August 30, 2012

Introduction to Mortgage Refinancing

Life is about trading up. Climbing the corporate ladder, upgrading out of that clunker you drove in college, and moving out on your own-all these involve trading in one situation for a better one. You can trade-up mortgages, too.
A mortgage refinance is the process of taking out a new loan, and using the proceeds to pay off your old one. Generally, you'd do this to make a change in the structure of your debt in order to get more money, a lower monthly payment, or a shorter pay-off schedule.

Why should you Refinance?
You'd trade-up your mortgage for the same reason that you'd trade-up your job, car, or living arrangement-because circumstances change. What you need out of a mortgage today may be different from what you needed five years ago. Refinancing can achieve one or more of the following objectives: 

1. Lower your monthly payment. You can reduce your monthly payment by refinancing to a lower interest rate. Have market rates dropped since your old mortgage was funded? Has your credit improved? Has your home increased in value? Any one of these happenings could mean that you'd qualify for a lower rate. 

2. Shorten your pay-off term. Paying off your mortgage loan in 15 years rather than in 25 can save you tens of thousands of dollars in interest over the life of the loan. If you can afford the higher monthly payment and plan to stay in the home indefinitely, it's well worth it. 

3. Optimize your loan structure. Your current loan structure may no longer be suitable for you in the future. Maybe you bought your home with an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) and your initial fixed-interest period is about to expire. Perhaps you have a fixed-rate mortgage, but you'd like to take advantage of the more flexible option ARM. Discuss your objectives with your lender to determine the most appropriate loan structure for you. 

4. Consolidate your debt. If you're carrying a lot of credit card debt, you can lower your monthly repayments through consolidation. To do this, you'd take out a mortgage loan large enough to pay off all the debts on your cards plus the balance on your old mortgage. 

5. Fund large, one-time expenses. You can raise the funds you need by doing what's called a cash-out refinance, where you'd take out a loan that's larger than your current one. As soon as you pay off the old loan, the excess funds can be used to pay for home improvement projects, college tuition, your daughter's wedding, long-term care expenses, etc. 

Essentially, your mortgage is a financial tool that might need occasional sharpening. As life throws you new circumstances, trading up that mortgage may be one way to manage change.

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