If you’re considering mortgage refinancing you may have heard of the two percent rule of thumb. This mortgage refinance rule states you should only take out a new home loan if the interest rate is two percent lower than your existing rate. Is this the best approach for answering the question should I refinance my mortgage or are you leaving cash on the table? Here’s a better way to base your mortgage refinancing decision and help you avoid paying too much in the process.
The Should I Refinance Rule of Thumb
Refinance rates are hovering near four percent, the lowest levels in sixty years. If you’re currently paying six percent or more on your home loan then the two percent rule applies to you but what about everyone else? If you’re paying 5%, even 4.5% you can still benefit from mortgage refinancing. Answering the question “Should I Refinance” based on a two percent drop in your interest rate is walking away from a lot of money.
Here’s how to make an informed decision if mortgage refinancing is right for you without leaving cash on the table.
This example illustrates the problem with the “two percent rule.”
- Mortgage Loan Amount: $400.000
- Term Length & Rate: 30-year fixed-rate @ 5%
- Refinance Mortgage Rate: 4.25%
- Refinance Closing Costs: $4,000
In this example the monthly payment at 5% is $2,147. Refinancing with today’s best mortgage lenders could get you an interest rate as low as 4.25% which lowers your payment to $1,967. This is a savings of $180 per month BUT mortgage refinancing will cost you four grand. Is it worthwhile?
Debunking The Two Percent Rule
In this example it’s going to take about 23 months to break-even recouping your out-of-pocket expenses. (divide $4,000 by the $180 you’re saving each month)
This is a reasonable amount of time to recoup your closing costs so if you’re answering the question should I refinance in this way it makes sense. In this example we were refinancing a large home loan, $4,000. If you’re refinancing a lesser amount you’ll still want to run the numbers before answering the question should I refinance because the amount you’ll be saving each month will be less and it will take longer to break even.
If you decide to sell your home or refinance again before recouping your closing costs you’re going to lose money no matter how low interest rates fall.
How to Avoid Unnecessary Points & Junk Fees
As you can see your closing costs decide how long it’s going to take to break even recouping closing costs and therefore how good of a deal you’re getting. One strategy for getting the most benefit from mortgage refinancing is to pay as little as possible at closing. Sure there are no free refinance options; however, you’re giving up low refinance rates in exchange for having your closing costs paid.
The best way to maximize your benefit from low refinance mortgage rates is to avoid paying discount points and lender junk fees. Discount points serve to lower your interest rate. Why pay a fee when rates are at the lowest levels in sixty years and discount points only push your break-even point further away?
Lender junk fees like application and processing fees or overpaying the origination fee do the same thing. You shouldn’t be paying more than one percent for the loan origination fee and I’ve even seen some small credit unions charge as little as .28 percent. Shopping for both refinance rates and fees will make sure you’re breaking even in the least amount of time and maximizing your benefit from the new home loan.
Shorten Your Term Length Whenever Possible
Once you’ve answered the question Should I Refinance, another strategy for saving money is to lower your term-length. The term of your home loan is the amount of time you have to repay the mortgage and along with your refinance rates determines your payment amount.
One common mistake is going from a 15-year to a 30 or even 40-year mortgage. If you do this the calculation we’ve been using to find your break-even point is no longer valid. In these cases you’ll never break even and will be losing a boatload of cash because on the interest you’re paying for those extra years.
Shortening your term-length allows you to build equity in your home at an accelerated rate and saves you thousands of dollars per year in finance charges. Government programs like HARP 2.0 encourage shorter term-lengths for this very reason. This is why you should consider a 15-year or even 10-year mortgage if you can afford the higher payments.
If you need help with the math when answering the question should I refinance, leave a comment below and I’ll be more than happy to lend a hand.
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