Sunday, 22 March 2009

Refinancing Your Home Mortgage

In the past 30 years, interest rates have ebbed and flowed significantly in a financial tide of home mortgage offerings. Near the beginning of the 1980s, for example, rates for traditional 30 year, fixed rate mortgages were around 18 percent. Right now, though, we're seeing rates for the same type of loan around 5 percent - and on some days recently, in the 4 percent range.

Many home owners who bought when rates were sky-high are now considering refinancing in order to reap the benefit of today's lower rates. If you're one of these people, know that there are some costs involved in refinancing your home, such as an appraisal, title insurance, and a loan origination fee, just to name a few. To figure out whether these costs will balance out with the potential money you can save by refinancing, you can use the general rule of thumb called the 2 percent rule. In plain English, this rule suggests that the percentage difference between the current rate you have on your loan and the new rate being offered should be at least 2 points. So, if you were one of those borrowers in the 1980s who got a rate in the teens (and you can get a rate now for around 5 percent), it would make pretty good sense to refinance.

I've included below 3 benefits for refinancing with a lower rate:

1) Lowering monthly payments - By lowering the rate of your loan, you can see a significant difference in your monthly mortgage payment. And, every little bit adds up. Some borrowers who refinance can save thousands of dollars over the course of their loan period. How much you save, though, completely depends on your numbers. So, be sure to talk with a mortgage specialist who can do the number crunching for you to see how much you can potentially save by refinancing.

2) Changing the type of loan you have - Some borrowers choose to refinance even if they won't save any money by doing so. Think of the many borrowers who got an adjustable rate mortgage. We're seeing a lot of these borrowers refinancing simply to switch to the fixed rate mortgages. Also, some borrowers who have a balloon worked into their mortgage choose to refinance when it's gets closer to the time to make that bulk payment.

3) Getting money from your equity - If you've been in your home for ten or more years, you probably have a good bit of equity due to the overall appreciation of your home (even with the current dip in home values) and to the fact that you've been making those monthly payments for some time. For this reason, some borrowers opt to pull money out when they refinance their mortgage in order to help with retirement or with their children's costs for college.

If you're considering refinancing your home, be sure to talk with a home loan professional - someone experienced in refinancing who can sit down with you and go over your numbers and the options available to you. And, know that each situation is different. Your lender should be able to go over short-term and long-term benefits (or consequences) that are specific to you and geared towards your financial future.

Lee Keadle specializes in the James Island SC real estate market, but he works with all Charleston homes for sale

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