Refinancing your mortgage can be a smart financial move if you do it the right way. You can tap into your home equity, get a lower interest rate, or even shorten or lengthen the terms of your loan. All of these are great outcomes for you and your wallet.
But here’s something that’s not so great: Picking the wrong mortgage refinance lender.
This one major mistake can potentially cost you tons of money in closing costs, hidden fees, and high interest rates.
You can avoid that by learning just a bit about what to expect throughout the refinance process and how to find the right lender. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know and give you some suggestions for the big decision.
9 Best Mortgage Refinance Lenders of 2023
We’ve compiled a list of the best mortgage refinance companies with the most competitive mortgage rates. Read through our short reviews to understand what kind of mortgage products they offer and how their process works. It’s an excellent resource for narrowing down your list of refinance lenders to consider.
loanDepot is a lender that values and earns customer loyalty. This is evident by their refinancing lifetime guarantee. Once you refinance with them the first time, they will waive their lender fees and reimburse your appraisal fee.
LendingTree offers a ton of benefits when it comes to refinancing. First, the online process is very easy and can even get you a mortgage rate quote in under three minutes.
Another driving force in the online refinance marketplace is Rocket Mortgage, which is part of Quicken Loans.
Another direct lender, New American Funding, is a mortgage company that simplifies the online mortgage process. Get started by selecting the type of real estate you want to refinance.
SoFi started as a student loan refinance company and has recently branched out to mortgage refinancing as well. One of the key advantages here is that they go beyond the traditional credit score and base your qualification on high-tech algorithms using various criteria.
This major lender has offices in each state (plus the District of Columbia) but also lets you get started using its Digital Mortgage platform.
Carrington begins the process by asking you to select one of four goals:
One of the biggest banks out there, Bank of America puts its resources to good use by creating a comprehensive and easy online user experience.
You don’t need to be a bank member to refinance with Chase. And if you prefer to work with a traditional bank over a strictly online lender or matching website, then Chase is a strong choice.
How does refinancing a mortgage work?
Applying for a refinance is very similar to applying for a home loan. It’s also important to note that you don’t have to use your current lender or servicer. You can pick any mortgage lender that you’d like for your refinance.
After shopping around for lenders and comparing your loan options, you’ll have to complete a formal application. This involves submitting your income and financial statements. The loan officer and underwriter will review your materials to make sure you can afford the new terms.
Mortgage Refinance Requirements
Mortgage refinance lenders are primarily concerned with three things: credit score, debt-to-income ratio, and average loan-to-value ratio (LTV).
- Credit score: The minimum credit score for most mortgage refinance companies is around 620.
- Debt-to-income ratio: Your monthly debt should not exceed 43% of your monthly take-home pay, just like a regular mortgage. In addition to personal loans and credit card debt, they also include your new mortgage payment in that number.
- Loan-to-value ratio (LTV): Lenders would like to see a low loan-to-value ratio (LTV). Typically, you should have at least a 20% equity in your home. In addition to personal loans and credit card debt, they also include your new mortgage payment in that number.
You’ll be required to get an appraisal of your home as part of the process. This makes sure the property lives up to its estimated value and helps determine your total equity in the home. You don’t need to do anything special before the appraiser arrives. However, it is wise to clean and tidy up to make a favorable impression.
Thereafter, you just have to wait for closing. Usually, your lender lets you pick the date, time, and location. Next, they’ll send a notary who will walk you through signing the closing documents. Then, you’ll start fresh with your new payment schedule. If you’ve cashed out some of your home equity, you can typically receive a check or have it deposited directly into your bank account.
How to Choose a Lender to Refinance Your Mortgage
When you decide to refinance, picking the right lender is vital to your financial success.
Mortgage refinance lenders structure loans differently, depending on whether you want to minimize closing costs or lower monthly payments—or a combination of the two.
The first thing to look at is what kind of refinance loans the lender offers. For example, you can find FHA refinance loans with lower minimum credit score requirements than conventional loans if you’re looking for a government-backed refinance.
Alternatively, you may want to refinance into a shorter term than the standard 30-year fixed mortgage. Look for mortgage refinance companies that offer multiple options, such as 10, 15, or 20-year mortgages. Then, you can compare refinance rates and payments and pick the best one.
As with any kind of loan, you also want to shop around for mortgage rates. Not every lender automatically offers the same interest rate or APR. You’ll also want to compare closing costs as part of the evaluation process. You need to know both your upfront costs and long-term costs in terms of interest.
If you want to minimize the amount of cash you bring to the table, ask whether your closing costs can be rolled into the loan.
There are numerous ways you can tackle mortgage refinancing. That’s why picking the right refinance lender can make a huge difference. They can help you understand the pros and cons of different options, so you can make the right choice.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask for specific numbers, and talk to a few different lenders to get an idea of their recommendations and refinance process.
When to Refinance a Mortgage
Now that you’ve learned of the best refinance lenders out there, make sure you’re refinancing for the right reasons. Here are some of the most common reasons for refinancing a mortgage.
Lower Your Monthly Payments
It’s entirely possible to refinance to lower your payment amount. To save money over the life of your loan, you could refinance into a lower interest rate if mortgage rates have dropped since you got your loan. Or, if your credit score has improved, you might be able to qualify for a lower refinance rate as well.
If you’re having trouble making your payments, you could also consider refinancing into a longer loan term. This spreads out your existing mortgage amount over more years.
For example, if you’ve been paying your mortgage for 10 years on a 30-year loan, you could extend the existing 20 years over another 30 years. However, you should proceed with caution, depending on your financial situation and retirement plans.
Cash Out Your Home Equity
If you have equity in your home—at least 20%—you could potentially qualify for a cash-out refinance. This allows you to get a lump sum of money and then add that amount to your existing loan. Usually, you can borrow up to 80% of your equity.
Let’s take a look at an example.
Say your home is valued at $200,000, and your mortgage is down to $150,000. That leaves you with $50,000 in equity. The bank will let you borrow up to 80% of that, which is $40,000.
If you qualify for the mortgage, you could then refinance a total of $190,000. You can then use the cash for home renovations, college tuition, medical bills, high-interest debt, or anything else.
Change the Terms
Shorter loan terms typically come with lower mortgage rates since there’s less of a chance for you to default on the loan. Once you’ve paid off a portion of your current 30-year mortgage, you may be able to save on interest by switching to a 15-year mortgage.
If, for example, you’re 15 years into a 30-year fixed mortgage, you only have 15 years left to pay. So, you could potentially save thousands by getting a lower interest rate via an actual 15-year fixed mortgage.
Switch to a Fixed Rate Mortgage
If you initially took out an adjustable-rate mortgage (or ARM) and your fixed period is ending, you should consider refinancing your loan. There’s a cap on how high your adjustable mortgage can go. It could potentially be much higher than current fixed interest rates.
Talk to a lender to see the best option to avoid a significant jump in your monthly payment. And be sure to plan ahead since it can take time for the approval process to finish.
See also: How to Refinance Your Mortgage
When Not to Refinance
When shouldn’t you refinance? If your credit score has dropped significantly since you took out your original mortgage, you may be surprised by higher interest rates. Similarly, refinancing today may not save you money if you qualified for a rock-bottom rate during the recession.
Furthermore, consider that every mortgage refinance comes with closing costs, just like your initial home loan. Therefore, you need to make sure any financial benefits you expect to receive from your refinance outweigh the added closing costs.
All of these considerations can be discussed with a suitable lender, whether in person, on the phone, or online. Do the research it takes to make sure you’re making an intelligent decision on your next home refinance.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the steps to refinancing a mortgage?
The process of refinancing a mortgage typically includes the following steps:
- Determine if refinancing makes sense for your financial situation and goals.
- Research and compare different mortgage lenders.
- Choose the right lender and loan product for your needs.
- Complete a formal application, providing all necessary income and financial documents.
- Wait for the lender’s underwriting process, which includes verifying your information and appraising the home.
- Once approved, arrange for a closing where you will sign all required documents.
- Begin your new payment schedule, or receive your funds if you’ve done a cash-out refinance.
How does refinancing a mortgage affect my credit score?
Refinancing a mortgage can temporarily lower your credit score, as the lender will perform a hard credit check during the application process. This is typically a small drop and should recover over time as long as you continue to make regular, on-time payments. Additionally, the old mortgage will be marked as paid off on your credit report, which can be beneficial to your credit history in the long run.
What are some reasons I might not qualify for a mortgage refinance?
If your credit score has significantly dropped since you took out your original mortgage, you may not qualify for a favorable interest rate, making refinancing less beneficial. Additionally, if your debt-to-income ratio is too high, you may not qualify. Lastly, if you do not have sufficient equity in your home (usually at least 20%), you may not qualify for certain types of refinancing.
Can I refinance my mortgage with bad credit?
While it may be more difficult to refinance your mortgage with bad credit, it’s not impossible. Some lenders specialize in loans for individuals with poor credit, and government programs like the FHA refinance loans may have lower credit score requirements. However, be aware that you will likely be offered higher interest rates.
How much does it cost to refinance a mortgage?
The cost of refinancing a mortgage typically includes an origination fee, an application fee, an appraisal fee, and closing costs, among other potential costs. This can usually amount to between 2% and 6% of the loan amount. However, in some cases, you may be able to roll these costs into your loan to reduce your out-of-pocket expenses at closing.
Can I refinance my mortgage more than once?
Yes, you can refinance your mortgage more than once. However, it’s important to consider the costs of refinancing, such as closing costs and possible prepayment penalties, and weigh them against the benefits you expect to receive. You’ll want to make sure that refinancing makes financial sense each time.
What’s the difference between a cash-out refinance and a rate-and-term refinance?
In a cash-out refinance, you take out a new mortgage for more than what you currently owe, and then receive the difference in cash. This can be useful if you need to cover large expenses or consolidate higher-interest debt.
A rate-and-term refinance, on the other hand, changes the interest rate, the term length, or both of your existing mortgage, but you don’t receive any cash. This is typically done to lower monthly payments or to pay off the loan faster.
When should I consider a fixed-rate mortgage over an adjustable-rate mortgage?
A fixed-rate mortgage may be a better option if you plan to stay in your home for a long period of time and want predictable, stable monthly payments. On the other hand, an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) may initially offer a lower interest rate, but it can fluctuate over time. An ARM could be a suitable option if you plan to sell or refinance your home before the interest rate starts adjusting.