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Refinance or Not

Is Refinancing Worth It?

Refinancing can be worthwhile, but it does not make good financial sense
for everyone. A general role of thumb is that refinancing becomes worth
your while if the current interest rate on your mortgage is at least 2
percentage points higher than the prevailing market rate. This figure is
generally accepted as the safe margin when balancing the costs of
refinancing a mortgage against the savings.

There are other considerations, too, such as how long you plan to stay
in the house. Most sources say that it takes at least three years to
realize fully the savings from a lower interest rate, given the costs of
the refinancing. (Depending on your loan amount and the particular
circumstances, however, you might choose to refinance a loan that is
only 1.5 percentage points higher than the current rate. You may even
find you could recoup the refinancing costs in a shorter time.)

Refinancing can be a good idea for homeowners who:

  • Want to get out of a high interest rate loan to take advantage of
    lower rates. This is a good idea only if they intend to stay in the
    house long enough to make the additional fees worthwhile.
  • Have an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) and want a fixed-rate loan
    to have the certainty of knowing exactly what the mortgage payment
    will be for the life of the loan.
  • Want to convert to an ARM with a lower interest rate or more
    protective features (such as a better rate and payment caps) than
    the ARM they currently have.
  • Want to build up equity more quickly by converting to a loan with a
    shorter term.
  • Want to draw on the equity built up in their house to get cash for
    a major purchase or for their children's education.

If you decide that refinancing is not worth the costs, ask your lender
whether you may be able to obtain all or some of the new terms you want
by agreeing to a modification of your existing loan instead of a


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