How to Know When to Refinance

Refinancing can be a great money saving tool for homeowners, or it can be the wrong thing at the wrong time. Last year, according the Mortgage Bankers Association, Americans refinanced to the tune of $1.17 trillion dollars. The rising cost of fixed rate mortgages drove that to a mere $938 million this year. That’s still a huge number of people who choose to refinance their homes or commercial mortgages. Here are some guidelines to help you decide if this is the right time for you to refinance.

What to Know Before You Refinance

You need to be able to answer some basic questions about your home or real estate investment before you can make a wise decision about the best time to refinance. For instance, what is your current interest rate? Is it fixed or variable? Is your home’s value increasing? Can you afford the closing costs associated with refinancing? What are your plans for your home or real estate?

This background knowledge will help in several ways. If you plan to move within the next three years, or if the difference in interest rates in less that 1.5%, then refinancing might not pay off right now. Remember, once you refinance you need time to recoup the closing costs you have invested. However, if you have a variable rate that is climbing, or a significantly higher fixed rate, refinancing may offer you some appealing options.

Why People Refinance

People refinance for different reasons. In many cases, the decision to refinance can help to reduce your monthly payments and interest, or reduce the life of your loan and the principle owed. Others obtain a cash-out closing to make home improvements or pay off consumer and credit card debt. This method usually doesn’t lower your payments.

Before You Decide to Refinance

But before you jump into a decision to refinance, be aware that there are costs involved. Closing costs and points will affect how much money you must pay up front to refinance. A point is equal to 1% of the total amount of your loan. You should expect to pay 2-3% in points when you refinance. Just like when you purchased your home or real estate investment, the more money you put down, the lower your interest rate is likely to be. There are instances where you can get a no-cost closeout, and these are ideal, but not always available.

A word of caution; if you find yourself refinancing yearly to pay off debt, you’re not doing yourself any favors. In this situation you are probably increasing both the life and principle balance of your loan amount. This is a short-term fix that can have long-term consequences.

What Can Help

To help get the lowest interest rate when you refinance you can do one of two things. Put as much money as you can down upfront, or use that money to pay off consumer credit card debt. Since your interest rate and the amount you can borrow are tied to your credit score, it can save you money to improve your rating before you refinance.

And don’t forget to shop around. You will find a lot of lenders willing to work with you, and mortgage rate calculators are available on many real estate websites. A little homework now will save you a lot of money later.