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Ronald Keen

Refinancing Do's, Don'ts and Mistakes

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - Article by: Ronald Keen - Vantage Point Bank - Message

Mortgage rates are super low again and so you may be considering a refinance to snag some of the savings.

But before you apply, be sure you do your homework to ensure it makes sense financially, and to see if you're actually able to do it.

Obviously the landscape has changed significantly since the mortgage crisis. It's a bit of a double whammy really.

It's Tricky Now

Home prices have plummeted and mortgage underwriting has become a lot more stringent, making it especially difficult to get approved for a mortgage.

That said, you must take extra care before beginning the application process.

Before we get into that, does it make sense to refinance? Perhaps you snagged what you thought was a rock-bottom rate last year, only to watch mortgage rates fall even lower.

But it may not be worth your while to see if you can get your 30-year fixed in the high 3% range if you're currently enjoying a rate of 4.25% to 4.50%.

For some, namely those who plan to stay in their home for the long haul and actually pay off their mortgage, snagging an even lower rate may make sense.

For those who see themselves in a temporary or "starter home," constantly refinancing will probably be a losing endeavor, given the associated closing costs that must be recouped, unless they're paying an astronomical rate or in an adjustable-rate mortgage.

Even if you go for a no cost loan option, the rate may be too high to justify the refinance.

Either way, play around with a mortgage amortization calculator to see if refinancing will actually save you money. You may be surprised to find that the savings are minimal, even if you hold onto the mortgage for the entire term.

Will You Snag Those Low Rates?

Assuming you do decide to refinance, check your credit scores long before you begin the process. If your credit scores aren't in great shape, you won't qualify for those low rates anyways, so that could stop you in your tracks right there.

(What credit score do I need for a mortgage?)

If your scores are looking good, do not mess with your credit leading up to the application or during the loan process. That means no applying for credit cards or any other type of loan, or making big charges on existing lines of credit. Just hold off until the refinance is done!

Also check your current property value. Do you have any home equity or are you holding onto an underwater mortgage? Without equity it will be nearly impossible to refinance unless you're able to take advantage of one of the government programs or bring cash in at closing (cash in refinance).

And the higher your loan-to-value ratio, the higher your mortgage rate will be, wiping out the possible benefit of a refinance.

Is Your Home Listed?

If you happened to list your property before deciding to refinance, that could be a stumbling block as well.

You may have to kill the listing and wait six months before being eligible for a refinance.

Also watch out for prepayment penalties, which prevent you from refinancing for a certain period of time. If you've got a "prepay" on your current mortgage, refinancing could trigger a costly penalty.

If you're deep into your mortgage term, meaning you've already paid off a good chunk of it, "resetting the clock" may not be the smoothest move either.

For example, if you've already paid off 10 years of your 30-year mortgage, you may be better served refinancing into a 15-year loan rather than another 30-year mortgage.

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