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Ask the Expert: When do I Refinance My Home?

Home refinancing is a wonderful financial tool for homeowners to use for debt management to investments. If the home refinance is used correctly, wisely, and at the right time, the benefits from the refinance can improve the financial picture of the homeowner. There is no cookie cutter approach to refinancing. Each individual or family has their own unique set of circumstances. Here are some common questions homeowners often ask when they are considering refinancing.

What is the most critical question to ask myself when refinancing a home?

Is refinancing going to put you in a better position financially? Will refinancing reduce your monthly expenses, meet a critical family requirement, or improve your investment portfolio? If the answer is yes, it is probably a good time to refinance.

What is a cost benefit analysis?

This is a detailed account of the actual cost of refinancing and helps provide the best financial decision. Cost-benefit analysis analyzes the cost effectiveness of different alternatives in order to see whether the benefits outweigh the costs When you look at the actual costs of refinancing, determine how long it will take to recoup costs. Is it worth it? A qualified mortgage professional should review your alternatives and help you determine if the benefits outweigh the near and long term costs. The rule of thumb regarding the cost vs. benefit of refinancing is that you need a 1- 2% "spread" between your existing interest rate and today's current rates. Refinancing, No Cash-Out option can reduce your monthly mortgage payment or reduce the remaining term of your loan and thus probably save tens of thousands of dollars in interest over the long-run. Cash-Out withdraws cash (reduces equity) for home improvement, educational tuition, debt consolidation or for such purchases as a investment property or second home, auto, or other major purchase.

How often should I refinance?

Some people refinance frequently but a rule of thumb should be that you have held the property for one year. Refinancing allows the homeowner to use the home to conduct transactions that allow opportunities and possibly enhance the homeowner’s asset pool or reduce the financial short-term burden of the homeowner. How the homeowner approaches the refinance is critical to long-term financial net worth. If the homeowner is utilizing the home as a second checking account to payoff consumer debt, financial stability for future years is reduced through ineffective money management by reducing the homeowner’s equity. The ability for the consumer to build equity is in essence a long term subtle retirement plan for the homeowner.

What are some questions I can ask the mortgage company or the bank handling my refinancing?

The scope of financial knowledge a mortgage consultant or loan officer possesses matters in this transaction. This person should have a thorough knowledge of money and how it works. Begin by asking about their professional credentials. The best mortgage professionals will have formal business education, professional experience in the financial industry, and the institutional knowledge to place you in the right product. At Breakwater Mortgage in Virginia Beach, we select our mortgage consultants, loan officers, and loan originators based on strengths in these areas. Often lenders, banks, and other mortgage companies do not conduct a detailed review of potential employees that will handle your most important asset. Ask your mortgage professional why they are recommending a certain loan product to you. You should also feel free to ask personal questions such as: Do you own a home? What type of mortgage do you have? What is your credit score? The answers will reveal information about their money management. If you do not feel comfortable with your mortgage professional, research a qualified individual who will help you based on your needs. It’s worth it to take the time to find the right mortgage professional.

Does location of the home matter when considering refinancing?

Yes, it matters a great deal. Some real estate markets have reached their peak. Do not refinance at the top of the market. Research and see how quickly homes are selling in your area. Contact your local professionals regarding home values in your market. They will be able to give you their opinion, home comps, assessments of home value trends in your area. I recommend you leave 10-15% equity in your home when you refinance. A reputable mortgage broker or lender will recommend that you keep some equity in your home so you can sell your property if situations dictate.

Does the type of mortgage I have affect my refinancing decision?

Absolutely. Talk to a qualified mortgage professional first, before you make your decision. That person will help you compare your current mortgage rate/product to current market rates, available mortgage terms, and types of mortgages available based on your discussions. I look at mortgage products based on an indebt analysis of the clients needs. With that in mind, some general rules apply. If rates are falling, I would advise a homeowner to stay in their current loan until a 2% spread between their current loan and future refinance loan. If a client has a loan product that adjusts downward during a period of decreasing rates, I recommend they stay with that product until a projected rate increase period that will increase over a protracted period. When rates start to increase, and are projected to continue to increase, I would advise a homeowner with a loan product that adjusts, when rates adjust, to move towards a fixed mortgage product (7, 10, 15 or 20 year mortgage depending upon an individual’s situation). If the homeowner is geographically displaced due to employment, say five years or less, a long-term fixed mortgage is not the optimal product. If the homeowner plans to stay in a specific geographical area and in that same home for a long period of time, I’d recommend a long-term fixed rate product and possibly a home owner’s line of credit (HELOC) to supplement the homeowner’s financial decisions. With long-term mortgages a homeowner can still opt to pay more on the principal, reducing the term of the loan and interest costs.

What are economic indicators that bode well for refinancing?

A knowledgeable mortgage professional should understand economic indicators, and will be able to give you an accurate assessment on whether to refinance or not. Are interest rates rising or falling? With refinancing, timing is everything. If rates are falling and they are lower than your mortgage rate (a general rule is 1 – 2 % lower then your current fixed rate), it could be a good time to refinance. If not, it might be a better idea to sit tight and forgo refinancing for now.

About The Author

Jay R. Popejoy's educational background in financial and mortgage lending includes B.S. Degrees (Marketing/Business Education)and a M.B.A. program (current studies). Jay has 19 years of professional experience involving banking and finance, logistics management, civil affairs, and international development. Former and present employers include HSBC and Household/Beneficial Finance. Jay R. Popejoy is currently Managing Director of Breakwater Mortgage Corp. in Virginia Beach and Williamsburg, Virginia, and is a senior staff officer for the US Army (Army Logistics). E-mail jay@breakwatermortgage.com or visit http://www.breakwatermortgage.com for more informaiton.

Written by: Jay Popejoy

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