Complete Guide to Refinancing Your Mortgage

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ByChristopher Boston
Reviewed byTimothy Manni
Contributions by6+ experts
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ByChristopher Boston
fact checked icon
Reviewed byTimothy Manni
Contributions by6+ experts
fact checked icon

Updated: May 6, 2024

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Buying a home often involves securing a mortgage, a long-term loan designed for real estate. But life changes, and so do financial needs. Enter mortgage refinancing — the process of replacing your current mortgage with a new loan featuring different terms. Homeowners commonly refinance to take advantage of lower interest rates or reduce monthly payments. Refinancing can be a strategic financial move, but you need to know its ins and outs to determine if it's right for you and make an informed decision about mortgage refinancing.

How a Mortgage Refinance Works

When you refinance a mortgage, you're swapping your current home loan for a new one. Let's say your original mortgage has a high interest rate. If you refinance when rates are low, a new loan with a lower interest rate would replace it. The amount you owe on your home, the principal, usually stays the same, but the interest rate — and often the loan term — can change.

Imagine you owe $200,000 on your mortgage at a 6% interest rate. If you refinance to a 4% rate, you could save thousands over the life of the loan. Refinancing is a smart way to revisit your mortgage terms and make them work better for you.

Homeowners often refinance to reduce monthly payments, switch from an adjustable to a fixed-rate loan or cash out some of their home equity for goals like home improvement or debt consolidation. Knowing how refinancing works helps you decide if it's the right move for your financial health.

Understanding Refinance Rates

Mortgage refinance rates refer to the interest rates you can get on your new loan when you refinance. They may be similar to your original mortgage rates or quite different, depending on market conditions and your financial profile. Like with your first mortgage, a lower refinance rate usually means lower monthly payments and less money spent over time.

Several factors influence refinance rates, including your credit score, the loan-to-value ratio of your home and the general state of the economy. If you want better rates, aim for a stellar credit standing, consider a shorter loan term and shop around to compare offers from different lenders. By paying attention to mortgage refinance rates, you'll be more equipped to lock in a deal that benefits you in the long run.

Types of Mortgage Refinancing

You have several options for refinancing, the same way you had choices when you selected your original mortgage. Whether it's a rate-and-term or cash-out refinance, knowing the different types can help you pick the one that best suits your needs as it directly affects how much money you save or gain in the process.

Refinance Option
Situations / Borrower Profiles It Benefits Most


Adjusts either the interest rate or the loan term, or sometimes both.

Best when interest rates have fallen since you took out your original loan. Ideal for those wanting to reduce monthly payments or switch from an adjustable-rate to a fixed-rate loan.


Allows you to borrow more than you owe on your current loan and take the difference in cash. This increases your overall loan amount.

Useful for those who need a large sum for home improvements, paying off high-interest debt, covering education costs, etc.


Lets you bring money to the closing to pay down your principal. This could lead to a lower interest rate and better loan terms.

Ideal for those with extra cash who want to reduce their loan amount or get into a lower interest rate bracket.


Offers a simplified process with reduced paperwork, typically for those with FHA or VA loans.

Best for those who already have a government-backed loan and want to lower their monthly payments without a lot of hassle.


Eliminates upfront costs by either increasing the interest rate or rolling the closing costs into the loan balance.

Ideal for those who can't afford upfront costs but still want to take advantage of lower interest rates or better loan terms.

As you're figuring out how to refinance a mortgage, keep these options in mind. Matching the right type of refinance with your financial goals can make a world of difference in your long-term financial health.

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Unlike a refinance, where you replace your current loan with a new one, loan modification changes the terms of your existing one directly with your lender.

If you're having a hard time making payments, a loan modification could be a good option. Mortgage refinancing, on the other hand, can give you lower interest rates or let you tap into your home's equity. So, if you're financially stable and looking for better terms or extra cash, refinancing might suit you better.

Both options have their place; it just depends on your current needs and future plans.

Pros and Cons of Refinancing Your Mortgage

Refinancing your mortgage is a significant financial move — it's like hitting the reset button on your home loan. While it can offer perks like lower interest rates and cash access, it also has its fair share of risks, such as fees and potentially longer loan terms. A hasty decision could land you a great deal or put you in a financial rut.

Consider both the pros and cons of refinancing your mortgage. Zeroing in on only one aspect could leave you with surprises down the road, like saving money today but paying more over time.


Consider your long-term financial goals, your current situation and how each pro and con applies to you. If the potential benefits align with your goals and outweigh the risks, then refinancing could be a great step forward.

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If you’re applying for a mortgage with multiple lenders, do it within a short timeframe. Applying to multiple lenders within a brief period, say, 45 days, should register as a single inquiry rather than several, reducing the impact on your credit score. — Timothy Manni, Mortgage and Real Estate Consultant

When to Refinance

Deciding to refinance your mortgage is a big step, and timing is essential. Market conditions should be favorable, and your financial situation should be stable. Once you're confident about the timing, the next factor to consider is why you want to refinance. Let's first explore the ideal circumstances that could make refinancing a smart financial move.

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The break-even point is when the money you save from a lower interest rate equals the cost of refinancing your mortgage. In simpler terms, it's when your refinance starts to "pay for itself." Understanding this can help you decide if refinancing makes sense for you.

For example, if it costs you $4,000 to refinance and you're saving $100 on your monthly payments, your break-even point would be 40 months, or a little over three years. Here's the math: $4,000 (cost to refinance) divided by $100 (monthly savings) equals 40 months. Knowing your break-even point guides you on how long you should ideally keep your home to benefit from the refinance. Exiting before that might mean you lose money, even with lower monthly payments.

Before refinancing, do the math to find your break-even point and ensure you're making a move that aligns with your financial goals and future plans.

How to Refinance Your Mortgage

Knowing the refinancing process can help you hit the ground running when the time is right. You’re more likely to spot a good deal, negotiate with lenders and make choices that align with your financial goals. Here's how to refinance a mortgage:


Determine Your Goals

Ask yourself why you're considering a refinance. Is it to lower your monthly payments, change your loan term or maybe get some extra cash? Having a clear objective helps you select the right loan.


Check Your Credit Score

Your creditworthiness affects the interest rate you’ll get. Know your credit score ahead of time and correct any errors you find.


Research Lenders

Don't settle for the first lender you come across. Shop around, compare rates and read customer reviews. Look for lenders who specialize in the type of refinance you're considering.


Review Home Equity

Knowing how much equity you have in your home affects your refinance options. Generally, you'll need at least 20% equity for the most favorable terms.


Get Your Home Appraised

An appraisal tells you the current market value of your home. Lenders require this to determine the new loan amount.


Submit Official Application

After selecting a lender, you'll fill out an application and provide necessary documentation like tax returns and pay stubs.


Review Terms

Once approved, you'll get a loan estimate. Study it carefully to ensure it meets your financial goals, and don't hesitate to ask questions.


Close the Loan

Attend the closing meeting to sign the final paperwork and possibly pay closing costs. Make sure all the terms are what you agreed upon before signing.

Refinancing a mortgage can be a solid financial move if done thoughtfully. As you engage with lenders, keep your financial objectives in focus and don’t hesitate to ask questions. Evaluating the terms and knowing how to refinance a mortgage can lead you to a deal that's tailored to your needs.

Costs Associated With Refinancing

Refinancing your mortgage can offer several advantages, from lower interest rates to more manageable monthly payments, but it's not free. Being aware of potential costs can help you make a well-informed decision, and you can even use this information to negotiate better terms with your lender.

Here are some costs to consider:

  • Application Fee: This fee covers the lender's cost to process your application. It's usually non-refundable; however, some lenders might consider waiving it. Make sure you're confident about your decision to refinance before proceeding.

  • Origination Fee: This fee, which can often be negotiated and varies between lenders, is what the lender charges for creating the loan. It's typically a percentage of the total loan amount. It's always wise to shop around to find the best terms.

  • Appraisal Fee: Lenders require an appraisal to determine your home's current value.

Understanding the cost of refinancing a mortgage is essential for assessing whether it's the right move for you, especially if your goal is to save money in the long run.

Minimizing Costs

When it comes to minimizing costs, there are several strategies you can implement. One approach is to negotiate fees with the lender. For instance, some lenders might be willing to waive the application or origination fee to secure your business. A straightforward conversation can sometimes result in substantial savings.

If you're looking to minimize upfront costs, you might consider a no-closing-cost refinance. This loan type has no upfront fees, but the lender makes up for it by rolling the closing costs into the loan or offering a slightly higher interest rate, meaning you'll pay more over the life of the loan.

Frequently Asked Questions About Mortgage Refinance

Let's dive into some frequently asked questions that many borrowers have about mortgage refinancing. Our answers can provide valuable insights into the refinancing process.

What is mortgage refinance?
Is a second mortgage the same as a refinance?
Will refinancing affect my credit score?
What are the costs to refinance a mortgage?
What's the difference between rate-and-term and cash-out refinance?
Can I refinance my mortgage with bad credit
Do I need an appraisal to refinance my mortgage?

About Christopher Boston

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Christopher (Croix) Boston was the Head of Loans content at MoneyGeek, with over five years of experience researching higher education, mortgage and personal loans.

Boston has a bachelor's degree from the Seattle Pacific University. They pride themselves in using their skills and experience to create quality content that helps people save and spend efficiently.