When you refinance your mortgage, you pay off your existing home loan and replace it with a new one with new terms. The goal is usually to lower your monthly payment, pay off your loan sooner or, if you’ve built up some equity in your home, to get cash back to pay for a home improvement project. Whether a refinance can work for you and how much you can save depend on your credit score, your home’s market value and other factors.A refinance can also be used to consolidate higher-interest debts, which can save you money on interest payments or pay for a college education. However, it can be risky to finance short-term obligations with long-term debt, and prudent borrowers think carefully before using a refinance for those purposes.How do I get the best refinance rate?First, it’s a good idea to run some numbers with our mortgage refinance calculatorThat will give you an idea of how things might shake out for you. Then, take the following steps:Make sure your credit history is in good shape and error-free.Know your credit score so you’ll have realistic interest rate expectations.Try not to increase your debt within a two-week period to minimize the impact on your credit score
Fixed-rate mortgage: Fixed-rate mortgage loans have a set interest rate over the life of the loan, which can last five, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40 or even 50 years. The most common is the 30-year fixed rate mortgage. They’re good if you want to avoid the uncertainty of interest rate changes and if you plan on staying in your home for at least seven years.Adjustable-rate mortgage: ARM loans have an interest rate that’s fixed for an introductory period, after which it can fluctuate annually over the loan’s remaining life span. The initial interest rate, sometimes called the teaser rate, is lower than what you’ll find on fixed rate mortgages. ARM types include 3/1, 5/1, 7/1 and even 10/1. The first number is how long, in years, the teaser rate applies; the second number shows how often the rate can reset. So for a 5/1 ARM, the loan’s teaser rate is set for five years, and then the rate resets every year. An ARM might be right for you if you plan on moving before the introductory period ends or if you think your income will increase.Conventional loan: Conventional mortgages adhere to dollar limits set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two government-sponsored companies that provide money for the housing market. Conventional mortgages can be adjustable or fixed. Good credit scores and higher down payments are required.Jumbo loan: Loans that exceed the dollar limit — usually $417,000 — set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. You may need a jumbo loan if you’re buying a house in a large city with a hot housing market. They often come with higher interest rates, down payment, credit score and income requirements.VA mortgage: Insured by the Department of Veterans Affairs and distributed by private lenders, such as banks or mortgage companies, VA loansare available only to veterans or current members of the armed forces, and in some cases, service members’ spouses. There are no money down or private mortgage insurance requirements, though in many cases there will be a funding fee, which can be financed as part of your loan.FHA loans: The government insures all FHA loans. The insurance protects lenders in case you default on your mortgage. They can be a good option if you’re a first-time homebuyer or have a lower credit score. Down payments can be as low as 3.5%. You’ll have to make an upfront mortgage insurance payment, as well as monthly premium payments thereafter.FHA streamline refinance: If you’ve built enough equity in your home and have an FHA loan, this refinance program can be a quicker way to lower your interest rate, often without an appraisal. It can be a good idea if you want to save money, but not if you want cash back.USDA mortgage: The U.S. Department of Agriculture mortgage program is for homeowners in rural and suburban areas who fall under a certain income threshold. No money down and low interest rates are the norm.Interest-only mortgage: With this loan, you have the option of paying just the interest for a fixed term, after which you’ll make payments on both interest and principal. These are often taken out for more expensive homes. You’ll want to exercise caution though, because the payment will get higher once the interest-only period ends.Cash-out refi: Cash-out refinancing allows you to take out a loan against your home equity, but not always at a lower interest rate. The original mortgage is refinanced with a larger loan, and you receive the difference in cash. It’s best to use the extra cash for things that add value to your home.