Are There Any Downsides to Refinancing Your Mortgage?

Kirk Haverkamp
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Kirk Haverkamp
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Reasons Not to Refinance Your Home

Refinancing your home is not always the best option. Your personal situation should be the biggest factor to consider. Some reasons not to refinance your home are:

  • You Do Not Plan To Stay in Your Home For Long

When you are considering refinancing your home, one of the major things to note is how long it takes to recover the new loan closing costs. This is known as the break-even period. It is after this period that you start to save money on your new mortgage. You need to know the closing costs and the interest rate on your new loan to calculate the break-even point. If you plan on moving before the break-even period ends, refinancing your property is not a good option for you. 

  • You Can't Afford Closing Costs

If you cannot afford to pay the closing costs out of pocket, it is not a good idea to refinance your mortgage. There is an option to add the closing costs to your loan and pay it back monthly. Doing this could make your monthly payments so high that you don’t end up making any savings.

  • Higher Long-term Costs

Consider what the long-term cost of refinancing is if most of the payment you've made on your 30-year mortgage covers the interest. Refinancing into a shorter-term mortgage could increase your monthly payments and make it unaffordable for you. Refinancing into another 30-year mortgage would reduce your monthly payment, but the long-term cost could remove any savings you hope to make.

Pros and Cons of Refinancing Your Home

Pros

When you refinance, you are likely to get a lower interest rate. This would result in lower monthly mortgage payments. You can move from a longer-term loan to a shorter-term loan. If rates are low, you can reduce your interest payments.

Also, you can finish paying off your loan faster and be free of debt sooner. By making monthly mortgage payments over time and making improvements to your home, you build up equity. By refinancing your home, you may be able to pull money from the equity you have built.

Cons

Your long-term savings on refinancing your home may be very little or nonexistent. This could happen if you're refinancing into a longer-term loan, or the closing costs on your new loan are more than you can afford right now. Refinancing your home can take a lot of time. It can be a stressful process, and the savings you make may not be worth it.

Refinancing into a shorter-term loan could result in higher monthly mortgage payments. Although you may be able to afford this now, you cannot tell what your finances would look like in the future. Mortgage refinancing can lower your credit score in a variety of ways. The first of these results from the lenders checking your credit score and credit history, the hard inquiry. This can lower your credit score slightly for a short period. Your credit score can also reduce because you are paying off long-standing credit with a new one.

FAQs

Refinancing can be a good or bad idea. This depends on your situation. You should compare the costs to the benefits to determine if it works for you.

Refinancing can be a bad idea if you are planning on changing houses soon, if you cannot afford to pay the closing costs out of pocket or if the long-term costs are more than the savings possible.

Yes, refinancing your home can affect your credit. This can be from the hard inquiry triggered by your lender closing your old, longer credit for a new one or if you do multiple refinancings within a short period.

Refinancing can be a very stressful and expensive process. The cost can outweigh and potential benefits. It can also hurt your credit and make you ineligible for new loans.

You can take advantage of lower interest rates. You can switch to a more affordable, longer term payment plan. You can also take out cash from the equity you've built.

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There are a lot of advantages to refinancing your mortgage. But what about the downsides? Are there any disadvantages borrowers need to be aware of before taking out that new loan?

As with most decisions in life, there are both positives and negatives to refinancing a mortgage. Even with interest rates as low as they are right now, there are still potential pitfalls to avoid. Fortunately, most of these can be avoided by choosing the right mortgage - only a few are outright deal-breakers.

Here are some of the main things to look out for.

Cost

The number one downside to refinancing is that it costs money. What you're doing is taking out a new mortgage to pay off the old one - so you'll have to pay most of the same closing costs you did when you first bought the home, including origination fees, title insurance, application fees and closing fees.refinance cost

These days, you'll likely have to pay for a new appraisal as well, since most homes have declined in value over the past few years and the new lender will be unwilling to loan you more than the property is worth - they'd rather leave that burden on your current lender!

Refinancing will generally cost you from 2 - 6 percent of the amount borrowed, depending on where you live, though most borrowers tend to pay toward the lower end of that range. The key then, is to make sure you're saving enough by refinancing to make the transaction worthwhile.

Not saving enough

So how do you know if you're saving enough by refinancing? If you can recover your closing costs in a reasonable time. If your new mortgage rate is only half a percentage point lower than the old one, it might take 7-10 years to recoup the costs of refinancing. The general rule of thumb is that you want to save a full percent or more to make refinancing worthwhile, depending on how much your closing costs were.

The way to tell if you're saving enough is by calculating your "break-even point" – how long it will take your savings from a lower mortgage rate to exceed your closing costs. You can use a refinance break-even calculator to determine how long this would be.

You generally want to be able to recoup your costs within five years or so. Many homeowners relocate after 5-7 years in the same property, so if you move before you reach the break-even point, you won't recover your refinance costs. But if you expect to stay in the home for a long time, you can allow more time to reach your break-even point.

Stretching it out

If you've had a 30-year mortgage for a number of years, you probably don't want to refinance your home into a new 30-year loan. That might lower your monthly payments, but it also postpones the day you own your home free and clear. And because of the way compounding interest works, it could cost you more over the long term, even if you reduce your mortgage rate in the process.

It's better to choose a 15-, 20- or 25-year term that more closely matches the time you have left on your original home loan.  And since shorter-term loans have lower mortgage rates, you can often chop a few years off your loan without increasing your monthly payment.

A "no-cost" refinance could cost you

Some mortgage lenders advertise what they call a "no-cost" refinance, where there are no separate charges for closing costs. But a no-cost refinance isn't free; the lender charges a higher mortgage rate to compensate.

A no-cost refinance can be attractive if you're short on cash and don't want to pay your closing costs out of pocket. But over time, that higher interest rate adds up.

A no-cost refinance might be advantageous if you expect to sell the home or refinance within a few years.  But over 10-30 years, you'll likely pay a lot more in mortgage interest than you'd save in closing costs.  So keep that in mind. Use a mortgage calculator to figure how much more you'd be paying in interest every year and how long it would take that to exceed the closing costs you'd save.

 

Getting too aggressive

Refinancing to a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage can be attractive, with their very low rates and the prospect of paying off your mortgage much faster. However, a shorter term also means paying more in principle each month, which can significantly increase your payments. Don't bite off more than you can chew.

 

Refinancing too often

When mortgage rates are falling, borrowers sometimes fall victim to the temptation to chase after ever-lower rates, refinancing each time rates drop by a quarter or half a percentage point. And each time, they pay a new round of closing costs that eats into or even exceeds their savings from refinancing. As mentioned above, a good rule of thumb is to wait until rates have fallen at least a full percentage point below your current rate before refinancing.

Don't rush with this. It's paramount to wait a little longer to get the best deal as the savings made will be far greater. 

Moving on too soon

There's not much point in refinancing a home you're planning to move in a few years. The same is true for when you've only got a few years of payments left on your mortgage.

moving too soonIf moving to a new home is part of your intermediate-range plans, you may not be in the current one long enough to see much of a gain from refinancing. If it's going to take four years to reach your break-even point (the point where your accumulated savings in interest exceed your closing costs) and you expect to move in about five, you have to wonder if refinancing would be worthwhile.

Similarly, if you've only got a few years left on your existing mortgage, you might not save that much in mortgage interest even with the best refinance rates. The share of your monthly mortgage payment that goes toward interest falls rapidly in the latter years of your loan, so the potential savings are reduced as well.

Note that these are for situations where you refinance to reduce your mortgage rate; there might still be advantages to a cash-out refinance or refinancing to extend your term and reduce your payments in such situations.

 

Don't be intimidated

Refinancing is a process that can seem intimidating to some people, but it needn't be - if anything, it's simpler than taking out the original mortgage you used to buy the home. But basically, as long as you can lower your mortgage payment enough to recoup your costs in a reasonable time and avoid the other pitfalls above, it's a sound and straightforward financial move to make.

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