Top 10 Mistakes When Refinancing Your Home

  1. Refinancing with your current lender without shopping around. Your current lender may not have the best rates and programs. Believing it's easier to work with your current lender is a common misconception. In most cases, they'll require the same documentation as other lenders and mortgage brokers. This is because most loans are sold on the secondary market and have to be approved independently. Even if you've been good at making payments to your existing lender, they'll still have to process the verifications all over again.
  2. Not doing a break-even analysis. Determine the total transaction costs and how much you'll save each month by lowering your monthly mortgage payment. Divide the transaction costs by the monthly savings to determine the number of months you'll have to stay in the property to recoup your refinancing costs. For example, if the costs of refinancing total $2000, and you save $50 per month, you break-even in 2000/50 = 40 months. In this case, you should only refinance if you plan to stay in the home for at least 40 months.
    1. Note: The above example is suited to comparing two similar loans when the intent is to lower your monthly payment and recoup transaction costs relatively quickly. Other refinancing transactions require different kinds of analyses which are beyond the scope of this document. Other types of refinancing transactions include exchanging a fixed rate for an ARM, or a 30 year mortgage for a 15 year mortgage.
  3. Not getting a written good-faith estimate of closing costs. Within 3 working days after receipt of your completed loan application, your mortgage company is required to provide you with a written good-faith estimate of closing costs.
  4. Paying for a home appraisal when you think the appraised value may be too low. Have the appraisal company conduct a desk-review appraisal (typically at no charge) and provide you with a range of possible values. Your mortgage company can ask an appraiser to do this for you. Do not waste your money on a complete appraisal if you believe the home is unreasonably priced.
  5. Using the county tax assessor's value as the market value of your home. Mortgage companies do not use the county tax assessor's value to help determine if they'll originate your loan. They, like real estate agents, usually use the sales comparison approach (formerly known as the market data comparison approach).
  6. Signing documents without reading them. Do not sign documents in a hurry. As soon as possible, review the documents you'll be signing at close of escrow--including a copy of all loan documents. This way, you can review them and get your questions answered in a timely manner. Do not expect to read all the documents during the closing. There is rarely enough time to do that.
  7. Not providing your mortgage company with documents in a timely manner. When your mortgage company asks you for additional paperwork--get cracking! They're trying to get you approved! If you don't quickly respond to your broker's requests, you could end up paying higher rates should your rate lock expire.
  8. Not getting a rate lock in writing. When a mortgage company tells you they've locked your rate, get a written statement detailing the interest rate, the length of the rate lock, and other particulars about the program.
  9. Drawing against your home equity credit line before you refinance your first mortgage. Many lenders have "cash-out" seasoning requirements. If you draw against your credit line for anything other than h