Today’s low mortgage rates mean that right now is a great time to refinance. If you have the ability to refinance, do it. Even if you have already refinanced, if you can qualify for a mortgage rate that’s a percentage point lower than the one you have, you should consider refinancing again.
Talk to your lender or other lenders to see if you qualify for refinance. Lenders will often look at your income-to-debt ratio, your home’s value, and your payment history when determining if they will refinance your mortgage.
Once you have the go-ahead, start looking for a plan that hits four key areas—it will lower the interest rate, lower your payments, reduce the length of the loan, and manage the costs of refinance. Depending on your personal circumstances, you may not be able to hit all four categories, but if you do, you’ll have a home run refinance.
1. Lower the interest rate
Today’s interest rates are low, and chances are you can do better than the 11 percent, 7 percent, or even 5 percent interest rate you have now. Credit is a major factor in getting the lowest interest rates, so be sure to check your credit report and score before you start talking to lenders. If you’ve paid your mortgage on time and kept the rest of your finances in order, you may actually have a better credit score than you did years ago.
2. Lower your payments
Ideally, you want to pay less each month, and there are two ways to do this. The best way is by lowering your interest rate. The other way is by extending your mortgage—but don’t do that. If you took out a 30-year mortgage initially, taking out another 30-year mortgage is a bad idea. While lowering your monthly payments will give you more breathing room, it’s not worth the extra cost you’ll pay over the long term.
3. Reduce the length of the loan
If you can secure a low enough interest rate, you can reduce both the length of your loan and the cost of your monthly payments—and the savings can really add up. For example, if you took out a $250,000 refinance loan at 5 percent for 30 years, you’ll pay almost $230,000 in interest over the life of the loan. But shave five years off that same loan and you’ll save nearly $45,000.
4. Manage the costs of refinance
If you’ve bought a house, then you know that there are plenty of costs associated with securing a mortgage. The same goes for refinancing. On top of administrative fees, your home must also be appraised, inspected, and assessed. You may have to pay a penalty for paying off your mortgage early, so be sure to check the details of your current mortgage agreement before moving forward with any plans. Make sure you can pay these costs off within six months to a year, and try to keep the costs to under $1,000.
Ilyce R. Glink is the author of several books, including 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask and Buy, Close, Move In!. She blogs about money and real estate at ThinkGlink.com and at the Home Equity blog for CBS MoneyWatch.
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