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10 Questions To Ask When Refinancing

7-minute read

It’s important to choose the right lender when you refinance your mortgage loan. The lender you choose will determine which products are available, your interest rate and more. But which lender is right for you?

You’ll have an easier time choosing the lender that best fits your needs when you know which questions to ask. Below, we’ll answer 10 questions you might want to know before you apply for a refinance.

What Types Of Loans Do You Offer?

There are multiple types of home loans. Some of the most common mortgage loan types you might see include: 

  • Conventional loan: The most common type of loan, conventional loans usually conform to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s guidelines.
  • USDA loan: USDA loans are government-backed loans that allow you to buy a home in a qualifying rural or suburban area.
  • VA loan:VA loans are government-backed loans for members of the armed forces, veterans and qualifying surviving spouses.
  • FHA loan: FHA loans are government-backed loans with looser income and credit requirements.

It’s beneficial in some instances to refinance your current loan into a different loan type. For example, many homeowners who have an FHA loan refinance to a conventional mortgage when they reach 20% equity in their property. This allows them to get rid of the mortgage insurance requirement on FHA loans. But not every lender can issue every type of loan.

Know your loan type and ask your lender which types of loans they offer. Ask which types of loans would qualify for a refinance as well. This will help you get the most for your money and set you up for payment success.

What Types Of Refinances Are There?

There are different types of refinances. The two most common are:

  • Rate and term refinances: Your mortgage rate is the percentage you pay in interest on your loan. Your mortgage term is the length of time you must make payments on your loan. As the name suggests, a rate and term refinance changes the rate and term of your mortgage loan. For example, you can refinance a 15-year mortgage to a 30-year term. When you refinance your rate or term, your monthly payment changes without changing your principal balance.
  • Cash-out refinance: A cash-out refinance allows you to accept a higher loan balance in exchange for taking cash out of your home equity. For example, let’s say you have a $100,000 principal balance on your loan and you want to pay off $20,000 worth of credit card debt. A cash-out refinance would allow you to take out a loan worth $120,000 and your lender would give you $20,000 in cash.

Ask your lender about the types of refinances they offer. Then ask about the benefits and drawbacks of each.

See how much cash you could get from your home.

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What Do I Need To Qualify For A Refinance?

Every lender has their own standards that you must meet to qualify for a refinance. Ask your lender what standards you must meet in the following areas:

  • Credit score: Your credit score is a three-digit number that represents your experience managing credit and loans. Your lender should be able to tell you the minimum credit score you need to qualify for each type of loan.
  • Debt-to-income (DTI) ratio: Your DTI is a percentage that tells your lender how much of your money goes to regular, recurring expenses. You’re less likely to have savings and more likely to miss a mortgage payment if you have a high DTI. Your lender should be able to show you how to calculate your DTI and tell you the maximum DTI you need by loan type.
  • Home equity: Your home equity is the percentage of your loan principal that you’ve paid off. Most lenders require that you have at least some equity in your home before you can refinance. Your lender should be able to tell you how to figure out your current home equity as well as how much equity you need to qualify for a refinance.

What’s The Difference Between Interest Rate And APR?

The terms “interest rate” and “APR” are often used interchangeably. However, the truth is that these rates aren’t actually the same thing.

Your interest rate is the base percentage that you pay on your loan. Your annual percentage rate (APR) is your interest rate plus any applicable fees and closing costs associated with the loan. When you see two percentages listed side by side, the APR will always be the higher number. This means you should focus on finding the lenders that offer the lowest APRs on comparable rates for the same loan programs.

Do You Offer Rate Locks?

Mortgage interest rates change on a daily basis and can vary wildly depending on how the market is moving. Though refinances take less time than getting your first loan, they still don’t close in a day. A rate lock allows you to lock in your interest rate and keep the same rate while your lender closes your loan. This can protect you against changes in market interest rates and keep your loan predictable.

Ask your lender if they offer rate locks. If they do, ask how long you can lock your rate for and if locks are free. You should also ask about the cost to extend your rate lock if your refinance takes longer than expected.

How Will This Refinance Affect My Monthly Payment?

The type of refinance you choose will affect your monthly mortgage payment. Your monthly payment will go down if you refinance to a lower APR and keep your term the same. If you refinance to a longer term your monthly payment will go down, but you’ll pay more in interest over time. If you refinance to a shorter term your monthly payment will increase, but you’ll own your home sooner.

Your monthly payment usually increases when you take a cash-out refinance. However, if your refinance leaves you with less than 20% equity in your property, you may have to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI). PMI is a special type of protection that insures your lender if you happen to default on your loan. This can add considerable dollars to your monthly payment, so make sure your lender tells you if they have a PMI requirement.

Ask your lender how the refinance you’re considering will affect your monthly payment. Your lender should be able to take a look at your loan details and give you a close estimate of what you’ll pay monthly.

Will You Sell My Loan?

Not every mortgage lender services your loan in-house. Most lenders sell the loans they close on to ensure that they have enough cash flow to continue to offer loans. Some lenders sell the loans they close but retain the servicing (meaning you’ll make your payment to them each month).

You should work with a refinance lender who will service your loan in-house if at all possible. This makes it easier to get in contact with your lender if you have a question or concern about your loan.

How Much Equity Can I Cash Out?

You can’t cash out 100% of your home equity except in rare circumstances. Most lenders require that you leave between 10% – 20% of your equity in your property. This can affect your refinancing goals. For example, let’s say that you have $20,000 worth of equity in your home and $18,000 worth of credit card debt to cover. You may want to pay off all of your credit card debt with a cash-out refinance, and if so, you need to find a lender who will allow you to cash out 90% of your equity.

Ask your lender how much of your available equity you can cash out with a refinance. Compare your lender’s percentage to the current equity in your home and see if it’s enough to accomplish your goals. You may want to consider a different lender if you can’t cash out enough equity to pay off your debt or complete the project you want to fund. You can also wait through a few more monthly payments until you have the right amount of equity.

What Types Of Closing Costs Can I Expect?

You must pay closing costs to your lender when you finalize your refinance, just like when you got your original loan. The specific closing costs you’ll pay vary depending on where you live and the lender you choose.

The average refinance has closing costs that are equal to about 2% – 3% of the total value of the loan. Ask your lender what closing costs you’ll likely be responsible for. You should also ask your lender if you have the option to roll your closing costs into your loan’s principal.

What Is A Closing Disclosure?

Just like when you got your original mortgage loan, you’ll receive a Closing Disclosure 3 business days before you close on your refinance. Your Closing Disclosure will include information about your new term, your APR and any closing costs you must pay. You must acknowledge that you had the chance to read and review your Closing Disclosure to your lender before they can schedule your closing meeting.

Ask your lender how you’ll receive your Closing Disclosure and how you can acknowledge it. Also ask your lender to walk you through the closing process. They should be able to tell you what to bring to closing, who will be there and what will happen in the meeting.

Summary

Know the right questions to ask when refinancing to help you choose a reliable lender. First, ask each lender what types of loans they offer, the types of refinance options available and how to qualify for each. Then test your lender’s knowledge by asking about the difference between the interest rate and APR, how your monthly payment will change and what’s on your Closing Disclosure. You should also ask your lender about rate locks and average closing costs. This allows you to choose a lender you can afford. Finally, ask your lender if they’ll sell your loan – look for a lender who services loans in-house.

Set yourself up for a successful refinance. Take time to ask your lender plenty of questions, and don't be afraid to shop around for lenders before you make your choice.

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