I’m not a loan officer, I don’t work for the federal reserve, nor am I an expert in the mortgage industry, but I do learn from personal experience. The media tells us all about the homeowners underwater on their mortgage and unable to refinance, and they tell us about the new gov’t backed mortgage programs designed to help these borrowers. What they don’t tell us is how refinancing can help a ton of people that aren’t underwater, those with little or even lot’s of equity stand to benefit from an refinance just as well. I will explain about the types of borrowers that can benefit from seeking out refinance options and why.
An FHA mortgage is a very popular option today, mainly due to the lack of available cash for many people, and their desire to lock in a great rate on crop of cheap housing available right now. These types of mortgage only require 3.5% down payments, whereas a conventional mortgage requires you to put down a minimum of 20%. The catch is very simple, you pay an upfront MIP payment which can equal several thousand dollars, and then you pay a monthly insurance premium known as PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance). This insurance isn’t tax deductible, nor does it add to the equity in your home, rather it’s a premium you pay in order to purchase a home with less money down. Fortunately for many recent FHA borrowers the rules have changed! Instead of requiring 80% loan-to-value in order to rid yourself of PMI, the new rules only require 95%. On a $200,000 home the difference is $30,000, not a small amount by any means. I’m not advocating that you purchase a home without having the appropriate down payment, but if you currently have an FHA mortgage and have purchased your home within the past couple years then you may want to look into this. Home prices have stabilized, thus holding your equity in place, and rates have gotten even lower. By ridding your mortgage insurance payments, and lowering your interest rate, you could save hundreds on your mortgage payment each month.
Yes, FHA borrowers have two amazing reasons to refinance, lower rates, and ridding themselves of insurance payments. However, make no mistake here, the rates have dropped enough that a borrower with even 5% equity in their home can benefit from refinancing immensely. I bought my home less than two years ago and I locked in a rate of %5, and the rates are currently hovering around an average of 3.9%. A drop of just one percent can bring significant savings. Not to mention that many mortgage companies are willing to discount or forgo a majority of the closing costs to get your business. The cost of an home appraisal may be all that stands between you and savings hundreds of your hard earned dollars each month. If you are worried about wasting money on an appraisal do some research on your own first. Check out Zillow and Trulia for recent comparable home sales in your neighborhood, you will know if your expectations are in the ballpark or not.
All Other Homeowners
Whether you are an FHA or Conventional borrower is of little matter if you are having trouble making mortgage payments on your home. Granted a typical refinance that I’m referring to requires at least 5% equity in your home, but many in that position have still lost jobs or taken significant pay cuts and find themselves unable to keep up with payments. A refinance will allow you to not only take advantage of lower rates, but also to extend your loan back out to 30 years…which in effect will lower your payments even further. Again, I would never advocate extending the term of your debt, but I would certainly choose this option over losing your home.
You may also stand to benefit if you have the available cash to lower your mortgage term. For those homeowner with ample equity, and perhaps increased mobility in the workforce, then a lower term mortgage could save you thousands upon thousands in interest over the life of your loan. Refinancing a 30 year mortgage with say 25 years left, into a 10 or 15 year mortgage can bring significant savings in the long run. Just make sure you have the available funds as the monthly payment will skyrocket from its current amount.
As imperfect of a measurement as 10-year treasury bond yields are, they are the best barometer we have for gauging the movement of mortgage rates. If we follow this methodology then it appears that rates could fall even lower in 2012, however, being adverse to gambling with my personal finances I am happy to take a signifcant rate cut right now, plus the savings begin now rather than later.