Should You Refi?


EDITORS NOTE: This post was written back in 2008 and mortgage rates have obviously changed 🙂  If you would like a mortgage rate quote based on current rates for your home located in Washington state, click here.

Last week I did a quick alert on the 30 year fixed hitting high 4’s-low 5s and I received an excellent comment from Sandy:

“…With all the costs and everything of refinancing, how much lower do rates need to be than what you currently have, before it makes sense to think about refinancing? I am just curious, as we have a 30yr fixed loan that is in the low 5s.”

You would think this is a simple question with a simple answer.  There’s much more to it.  Here are some things to consider if you considering refinancing your mortgage:

How long do you plan on staying in your home?   There are cost to the mortgage even if you’re getting a “no cost mortgage” where the hard costs are actually financed into the interest rate.   If you cannot break even on the cost before you plan on selling or refinancing again (low 4’s to high 5’s would be unlikely), then refinancing for the purpose of reducing your rate may not make sense.

Do you have an Adjustable Rate Mortgage?  If you’re going to retain your property longer than the remaining fixed term on the ARM (adjustable rate mortgage), you may want to consider refinancing into a fixed mortgage.

Do you have private mortgage insurance or a second mortgage?   Sometimes if someone has pmi or a piggy back second mortgage, refinancing may make sense if the can restructure the existing mortgages into one and if the blended rate of their existing mortgages are higher than what the new mortgage would provide.

Do you have a Jumbo mortgage?  Depending on what your mortgage balance is and your current rate, it may make sense to restructure your mortgage into a conforming mortgage.  This can be done by paying down the mortgage at closing or using a second mortgage, such as a HELOC or fixed second.

Would you like access to your home equity?   Refinancing can provide cash for home improvements, college tuition, debt consolidation, or what ever else you wish to do with your equity.   Most cash out refinances are priced higher than a rate term refinance.

Are you getting a divorce or separation?  If you have a mortgage with another person and the relationship is dissolving; you will need to refinance in order to remove the one who’s not staying in the home from the mortgage.   Divorce decrees and Quit Claim Deeds do not remove someone’s liability from the mortgage.  Plus, it’s a huge risk for the person who is no longer staying in the home.   Refinancing to remove an ex-spouse from the mortgage and to cash out their equity is not priced as a “cash out” refinance–it’s treated as a rate term refi.

Are you concerned about your home value declining?  Refinances are priced based on loan to value and there are underwriting guidelines that limit how high a loan to value may be.  In “declining markets” lenders have additional restrictions on loan to value lending limits.

Here are some quick “Do’s and Don’ts” for your refinance:

  • Do get a good faith estimate from your Mortgage Professional.  If you have not heard from your Mortgage Professional since you closed your loan or over the past few months, you might need a new one (they could be out of the business).
  • Do not rely on a simple “rate quote” without knowing the costs involved.
  • Do complete a loan application and provide the information your Mortgage Professional needs to lock in your interest rate.
  • Do not try to “play the market” and get the lowest rate…it’s far too volatile in this climate.   If the rate makes sense, lock it!

Must reads:

Picking your next mortgage by rate shopping?   You might as well be playing liars poker.

I’m happy to adopt your ARM.  No refi required.



  1. Thanks Rhonda! Great response to my question! 🙂

    (Sounds like it probably does not make sense for us at this time, but we’ll continue to keep an eye on it.)

  2. It sounds like you have a great rate Sandy…you would not be the first person I’ve advised not to refi! 🙂

    Thanks for the great question.

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