With mortgage interest rates still floating around historic lows, everything points to now as a good time for homeowners who have not already done so to refinance their mortgages. Along with extremely low mortgage rates, the employment picture has improved and home prices have increased. Some impediments to refinancing remain, such as low appraisals and tighter credit criteria. These factors make it challenging for some borrowers to refinance.
Nonetheless, here are a few strategies to help you determine if a mortgage refinance is right for your current circumstances.
1) Know what is on your credit report
Before you attempt to refinance, obtain a copy of your credit report and review the information. To obtain the best mortgage rate possible, make sure you clean up any errors and inaccuracies prior to completing a mortgage application. Factors such as one late payment or not using credit can have a negative effect on your credit score. Most lenders require a credit score of 740 or higher to qualify for the best mortgage interest rate.
Credit reporting laws entitle you to receive one free credit report a year from each of the three major credit bureaus—Equifax, TransUnion Experian, if you make the request through credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com
2) Refinance mortgage with current lender
Try to work out a deal with the original mortgage lender if it still own and service your home loan. The bank will be more apt to negotiate better fees or even eliminate some charges – loan origination, application processing, credit application, appraisal, or closing costs-- if you make it clear you are shopping around for the best deal.
Most lenders would appreciate the chance to keep your business and offer you a lost-cost, competitive refinance deal. If the lender shows a willing to refinance your mortgage, make sure you get a Good Faith Estimate (GFE) that includes the interest rate, fees, and other costs.
3) Compare rate and term with other lenders
Compare interest rates from three or four mortgage lenders. Understand that loans cost can vary widely from lender to lender. It’s not uncommon to find as much as a percentage point difference more between the worse and best rates. Use the MortgageRefinance.com tool to find multiple lenders and compared interest rate and terms.
4) Refinance through government programs
Refinance your mortgage through one of the available government programs if you qualify. The Home Affordable Mortgage Refinance (HARP) program allows borrowers who have certain mortgages insured by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to refinance their mortgage. Homeowners with underwater mortgage--meaning they owe more on the loan balance than the market value of the home can apply. The program does not have as stringent credit score and income requirements compared to private mortgage refinancing. In addition, borrowers can save on refinancing costs because some fees have been reduced or eliminated.
The FHA Streamline Refinance program is available for homeowners who already have an FHA mortgage. If you have a mortgage owned by any other government agency, contact the agency to find out what programs are available.
5) Refinance mortgage over a shorter term
Some borrowers who are several years into their mortgages can receive even more of a financial advantage by refinancing into a shorter fixed-rate loan. A mortgage term of 10, 15, 20 or 25 years enables you to pay off the mortgage sooner and will save you money on interest payments. The shorter term product appeals to homeowners who want to coordinate the payoff of their mortgage with their retirement.
For example, a homeowner who received a $200,000 30-year fixed rate mortgage at a rate of 5%, three years ago would have a monthly principal and interest payment of $1074. Refinancing the mortgage to a similar product with an interest rate of 3.875% reduces the monthly payment to $897 and saves the borrower $177 a month -- savings of $2,124 a year. If you want another term like 8 years other than the standards term offered in the industry, discuss your needs with your lender.
6) Determine prepayment penalties and other costs
Check your mortgage agreement to find out your lender’s policy for mortgage prepayment. If the contract contains a prepayment provision, you should compare the cost of the penalty against potential savings from a mortgage refinance. You should carefully evaluate proposed payment for the new mortgage compared to the existing mortgage. Make sure to consider all upfront costs to refinance your mortgage and your savings in monthly payments.