Deciding to Refinance
Traditionally, the decision on whether or not to refinance has meant balancing the savings of a lower monthly payment against the costs of refinancing. But in recent years, companies have introduced "no cost" and low cost refinancing packages that minimize or completely eliminate the out-of-pocket expenses of refinancing. (These refinancing packages compensate with a higher interest rate, or by including some of the costs in the amount that is financed.)
With traditional refinancing, the most often cited rule of thumb is that the interest rate for your new mortgage must be about 2 percentage points below the rate of your current mortgage for refinancing to make sense. However, with the newer low and no cost refinancing programs, it can be worth your while to refinance to obtain a smaller reduction in interest rates.
How long you expect to stay in your home is also a factor to consider. If you'll be moving in a few years, the month to month savings may never add up to the costs that are involved in a refinance.
When you're making your decision, there are several things to keep in mind:
First, if your current interest rate is significantly higher than today's lowest rates, you may be able to roll your loan costs into the loan and still get a lower rate than you have today, thereby reducing your interest payments and saving money immediately.
Second, if you are planning to stay in your home for at least three to five years, it may make sense to pay "points" (a point equals 1% of the loan amount) and closing costs to get the lowest available rate.
And third, you can avoid laying out cash and still get a low rate by adding the points and closing costs to your new mortgage. Does that mean shouldering a lot of extra debt? Not necessarily. If you've had your current mortgage for at least three years, you've probably reduced your balance by several thousand dollars. So you may be able to tack your closing costs onto your new loan and still end up with a mortgage that's smaller than your original one — plus, of course, a lower rate and lower monthly payment.
When to Refinance