Refinancing your mortgage can lower your monthly payments and save money, but it’s important to review your circumstances carefully before doing so. According to a Zillow survey cited by the nonprofit American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC), many homeowners are misinformed about the refinancing process – nearly half incorrectly believe they must wait at least one year between refinancing, and one-fifth incorrectly believe underwater borrowers are not eligible for refinancing.
“Too many homeowners are unaware of the opportunities to refinance and save money,” says ACCC President and CEO Steve Trumble. “As people work through their careers and continue to increase their salary, they are more likely boost their credit score. With this increase in credit comes the ability to procure home loans at lower rates. A lower interest rate can have a significant effect on monthly mortgage payments, potentially saving homeowners hundreds of dollars a year.”
Before refinancing a home loan, ACCC advises homeowners to:
1. Beware of Increased Terms – Borrowers should be aware that increasing the term of the loan repayment means more payments and more interest paid. Borrowers can use an online home refinance calculator to help calculate monthly payments under these repayment plans.
2. Meet Qualifying Criteria – Before deciding to refinance, borrowers should be sure to meet all of the qualifications. To refinance, homeowners should have regular income, at least 10 to 20 percent equity in their homes, and a FICO credit score of 740 or better. Borrowers with scores as low as 620 can qualify for a Federal Housing Administration mortgage, which are available through banks, credit unions and other lenders.
3. Look at Short-Term Loans – If you’re not going to stay in your home for over 10 years, you should consider a hybrid loan that is fixed for 5, 7, or 10 years and then converts into a 1-year adjustable rate mortgage. These loans reduce the amount of interest paid, but if you stay beyond the fixed period, your rate could rise.
4. Know Your Options – Before refinancing, weigh your options. Compare monthly payments, interest savings, length of mortgage, refinancing costs, eligibility, etc. Speak with your current lender and see what types of options are available and let the lender know you are shopping around for the best deal.
All homeowners have their own unique and personal financial situation, but taking advantage of refinancing can be rewarding – particularly when consumers take the time to properly research and make educated decisions on the timeliness of their repayments.
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