What Is a Cash-Out Refinance?

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ByChristopher Boston
Edited byVictoria Copans
Contribution by1 expert
ByChristopher Boston
Edited byVictoria Copans
Contribution by1 expert

Updated: December 17, 2023

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Cash-out refinance lets homeowners use their home equity to get cash during a mortgage refinance. It's a smart move if you need extra money for big projects or to pay off debts as it allows you to refinance the balance on your existing loan with a larger loan, so that you receive cash back from the lender in addition to paying off the old loan. To ensure you make the most of a cash-out refinance, consider the current mortgage rates, as well as your financial health and plans to stay in your home.

Basics of Cash-Out Refinance

Refinancing your mortgage means replacing your current home loan with a new one, possibly with better terms. Cash-out refinance is a specific type of refinancing that allows you to access the equity tied up in your home. You get a new, larger loan that pays off your original mortgage, and then you receive the extra funds.

Homeowners might consider this option for several reasons, such as making home upgrades, consolidating high-interest debts or covering educational costs. It's a powerful tool when you need a lump sum of money and have built up enough equity in your property.

Sample Cash-Out Refinance Scenario

Let's explore a practical cash-out refinance example to illustrate how it can work in real life. Understanding this scenario can help you see the potential benefits and mechanics of a cash-out refinance.

Let's say that Alex is a homeowner whose house is valued at $300,000. Alex still owes $150,000 on his mortgage. He decides to go for a cash-out refinance and get a new loan of $240,000. Alex uses the funds to pay off the mortgage, leaving him $90,000 in cash. The new loan comes with its own terms and interest rates, different from the original mortgage. This example assumes that Alex has a good credit score and a stable income, which are important factors in qualifying for such a loan.

By understanding this cash-out refinance example, you can see how leveraging your home's value can provide a substantial sum of money. This scenario highlights the importance of considering your home's value, mortgage balance and the new loan terms. Cash-out refinance is a strategic financial decision with significant benefits when carefully planned.

How Much Money You Can Get From a Cash-Out Refinance

Knowing how much you can get in a cash-out refinance helps you plan your finances and avoid borrowing more than you can handle. Your loan amount largely depends on your home’s value and the remaining balance on your current mortgage. Typically, lenders let you borrow up to 80% of your home's value. But remember, you need to subtract what you still owe on your mortgage from this amount.

Your credit score and income are also key factors. They influence how much lenders are willing to offer you. A higher credit score and stable income can mean a higher loan amount. Another important aspect is your home equity — the more you have, the more cash you could get. This information is vital in making a smart decision about cash-out refinancing.

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A cash-out refinance calculator is a handy tool to estimate how much cash you could get, helping you plan your finances better. To use one, you’ll need to know your home's current value, your mortgage balance and the loan-to-value ratio lenders offer. The calculator shows the potential cash-out amount. It's a good idea to play around with different numbers, so try changing your home's value or your mortgage balance to see how it affects the outcome. This way, you can explore various scenarios and make a well-informed decision.

How a Cash-Out Refinance Works

If you're considering a cash-out refinance, it's important to understand the process and what's involved. We broke down the steps so you can confidently navigate the refinance journey.

Assess Your Home's Equity and Lending Requirements

Begin by evaluating your home’s equity, the difference between its market value and your mortgage balance. Lenders typically allow you to borrow up to 80% of your home's value, factoring in the mortgage balance. You also need to meet their lending requirements, which include your credit score, income stability and debt-to-income ratio. Make sure you understand these prerequisites, as they play a crucial role in the approval process and the terms of your new loan.

Decide How Much Cash You Need

Be clear about why you need the cash and how much you need. This will help you avoid borrowing more than necessary, keeping your financial health in check.

Shop Around for Lenders With the Best Offer

Don't settle for the first offer you get. Compare interest rates, fees and terms from different lenders to find the best deal.

Apply for the New Loan, Providing Necessary Documents

Once you've chosen a lender, fill out an application and provide documents like pay stubs, tax returns and a home appraisal. Organize your documents beforehand to make the process smoother.

Close on the Loan and Receive Your Cash

After your application is approved, you'll close on the loan. This involves signing various legal documents. Once done, you'll receive the cash from your cash-out refinance.

Understanding cash-out refinance and how it works can lead to a smooth and beneficial experience. Each step requires careful consideration to ensure you make the most out of your home's value while keeping your financial health intact.

Pros and Cons of a Cash-Out Refinance

Securing a cash-out refinance can have significant benefits, like accessing funds for important needs. However, it's just as crucial to consider the potential drawbacks. For instance, increasing your debt load can be risky, especially if your financial situation changes. Understanding both sides helps you make a well-informed decision.

Here’s a table detailing various pros and cons of cash-out refinance:


Access to Cash: A cash-out refinance can provide a substantial amount of money, useful for significant expenses like home renovations, education costs or consolidating high-interest debts.

Higher Overall Debt: This refinancing increases your mortgage balance, which means you'll owe more than before, potentially stretching your finances thinner.

Lower Interest Rates: Often, cash-out refinances come with lower interest rates compared to credit cards or personal loans, making them a cost-effective way to borrow money.

Closing Costs: Just like your original mortgage, refinancing comes with closing costs, which can include origination and appraisal fees and other charges, adding to the overall expense.

Tax Deduction Potential: The interest you pay on your cash-out refinance might be tax-deductible, particularly if used for home improvements, potentially offering annual tax savings.

Risk of Foreclosure: By increasing your mortgage debt, you risk foreclosure if you're unable to make the higher loan payments, especially in financially uncertain times.

Credit Score Improvement: Consolidating debts such as credit cards into a single, lower-interest loan can help improve your credit score over time, as it simplifies your debt management.

Extended Loan Term: Refinancing might mean resetting your mortgage clock, possibly leading to more years of debt than if you had stuck with your original mortgage.

Rate Stability With Fixed Rates: Opting for a fixed-rate mortgage in your refinance provides stability in your monthly payments, protecting you from fluctuating interest rates.

Higher Rates With Variable Rate Loan: If you opt for a variable rate loan and interest rates are on the rise, you might end up with a higher rate than your original mortgage, which can increase your long-term financial burden.

Weighing the pros and cons of cash-out refinance is key for a balanced perspective and to ensure you make a decision that’s right for your financial future.

When to Cash-Out Refinance

The timing of a cash-out refinance can impact whether it makes sense to pursue. Poor timing can lead to unfavorable terms or missed opportunities. Let's consider when it's most advantageous to choose this financing option.

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    When Interest Rates Are Lower Than Your Current Mortgage

    A key time to consider a cash-out refinance is when interest rates drop below what you're currently paying. This can reduce your overall interest costs even as you borrow more.

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    If You Need Funds for Significant Expenses

    Whether it's for home improvements, education or other large expenses, a cash-out refinance can be a smart choice when you need a considerable sum of money.

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    When You Can Afford a New Loan's Terms

    Ensure that you can comfortably manage the new loan payments. It involves considering your income stability and overall financial health.

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    If You Intend to Stay in Your Home Long-Term

    If you plan to keep your home for many years, a cash-out refinance can be more beneficial, giving you time to recoup the costs.

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    When You've Built Substantial Home Equity

    The more equity you have, the more cash you can potentially access, making it a worthwhile option if your home's value has increased significantly.

Timing a cash-out refinance requires a balance of market conditions, personal financial needs and long-term housing plans. By aligning these factors, you can make this financial move work effectively for your situation.

How to Get the Best Cash-Out Refinance Rates

Interest rates play a big role in cash-out refinances. They determine how much you'll pay over the life of your loan, making it crucial to find the best one possible. A lower figure can save you thousands of dollars.

Here are some effective strategies to secure the best refinance cash-out rates:

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    Improve Your Credit Score

    A strong credit score can significantly lower your interest rate because it lets lenders view you as a reliable borrower. Regularly check your credit report for errors, pay bills on time, reduce credit card balances and avoid taking on new debt. Even small improvements in your credit score can lead to better rates.

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    Shop Around for Lenders

    Different lenders offer varying rates and terms, even for the same borrower profile. Get quotes from at least three and consider banks, credit unions and online lenders. Compare not just the rates but also the fees and loan terms to uncover more competitive offers.

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    Consider the Timing of Your Refinance

    Interest rates are influenced by broader economic factors and can change frequently. Keep informed about economic trends and rate forecasts. Refinancing when rates are low can make a significant difference in your loan’s cost.

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    Increase Your Home's Value

    Higher home equity can lead to better refinancing terms, including lower interest rates. Consider home improvement projects that boost your property’s value. It can be anything from a kitchen remodel to adding energy-efficient windows. More equity can mean more bargaining power with lenders.

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    Negotiate With Lenders

    There’s often room for negotiation in the refinancing process, which can lead to better rates or lower fees. Discuss rate options with your lender. Sometimes, they’re willing to adjust terms, especially if you have competitive offers from others.

Securing the best refinance cash-out rates involves a mix of personal financial management, market timing and savvy shopping and negotiation. By focusing on these areas, you can enhance your chances of getting a more favorable deal on your refinance.

Alternatives to a Cash-Out Refinance

Some borrowers might not choose a cash-out refinance due to its potential for higher overall debt or the risk of extending the loan term. Fortunately, there are other ways to access necessary funds. Knowing your options lets you choose the one that best aligns with your financial situation and goals.

Let's explore some alternatives to cash-out refinance:

What It Is
Who It's Best For

This is a second mortgage that provides a lump sum of money upfront, which you pay back over a fixed term with a fixed interest rate.

Homeowners who need a specific amount of money and prefer fixed monthly payments. It's ideal for large, one-time expenses.

A HELOC offers a revolving credit line based on your home equity, with variable interest rates and flexible withdrawal and repayment terms.

Those who need ongoing access to funds over time, like for ongoing home renovations, and are comfortable with fluctuating payments.

Personal Loan

An unsecured loan that doesn’t require home equity or any collateral. These usually come with fixed interest rates and are paid back in installments over a set period.

Individuals with good credit who need funds quickly for various purposes and don’t want to use their home as collateral.

Credit Cards

Credit cards offer a revolving line of credit with high interest rates. They're convenient for short-term borrowing and small, immediate expenses.

People who need small amounts of money quickly and plan to repay it within a short timeframe to avoid high interest.


This involves selling your home to a company or investor and then leasing it back. It provides a lump sum of cash while allowing you to remain in your home.

Homeowners who need substantial cash but want to continue living in their current home, avoiding the need for a mortgage.

Each of these alternatives offers different advantages and suits different financial situations and preferences. By understanding these options, you can make a more informed decision about the best way to access funds without relying solely on a cash-out refinance.

FAQ About Cash-Out Refinance

We addressed common questions to help you deepen your understanding of cash-out refinancing, whether you're new to this financial concept or considering it for your needs.

What is a cash-out refinance and how does it work?
What's the difference between a cash-out refinance and a home equity loan?
What do I need to qualify for a cash-out refinance?
How important is my credit score when applying for a cash-out refinance?
What fees should I expect to pay for a cash-out refinance?
Do I need to get my home appraised for a cash-out refinance?
What will happen if I can’t pay off my cash-out refinance?
How much time does it take to complete a cash-out refinance?
Can I use a cash-out refinance to pay off other debts?
What happens to my existing mortgage when I do a cash-out refinance?

Cash-Out Refinance Questions & Answers

  1. Is a cash-out refinance a sound financial tool?
  2. Who would be a good candidate for a cash-out refinance and why?
  3. When should you stay away from a cash-out refinance? Why?
  4. What are some of the red flags when you are getting a cash-out refinance?
  5. What is the biggest misconception about cash-out refinances?
  6. Can you describe a scenario of someone that you worked who had gotten into financial trouble because of a cash-out refinance?
  7. When could a cash-out refinance be beneficial financially?
Melinda Opperman
Melinda OppermanChief Relationship Officer, Credit.org

About Christopher Boston

Christopher Boston headshot

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.