refinances and cash-out refinances. In a rate and term refinance, you take out a new loan at a lower interest rate or different term and the funds from the refi are used only to pay off the old mortgage. In a cash-out refinance, you borrow additional funds, using the equity in your home. This additional money may be used to pay off other, more costly debt, such as credit card debt, or for any personal need.
Is it Time to Refinance?
If rates have fallen a long way since you first took out your home mortgage, there may well be a benefit to refinancing, whatever your reason to consider a new loan. If you are looking to save money on your mortgage over time, you should:
- Estimate how long you plan to remain in your home. If you only plan to remain in your house for a short time, any savings you may generate in reduced mortgage payments may not be enough to cover the costs of refinancing. If you plan to remain in your home a very long time, your initial savings may be outweighed by the fact that you are now repaying your mortgage over a longer period of time. This is particularly likely to be true if you have had your existing mortgage for many years.
- Find quality lenders. The right lender will help you determine if you qualify for a refinance and, if you do, what rate and payment you can expect, and how much it will cost you to refinance. To find a great lender and get a refinance quote, reach out to Bills.com’s network of pre-screened lenders.
- Determine if the rate and payment you qualify for will produce a big enough benefit for you over time to justify spreading out your debt and paying closing costs (or financing them in).
This can be a lengthy process. Fortunately, our Should I Refinance mortgage calculator takes care of all these steps for you and gives you a clear answer in most refinancing situations.
As a homeowner, you are probably familiar with the constant stream of direct mail urging them to "Refinance Now!" that perhaps arrive in envelopes marked "Important Information about your Mortgage" or "Your loan information has changed!" These solicitations may contain good information or advice, but how do you know if refinancing makes sense for you?
Broadly, you should only refinance when there is a tangible benefit of doing so. In most cases, only you can measure whether a benefit exists.
Four reasons for refinancing that may produce a tangible benefit are:
- Overall Cost Reduction. If the new mortgage has a lower interest rate than the old, there is a potential cost savings through refinancing. However, you must make sure that these savings are sufficient to pay for the closing costs of the loan and make up for the fact that you may be taking an old loan with only X years to go and are now spreading that debt back out over 30 years. This can be a complex calculation to make, and an important determinant is information that only you know: how long you plan to spend in your home. Fortunately, Bills.com’s Should I Refinance mortgage calculator does the complex calculations for you based on your time horizon (the time that you plan to remain in your home). Check it out.
- Payment Reduction. For some, monthly payment reduction is the only consideration; if the payments don't come down, default and foreclosure may ensue. In these cases, the cost reduction calculation above may be immaterial, and it 1s just a matter of how much monthly payments can be lowered for some period of time, until the tough times are over. Only you can decide whether it is worth perhaps reducing your future net worth in order to make your monthly budget work. Again, our mortgage calculator can help you to find out if there are mortgage refinances out there that can meet your payment reduction needs.
- Risk Reduction.Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs) typically offer lower initial interest rates than are available for Fixed Rate Mortgages, but after an initial fixed period the rate and payments become variable — and they can rise substantially. During a period when rates are expected to rise in the future, some borrowers may prefer to refinance their ARM into a fixed-rate to reduce risk. Only you know if that applies to you.
- Cash Out. If you need additional funds — to remodel your home, to take care of an emergency, or to pay off other, high cost, debt — refinancing your mortgage with a new loan that both pays off your old home loan AND leaves you with cash in hand to meet the new need can be a good way to go. There is a cost to taking out the new cash out refinance loan — in many cases, only you can know whether access to the new cash is worth the expense.
How do I Refinance?
First you must find a good lender. Bills.com’s mortgage quick quote offers the choice of selecting from multiple lenders who will call you to discuss your loan options. They will require a small amount of personal information, or will ask you to provide a little more information in order to see real time rates, payments, and the loan products you qualify for online. Once you find the lender, loan, rate and payment you like, the lender will take you through a series of mortgage application steps, which end with your new loan getting funded.
Frequently Asked Questions:
- Should I look for a No Cost mortgage refinancing? Conventionally, you must pay closing costs when your mortgage refinance is closing. With today's low interest rates, many people are choosing a slightly different option — to take a higher rate loan in exchange for having their closing costs covered — a so-called no cost refinance. This may or may not be right for you; while you will not have to pay money to refinance, which is great, the higher rate will leave you somewhat worse off over the long haul, because your payments will be higher than they would be if you paid the closing costs in one go.
- Should I pay points? Another option that is open to you is really the opposite of a no cost mortgage refinance. Instead of taking on a loan with a slightly higher interest rate in order to avoid having to pay closing costs, you have the option to pay additional fees (called points) at closing in order to enjoy a lower rate for the life of the loan. Paying points can often make sense if a) you can afford to pay them and b) your time horizon is long enough so that savings in lower rates and lower monthly payments are sufficient to justify the additional fees you paid. One rule of thumb is that if your time horizon is five years or less, then points are unlikely to be worthwhile — but the specifics will depend on the rate/point combinations on offer from your lender. Note that paying points on an adjustable rate mortgage with a short fixed period is unlikely to make sense.