Refinancing your mortgage is a great way to save money. As both a real estate investor and homeowner, I’ve refinanced mortgages about ten times in the last ten years. My wife and I are in the process of refinancing our mortgage on our primary residence now, for the second time in 12 months.
Through this process, including one failed attempt at a refi, I’ve learned a lot about how the process works. I’ve learned that it’s easy to mess up a home refinance. So, with that in mind, here are seven ways to wreck your next mortgage refinance.
Failing to Shop Around for the Best Rates
While home mortgage rates typically fall within a tight range from one bank to the next, they can and do vary. Even a small variance of 25 basis points can have a significant financial impact over the course of a 15 or 30-year mortgage. It’s important to compare mortgage rates before locking in a loan.
Failing to Consider Fees
Costs are a critical component in determining whether it makes sense to refinance a mortgage. In some cases, banks will attempt to make their rates look very attractive by adding in significant costs to the loan. As a result, make sure you keep a close eye on the fees charged for the loan. Fortunately, costs for different loans are easy to compare because banks are required to provide you with a “Good Faith Estimate” that itemizes all of the costs of the loan.
Neglecting Your Credit Score
Your FICO credit score plays a significant role in determining the interest rate you can get. As a general rule, a FICO score in the mid to high 700’s will secure the lowest mortgage rates available, so long as you otherwise qualify for the loan. As your credit score goes down, however, the interest rates can rise significantly. If your credit is less than stellar, you should considering improving your FICO score before refinancing your mortgage if at all possible.
Acquiring More Credit During the Refinance
I learned this one the hard way. During our current refinance, we applied for and obtained a new credit card. While this did not scuttle our loan application, it required significant documentation about the new card and any balances on the card. In some cases, new credit or debt obtained after you have been approved for the loan could wreck the refinance. Avoid new credit if at all possible, and at a minimum, discuss the issue with your bank or mortgage broker before applying.
Ignoring Your Savings Account
I was surprised by how much money we need to have available for closing. While the fees for our loan are minimal, we are required to bring enough cash for prepaid items (insurance and taxes), as well as interest on the loan from the date of closing to the end of the month. These items can easily add up to several thousand dollars and banks are required to document where you obtained the cash for closing. In our case, they required a copy of our most recent bank statement along with an explanation of the source of any large deposit. As a result, it’s important to maintain sufficient savings to handle the closing costs.
Changing Jobs During the Refinance
Sometimes we have no choice but to change jobs and in some cases, an opportunity comes along that’s too good to pass up. If you are in the middle of a refinance, keep in mind that a new job will, at a minimum, add a lot of documentation requirements to your loan. If you can hold off until closing, that’s ideal. Otherwise, like taking on new credit, speak to your mortgage broker about the situation.
This is my term for those that refinance their house repeatedly. Having refinanced our house twice in 12 months, one could easily accuse us of committing this sin (a 30-year fixed rate south of 4% was too hard to pass up!). The key to remember, however, is that refinancing back into a 30-year mortgage adds a lot of time and interest to your mortgage. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself at the doorstep of retirement with a hefty mortgage still remaining on your home. One alternative is to refinance into a 15 or 20-year mortgage if you can handle the payments. You can compare the differences between a 15 and 30-year mortgage here.
We stuck with a 30-year mortgage, but my wife has informed me that it’s the last time she is agreeing to a refinance. I sure hope rates don’t go below 3 percent!
This article comes from Rob Berger, the founder of the popular personal finance blog, the Dough Roller, and credit card comparison site, Credit Card Offers IQ.