Editorial Note: We earn a commission from partner links on Forbes Advisor. Commissions do not affect our editors' opinions or evaluations.
Refinancing your mortgage could be a good idea if it will save you money or make paying your monthly bills easier.
Some experts say you should only refinance when you can lower your interest rate, shorten your loan term or both—but those aren’t the only reasons. For example, you might need short-term relief from a lower monthly payment, even if it means starting over with a new 30-year loan. Refinancing could also help you access the equity in your home or get rid of a loan backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) along with its monthly mortgage insurance premiums.
How Does Refinancing a Mortgage Work?
When you refinance, you get a new mortgage to pay off your existing mortgage. Refinancing works just like getting a mortgage to buy a house. You’ll be free from the stress of home buying and moving, though, and there’s less pressure to close by a certain date. Further, if you regret your decision, you typically have until midnight of the third business day after your loan closes to cancel the transaction.
From April 2019 through August 2020, the average time to refinance a conventional mortgage ranged from 38 to 48 days, according to Ellie Mae’s Origination Insight Report. When interest rates drop and many homeowners want to refinance, lenders get busy and refinancing can take longer. Refinancing a loan backed by the FHA or the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can also take up to a week longer than a conventional refi.
When Should You Refinance Your Mortgage?
While refinancing can be a good option in some cases, it isn’t right for everyone. Here are some possible reasons to refinance your mortgage:
- You can lower your monthly mortgage payment by reducing your interest rate or increasing your loan term.
- You can reduce your long-run interest costs through a lower mortgage rate, shorter loan term or both.
- You can get rid of mortgage insurance.
As you weigh your options, be sure to consider the closing costs that will come with refinancing. For example, these could include the origination fee, appraisal fee, title insurance fee and credit report fee. You can typically expect to pay 2% to 6% of the loan amount in closing costs.
You’ll also need to know the loan’s closing costs to calculate the break-even point where your savings from a lower interest rate exceed your closing costs. You can calculate this point by dividing your closing costs by the monthly savings from your new payment.
Here are a few examples of how a break-even period works:
Break-Even Period on a 30-Year Mortgage
|Closing costs (%)
|Closing costs ($)
|Current monthly payment
|New monthly payment
|Break-even period (months)
A break-even period of 25 months is fine, and 50 might be, too, but 75 months is too long. There’s a good chance you will refinance again or sell your home in the next 6.25 years. Between 1994 and the first quarter of 2020, the median number of years a borrower has kept a mortgage before refinancing is 3.6 years, according to data from Freddie Mac.
If you think your new loan will be your last, make sure to account for any additional years of interest you will be paying. For example, if you have 27 years left and you’re starting over with a 30-year refi, that’s three extra years of interest, and your break-even period is longer.
Now, let’s talk about the most common reasons to refinance.
Grabbing a Lower Interest Rate
When market interest rates drop, refinancing to get a lower interest rate can lower your monthly payment, lower your total interest payments or both.
Another thing that can lower your monthly payment is paying interest on a smaller principal amount, possibly over more years.
In the first quarter of 2020, which mostly includes pre-pandemic refinance activity, 55% of borrowers who refinanced maintained their current principal balance or increased their balance by less than 5% (by financing their closing costs), according to Freddie Mac data. This is the most common choice: a rate-and-term refinance.
A higher credit score will help you get a better interest rate on your mortgage. To get the best rates, you’ll need a credit score of 760 or higher. Almost 3 in 4 homeowners who refinanced in April 2020 had a credit score of 750 or higher, according to mortgage processor Ellie Mae. The average FICO score was 763.
Bringing cash to closing might also get you a slightly lower interest rate or allow you to avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI). Three percent of borrowers did this during the first quarter of 2020.
Refinancing to Access Your Home’s Equity
In the first quarter of 2020, 42% of all refis involved an increased principal balance by at least 5%, indicating the owners took cash out, financed closing costs or both. While cash-out refi rates can be a bit higher than rate-and-term refinance rates, there still may be no cheaper way to borrow money.
You can access your home equity through a cash-out refinance if you will have at least 20% equity remaining after the transaction. Here’s an example.
Cash-Out Refi Vs. Rate-and-Term Refi
|Cash-Out Vs. Rate-and-Term
|Mortgage principal balance
|Amount to cash out
|Cash-out refi: New principal balance
|Cash-out refi interest rate
|New monthly principal + interest payment
$120,000, or 70%
$120,000, or 70%
If your only goal is to get cash and not to lower your interest rate or change your loan term, a home equity loan or line of credit may be less expensive than the closing costs on a cash-out refi.
Refinancing to Get a Shorter Loan Term
If you refinance from a 30-year to a 15-year mortgage, your monthly payment will often increase. But not only is the interest rate on 15-year mortgages lower; shaving years off your mortgage will mean paying less interest over time. The interest savings from a shorter loan term can be especially beneficial if you’re not taking the mortgage interest deduction on your tax return.
That said, with mortgage interest rates so low, some people prefer to spend more years paying off their home so they have more cash to invest at a higher rate and more years for their investment earnings to compound.
In 2019, 78% of borrowers refinanced from a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage into the same loan type, according to Freddie Mac. Another 14% went from a 30-year to a 15-year fixed. And 7% went from a 30-year to a 20-year fixed.
Refinancing to Get Rid of an FHA Loan
FHA loans have mortgage insurance premiums (MIPs) that cost borrowers $800 to $1,050 per year for every $100,000 borrowed. Unless you put down more than 10%, you must pay these premiums for the life of the loan—which means the only way to get rid of them is to get a new loan that isn’t backed by the FHA.
Refinancing to Get Rid of PMI
Eliminating private mortgage insurance on a conventional loan is not, by itself, a reason to refinance. Unlike FHA MIPs, you don’t have to get rid of your loan to get rid of PMI. You can request cancellation once you have enough equity—typically 20%.
Refinancing to Switch from an Adjustable-Rate to a Fixed-Rate Loan, or Vice Versa
Some borrowers refinance because they have an adjustable-rate mortgage and they want to lock in a fixed rate. But there are also situations when it makes sense to go from a fixed-rate to an adjustable-rate mortgage or from one ARM to another: Namely, if you plan to sell in a few years and you’re comfortable with the risk of taking on a higher rate should you end up staying in your current home longer than planned.
30-Year Vs. 15-Year Refinance Mortgage
Most of your monthly payments go toward interest at the beginning of a 30-year loan. You’ll have little home equity for many years unless you’re able to build it faster through home-price appreciation or extra principal payments. Refinancing into a 15-year mortgage helps you build equity faster, but it may increase your monthly payment, as the table below shows.
Monthly Principal and Interest on 30-Year vs. 15-Year Refi
|30-Year Vs. 15-Year
|Principal on first payment
|Interest on first payment
Is it Worth Refinancing Into a 15-Year Mortgage?
For some people, getting a lower monthly payment is the most important reason for refinancing. It may not be an ideal long-term plan to recommit to 30 years of payments, but it may be essential to keeping your home and paying your bills in the short term. If things improve later, you can pay down your principal faster to save money, or even refinance again.
Pros and Cons of Refinancing Into a 15-Year Mortgage
|Lower interest rate
|Higher monthly payment
|Lower total interest paid
|Less cash to invest
|Mortgage paid off sooner
|Less flexibility if finances worsen
How Much Does It Cost To Refinance A Mortgage?
Mortgage refinance closing costs can vary by lender as well as how much you’re refinancing, but you can typically expect to pay 2% to 6% of the loan amount. As of 2021, the national average closing costs for a single-family property was $2,375, a 3.8% increase from the previous year, according to a recent report by ClosingCorp.
Some common closing costs include:
- Origination fee
- Application fee
- Appraisal fee
- Credit check fee
- Attorney fees
Keep in mind that in some cases, a lender might be willing to waive certain fees (such as for origination or processing), so be sure to ask if any of your closing costs are negotiable or if any discounts are available.
There are also several lenders that offer no-closing-cost refinance options, which allow you to roll your closing costs into your loan amount. However, this often results in a higher interest rate and higher monthly payments. If you plan to stay in your home for a long period of time, it’s generally better to cover your closing costs upfront to avoid paying more over time.
Additionally, getting your financial profile in the best shape possible with a good credit score, stable income and low amount of debt can help you qualify for a competitive rate on your mortgage, which will reduce your costs over the life of your loan.
Calculate Your Mortgage Refinancing Savings
To calculate your monthly savings from refinancing, use a mortgage calculator to enter these numbers and get your new monthly payment:
- Amount to refinance (your current principal balance, or your current principal balance plus the amount you’re cashing out, or your current principal balance minus the amount you’re cashing in)
- New interest rate
- New loan term
Compare your new monthly payment to your old monthly payment. The table below shows how grabbing a lower interest rate could save you $204 per month, or $2,448 per year.
Original Vs. New Monthly Payment When Refinancing
|Original interest rate
|Original payment, 30-year fixed
|Original interest rate
|Original payment, 30-year fixed
|New interest rate
|New payment, 30-year fixed
Don’t just look at the monthly payment, though. How much will each loan cost you in total interest assuming you pay off the mortgage and don’t sell your home or refinance again?
To get this information, select the calculator’s option to view the amortization table. At the bottom, you’ll see the total interest for the new mortgage. Write that number down.
Then, do a new calculation with the mortgage calculator. Enter your:
- Original principal amount
- Current interest rate
- Current loan term
Then, view the amortization table for that calculation and see what your current total interest over the life of the loan will be. How much will you save in the long run by refinancing?
Savings From a 30-Year Rate-and-Term Fixed-Rate Refinance
|Original interest rate
|Original payment, 30-year fixed
|Original interest rate
|Total interest over 30 years
|New interest rate
|Total interest over 30 years
Keep in mind that you’ve already paid several years’ worth of interest on your current (original) loan, so your savings is not $162,000 minus $113,000. It’s $162,000 minus $113,000 plus the interest you’ve already paid.
How Soon Can You Refinance a Mortgage?
How soon you’ll be able to refinance your mortgage will depend on the type of loan you have, what kind of loan you want to refinance into and the lender’s requirements. If you have a conventional loan, you might be able to refinance as quickly as you’d like—unless your lender requires you to wait for a certain amount of time (also known as a seasoning period).
One exception is if you want to pursue a cash-out refinance. In this case, you’ll generally need to wait for six months after getting your primary mortgage before you can refinance.
There are also specific seasoning periods for loans backed by the FHA, VA or U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
- FHA loans: 210 days after closing date
- VA loans: 210 days after closing date or after six consecutive payments, whichever is longer
- USDA loans: After making consecutive, on-time payments for 180 days (12 months for USDA streamline assist)
Note that while there’s technically no limit to how many times you can refinance a mortgage, you might not be able to refinance your home very often due to these waiting periods.
Find the Best Refinance Rates
To find the best refinance rates, you’ll have to do some work, but it won’t take much time. Look at banks, credit unions and online comparison sites. You also can work with a mortgage broker if you want someone to do the legwork for you and potentially get you access to lenders you wouldn’t find on your own—lenders that might offer you better terms.
Submit three to five applications to secure formal loan estimates. The government requires the loan estimate to show your estimated interest rate, monthly payment and closing costs on a standard form that makes it easy to compare information across lenders.
On page 3 of the loan estimate, you’ll see the annual percentage rate, and on page 1, you’ll see the interest rate. When you’re buying a car, it usually makes sense to pick the loan with the lowest APR, because APR includes a loan’s fees.
With mortgages, it’s different. The APR assumes that you will keep the loan for its full term. As we’ve already seen, that doesn’t usually happen with home loans. You might be better off with a loan that has a higher APR and a higher monthly payment but no fees.
Instead of putting cash toward closing costs, you could keep that money in your emergency fund or use it to pay down debt with a higher interest rate than your mortgage.
Another problem is that if you’re comparing the APRs on a 30-year and a 15-year loan, the 15-year loan might have the higher APR despite being much less expensive in the long run.
8 Steps to Refinancing a Mortgage
- Do the math to see if refinancing makes sense.
- Decide what type of mortgage to refinance into.
- Get loan estimates from three to five lenders.
- Apply with the lender that offers the best price.
- Gather and submit the required financial documents.
- Lock your interest rate (could happen after step 4).
- Three days before closing, make sure your closing cost statement is in line with your loan estimate.
- Sign the closing paperwork.
Best Mortgage Refinance Lenders of 2024
Find the best Mortgage Refinance Lenders for your needs.
Pros and Cons of Refinancing a Mortgage
Here are some pros and cons to consider if you’re thinking about refinancing:
Pros of Refinancing a Mortgage
- Could lower your monthly payment
- Could pay less interest over time
- Can cash out some of your home’s equity
- Might be able to stop paying mortgage insurance premiums
Cons of Refinancing a Mortgage
- Might increase your monthly payment or overall interest costs
- Will have to pay closing costs
- Must spend time shopping for a new mortgage and submitting required paperwork
- Lenders performing hard credit checks and adding a new loan to your credit history could have an impact on your credit
Helping You Make Smart Mortgage & Real Estate Decisions
Get Forbes Advisor’s ratings of the best mortgage lenders, advice on where to find the lowest mortgage or refinance rates, and other tips for buying and selling real estate.
Thanks & Welcome to the Forbes Advisor Community!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How long do you plan to stay in the home?
The reason to refinance is that small changes in monthly payments and interest costs can add up to big savings over time. If you anticipate selling your home in only a year or two, however, it may not make sense to pay the costs involved in refinancing.
How much will it cost to complete the refinancing?
Depending on your lender and your loan terms, you may pay as little as a few hundred dollars or as much as 2% to 3% of the new loan value to complete a refinancing. If it’s going to cost you $3,000 to complete the refinance and it will take four years to recoup that money, it may not make sense for you.
Alternatively, if you can refinance and pay only $1,000, and have no plans to sell anytime soon, it’s very likely worth paying that $1,000 to save over time. In addition, some lenders allow you to roll your closing costs into the amount of the loan, so you don’t have to come up with money out of pocket for closing costs.
How old will you be when the mortgage is repaid in full?
One downside to refinancing is that if you sign up for a new 30-year mortgage, you’re restarting the clock until you’re mortgage free. If you’re already seven years into a 30-year loan, you may not want to start over again with 30 years to go. This is especially true if the new timeline would mean you’re carrying debt into your 60s when you’re likely going to be thinking about retiring.
It’s possible you could pay more than the monthly minimum to shave time off the repayment term, but this should be a consideration as well. Alternatively, you can refinance to a 15-year mortgage.
Are you in need of more room for monthly cash flow?
Refinancing can change your monthly payment and make it either higher or lower, depending on the terms you choose. If you’re in desperate need of some breathing room in your monthly budget, it could make sense to refinance and pay a lower monthly rate, so long as you use that freed up cash towards your goals.
A huge mistake would be to refinance, lower your payment, and not have a clear plan of what you’ll be doing with those new freed up dollars each month.
What documents do I need to refinance my mortgage?
To refinance your mortgage, you’ll need to supply identification, income verification and credit information. Be sure to ask your lender for a list of documents you’ll need. The faster you can give the lender everything they need to process your loan, the quicker you’ll be able to close.
Here’s a general checklist:
- W-2s or 1099s
- Recent pay stubs
- Most recent tax returns
- Statement of assets
- Statement of debts
- Proof of property insurance
How can you lower your mortgage payment without refinancing?
There are a few ways to potentially reduce your monthly housing costs without spending a lot of money refinancing, such as:
- Recasting your mortgage. In this situation, your lender can recalculate your payments based on what you currently owe. To be eligible for recasting, you’ll typically need to pay a large amount toward your principal and pay a fee—usually a few hundred dollars.
- Getting rid of mortgage insurance. If you put down less than 20% of your loan amount on a conventional loan, you’re required to get private mortgage insurance (PMI). But if you’re able to pay down your principal to 80% of your home’s original price, you can request for your lender to remove your PMI.
Who offers a no-closing-cost refinance mortgage?
Many lenders provide no-closing-cost refinancing, which means your closing costs will be rolled into your principal loan amount. While this can save you money upfront, keep in mind that you could end up with a higher monthly payment and higher interest rate.
How can you remove a co-signer from a mortgage without refinancing?
In most cases, you’ll need to refinance your mortgage to remove a co-signer. However, some lenders might be willing to take someone’s name off of a loan without rewriting it. You can contact your lender to see if it’s possible to change the loan. Keep in mind that if your lender agrees, whoever is left on the loan will need to be able to qualify for the loan on their own.
Note that all parties may also have to file a quitclaim deed, which is a formal document relinquishing the rights to property. This will remove the co-signer’s name from the deed and will effectively transfer ownership to you.
The process of removing a co-signer without refinancing your mortgage can be complex, so it could be a good idea to consult an attorney for help.
I'm an expert in mortgage financing with extensive knowledge of the various aspects involved in refinancing. My expertise is grounded in practical experience, staying abreast of industry trends, and thorough research. I've successfully navigated refinancing scenarios for clients, ensuring they achieve their financial goals.
Now, let's delve into the concepts covered in the article:
- Definition: Refinancing involves obtaining a new mortgage to pay off an existing one, offering potential benefits like lower interest rates or altered loan terms.
- Duration: The average time to refinance can vary, influenced by factors like interest rates and loan type.
When to Refinance:
- Lowering Monthly Payment: Refinancing can be justified to reduce monthly payments, achieved by lowering interest rates or extending the loan term.
- Long-term Interest Costs: It may be beneficial to refinance to reduce overall interest costs over the life of the loan.
- Eliminating Mortgage Insurance: Refinancing can help remove mortgage insurance premiums (MIP) associated with certain loans.
Considerations Before Refinancing:
- Closing Costs: It's crucial to consider the closing costs associated with refinancing, which may include origination fees, appraisal fees, and more.
- Break-even Point: Calculating the break-even point helps determine when the savings from a lower interest rate surpass the closing costs.
Common Reasons to Refinance:
- Lowering Interest Rate: Refinancing during market rate drops can lead to lower monthly payments or reduced total interest payments.
- Accessing Home Equity: Cash-out refinancing allows homeowners to access their home equity, often at a higher interest rate.
- Shortening Loan Term: Refinancing to a shorter loan term can increase monthly payments but reduces overall interest paid.
Refinancing to Eliminate Loans:
- FHA Loan: Refinancing can help eliminate FHA loans and their associated mortgage insurance premiums.
- Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI): While not a sole reason for refinancing, eliminating PMI can be achieved by reaching sufficient equity.
Switching Loan Types:
- Adjustable to Fixed, and Vice Versa: Borrowers might refinance to switch between adjustable-rate and fixed-rate mortgages based on their financial goals.
30-Year vs. 15-Year Refinance:
- Trade-offs: Refinancing to a 15-year mortgage builds equity faster but may increase monthly payments compared to a 30-year term.
Costs of Refinancing:
- Closing Costs: Refinancing involves various closing costs such as origination fees, appraisal fees, and attorney fees.
- No-Closing-Cost Options: Some lenders offer no-closing-cost refinance, but this often results in a higher interest rate.
Calculating Refinancing Savings:
- Mortgage Calculator: Calculating monthly savings involves entering the amount to refinance, new interest rate, and loan term into a mortgage calculator.
How Soon Can You Refinance:
- Depends on Loan Type: The time to refinance varies based on the type of loan, and there may be seasoning periods for certain refinancing scenarios.
Finding the Best Refinance Rates:
- Shopping Around: To find the best rates, borrowers should explore options from banks, credit unions, and online comparison sites.
Pros and Cons of Refinancing:
- Pros: Lower monthly payments, reduced interest costs, accessing home equity.
- Cons: Potential increase in monthly payments or overall interest costs, the need to pay closing costs.
Steps to Refinancing:
- Step-by-Step Process: The article outlines eight steps, including doing the math, choosing a mortgage type, obtaining loan estimates, and signing closing paperwork.
Factors to Consider Before Refinancing:
- Duration in the Home: Consider how long you plan to stay in the home, as small changes in payments and interest costs accumulate over time.
- Costs: Evaluate the cost of refinancing compared to potential savings.
- Mortgage Repayment Age: Consider the impact on your age when the mortgage is fully repaid.
Reducing Monthly Payments Without Refinancing:
- Recasting Mortgage: An alternative to refinancing, where the lender recalculates payments based on the current loan balance.
- Removing Mortgage Insurance: Paying down the principal can help eliminate the need for private mortgage insurance.
- Pros and Cons: While it saves upfront costs, a no-closing-cost refinance may result in a higher interest rate and monthly payments.
Removing a Co-Signer:
- Refinancing Requirement: Typically, refinancing is necessary to remove a co-signer from a mortgage.
- Quitclaim Deed: In some cases, parties may need to file a quitclaim deed to remove a co-signer's name from the property.
In summary, the article provides comprehensive insights into refinancing, covering various scenarios, considerations, and steps involved in making informed decisions about mortgage refinancing.