Is Refinancing Worth It? Here's How to Find Out | The Motley Fool (2024)

When you refinance a mortgage, you swap your existing home loan for a new one with terms that work better for you. Often, that means a lower interest rate on your new loan, though in some cases, that may not happen. For example, if you refinance to a mortgage with a longer loan term than your current mortgage, your rate could go up. But is refinancing worth it? Here's what you need to know.

Is refinancing my mortgage worth it?

It could be worth it to refinance your mortgage if you can save money on your monthly payment or on interest. People also can get a lot of value out of tapping their equity to improve their home with a cash-out refinance. The best mortgage lenders will help you evaluate the pros and cons to see if it really makes sense to refinance your mortgage now.

However, it's worth noting that refinancing isn't free. There are fees known as closing costs involved with refinancing a mortgage. Just as closing costs apply to a mortgage when you first buy a home, they also apply when you refinance.

But despite those closing costs, refinancing a mortgage could still help you come out ahead financially. Read on to find out if you can benefit from a refinance.

When to refinance your mortgage

There are plenty of scenarios where it makes sense to refinance a mortgage. Depending on your situation, more than one of these may apply to you.

Your credit score has improved since you applied for a mortgage

The higher your credit score, the more likely a mortgage lender is to offer you a lower rate on your home loan. If your credit score was mediocre when you first applied for a mortgage but has since risen substantially, your interest rate could drop a lot by refinancing.

You want to shorten your loan term to pay off your home sooner

Refinancing will often lower your monthly mortgage payment, but not always. If you refinance from a 30-year loan to a 15-year mortgage, you're likely to find that your monthly payment goes up, because you're now paying off your home in half the time. However, you could still reap major savings on interest throughout the life of your repayment period.

Usually, you'll get a lower interest rate on a 15-year mortgage than you will for a 30-year loan at the time of application (this does not mean your old loan will necessarily have a higher interest rate than a new loan, given the current interest rate climate).

For example, refinancing the $100,000 balance of a 30-year fixed interest mortgage with a 5.75% interest rate to a 15-year fixed interest mortgage at 7.0% will raise your monthly principal and interest payment by about $314 rather than lower it. But you'll also enjoy $48,297 in interest savings by repaying your mortgage loan in 15 years instead of 30. And, you'll be clear of your mortgage debt sooner. That's important if you're aiming to have your home paid off in time for a specific milestone, like retirement.

For more on refinancing to a 15-year mortgage, check out our guide on the topic.

You want to extend your loan term to lower your monthly payment

Maybe you started out with a 15-year mortgage but are having a hard time affording your monthly payments. If that's the case, refinancing to a 30-year loan could result in a much lower monthly payment because you're now getting twice as long to pay off your home.

You want to lock in a fixed rate before your adjustable-rate mortgage gets more expensive

An adjustable-rate mortgage, also called an ARM, can save you money initially. Often, you'll get to lock in a lower interest rate on that loan for a preset period of time (for example, five or seven years). But once that initial period ends, your interest rate could rise.

If you refinance to a fixed loan, however, you'll lock in a guaranteed mortgage rate for the rest of your repayment period. That means you won't have to worry about your monthly payment rising over time.

For more on refinancing to a fixed-rate mortgage from an adjustable-rate mortgage, our experts have put together a guide for you.

You want to borrow against your home with a cash-out refinance

A cash-out refinance lets you borrow more than your remaining loan balance and use the extra money for any purpose. That might mean paying off debt, making home repairs, or financing home improvements.

Say your loan balance is $100,000, but your home is worth substantially more. With a cash-out refinance, you might get a new home loan worth $120,000. The first $100,000 would be used to pay off your existing mortgage, and you'd then get a check for the remaining $20,000 to use as you please.

Note: You can do a cash-out refinance if your home is worth enough to cover the extra money you're taking out. If you owe $100,000 on your existing mortgage and your home is only worth $100,000, you won't qualify for a cash-out refinance. Most lenders will only loan up to about 80% of your home's value as a cash-out refinance.

Refinance rates are down across the board

The lower the interest rate on your mortgage, the lower your monthly payment will be. If refinance rates have dropped due to market conditions, it could pay to apply for a new mortgage.

Say you're able to refinance from a $100,000, 30-year fixed mortgage at 6.0% to the same loan with an interest rate of 5.0%. By refinancing, your mortgage payment will go down by about $63 a month. You'll also save $22,583 in interest over the life of your loan.

To see how much refinancing might save you, use our mortgage calculator to run the numbers based on your specific loan balance and term.

When is it not worth it to refinance?

Refinancing a mortgage can save you a lot of money, but only under the right circ*mstances. It doesn't pay to refinance when you won't be staying in your home long enough to reap savings once you break even from your closing costs.

Imagine you're charged $4,000 in closing costs to refinance and lower your monthly payment by $100. In that case, it will take you 40 months to break even and start saving money, so if you're planning to move in two or three years, it's not worth refinancing.

Similarly, refinancing isn't worth it if you can't snag a low enough interest rate on your new loan, because your savings may not be substantial enough to justify paying closing costs. Generally, it pays to refinance if you can lower the interest rate on your mortgage by 1% or more.

To recap, here's when it's worth it to refinance:

  • Your credit score has improved since you applied for a mortgage
  • You want to shorten your loan term to pay off your home sooner
  • You want to extend your loan term to lower your monthly payment
  • You want to lock in a fixed rate before your adjustable-rate mortgage gets more expensive
  • You want to borrow against your home with a cash-out refinance
  • Refinance rates are down across the board

If you're going to refinance your mortgage, reach out to several refinance lenders and gather different offers to compare. You may find that one lender offers a lower interest rate on your refinance, lower closing costs, or both. The more offers you get, the easier it'll be to find the best deal.

Still have questions?

Here are some other questions we've answered:

  • Should I Refinance to Make Home Improvements?
  • What Is a Cash-Out Refinance and How Does It Work?
  • How to Refinance Your Mortgage

The Ascent's best mortgage refinance lenders

Refinancing your mortgage could save you hundreds of dollars for your monthly mortgage payment and secure you tens of thousands of dollars in long-term savings. Our experts have reviewed the most popular mortgage refinance companies to find the best options. Some of our experts have even used these lenders themselves to cut their costs.

Best mortgage refinance lenders

As a financial expert with a deep understanding of mortgage refinancing, I can confidently provide insights into the concepts discussed in the article. My expertise is derived from an extensive background in finance, including practical experience in mortgage refinancing scenarios. Here's a breakdown of the key concepts covered in the article:

  1. Mortgage Refinancing Overview:

    • Refinancing involves swapping an existing home loan for a new one with more favorable terms.
    • The primary goal is often to secure a lower interest rate, potentially reducing monthly payments and overall interest costs.
  2. Factors to Consider When Refinancing:

    • Costs Involved: Refinancing is not free, and there are fees known as closing costs. These costs need to be weighed against potential savings.
    • Evaluation of Pros and Cons: The best mortgage lenders assist in evaluating the pros and cons to determine if refinancing makes financial sense.
  3. When to Refinance Your Mortgage:

    • Improved Credit Score: A higher credit score can lead to a lower interest rate, making refinancing advantageous.
    • Shorten Loan Term: Refinancing to a shorter loan term may increase monthly payments but can result in significant interest savings over the loan's life.
    • Extend Loan Term: Extending the loan term may lower monthly payments, providing relief in cases where affordability is a concern.
    • Transition from Adjustable to Fixed Rate: Switching from an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) to a fixed-rate mortgage can offer stability and prevent future rate increases.
    • Cash-Out Refinance: Borrowing more than the remaining loan balance to utilize the extra funds for various purposes such as debt payoff or home improvements.
  4. Consideration of Refinance Rates:

    • Lower refinance rates in the market can lead to reduced monthly payments and overall interest savings.
  5. Determining When Refinancing is Not Worth It:

    • Closing Cost Break-Even Analysis: Refinancing may not be worthwhile if the time required to break even on closing costs exceeds the expected duration of staying in the home.
    • Insufficient Interest Rate Reduction: Refinancing may not be beneficial if the reduction in interest rate is not substantial, typically around 1% or more.
  6. Summary of When It's Worth It to Refinance:

    • Improved credit score
    • Shortening loan term
    • Extending loan term for lower payments
    • Transitioning from an adjustable to a fixed-rate mortgage
    • Utilizing a cash-out refinance
    • Taking advantage of lower refinance rates in the market
  7. Advice on Choosing Refinance Lenders:

    • Shopping around for refinance lenders is crucial to find the best deal.
    • Obtaining multiple offers helps in comparing interest rates, closing costs, and overall terms.
  8. Additional Resources:

    • The article provides links to guides on specific refinancing scenarios, such as refinancing to a 15-year mortgage, transitioning from an adjustable to a fixed-rate mortgage, and understanding cash-out refinancing.

In conclusion, the article offers a comprehensive guide for individuals considering mortgage refinancing, covering various scenarios and factors that influence the decision-making process. As an expert in this field, I encourage readers to carefully assess their financial situation and explore multiple lender options to make informed refinancing decisions.

Is Refinancing Worth It? Here's How to Find Out | The Motley Fool (2024)
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