Your mortgage may have a 30-year term, but not many homeowners stay with the same loan for that long. In fact, the average American refinances his or her mortgage every four years, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. That’s because paying off your present mortgage and taking out a new one can mean big savings over several years. However, refinancing comes with a price in the short term, so it’s important to consider both the costs and benefits before making your decision.
Here are some reasons to consider refinancing your mortgage:
1. To obtain a lower fixed rate. If you took out a fixed-rate mortgage several years ago and interest rates have since dropped, refinancing may lower your payments considerably. A $150,000 mortgage with a 30-year term and a rate of 8 percent, for example, carries a monthly payment of $1,100. The same mortgage at 6 percent will have a payment of less than $900 a month.
2. To switch to a fixed rate or an adjustable rate mortgage. Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) offer lower interest rates initially, but some homeowners find the fluctuations stressful. If rates are on the way up, you might consider locking in at a fixed rate and consistent monthly payment. On the other hand, if you want to reduce your monthly payments and are comfortable with the interest rate changes of an ARM, it could save you money to refinance to an ARM.
3. To reduce your monthly payments. Refinancing for a longer term will lower the amount you have to pay each month. You will end up paying more in interest charges over the life of your loan, but if you’re having difficulty making your current payments, this strategy could provide some relief.
4. To turn home equity into cash. You may want to take out a new mortgage with a larger principal, in order to turn some of your home equity into cash for a major expense. This is called cash-out refinancing. The advantage of taking out a loan secured by your home is that you can get a lower rate of interest than you can with an unsecured loan or credit card. However, if the interest rate offered for your refinanced mortgage is higher than your current rate, a home equity loan or line of credit might be a better choice.
Is refinancing right for you?
If you’re refinancing in order to pay less interest, you won’t usually see the savings right away. That’s because lenders typically charge fees when you take out a new mortgage, and you may also have to pay a penalty for getting out of your old one. To determine whether refinancing makes financial sense for you, consider these issues:
1. How long you plan to be in your home. If you expect to move in a year or two, you may never realize the potential savings you’d get from refinancing. As a rule of thumb, the longer you plan to stay in your current home, the more sense it makes to refinance.
2. The prepayment penalty on your current mortgage. Many mortgages carry a penalty if you pay them off early. The amount varies, but it is usually a small percentage of the outstanding balance, or several months’ worth of interest payments.
3. The costs of the new mortgage. When you take out a new loan, your lender may charge a number of fees including application, appraisal, origination and insurance fees, plus title search, insurance and legal costs that can add up to thousands of dollars. Lenders may also charge discount points, which are paid upfront to secure a lower interest rate. As a guideline, expect fees to eat up any potential savings unless your new interest rate is at least a half a percentage point lower than your current one.
About the Author
The editorial staff at LendingTree is committed to helping consumers become smarter borrowers. Visit http://www.lendingtree.com/cec for more information and tips on buying, selling, and financing a home. Copyright 1998-2006, LendingTree, LLC.