By AnnaMaria Andriotis
With mortgage rates hovering near record lows, a growing number of homeowners are racing to refinance — only to find the process riddled with obstacles.
For one, homeowners often have to wait months before they can secure a new loan at a lower rate, the Wall Street Journal reported today. But on top of that, credit requirements remain tight, so borrowers approved for mortgages before the downturn might not pass muster now. And even those who do get approved often find their homes do not appraise above the minimum threshold. “You have these big wildcards out there right now — you can’t simply look at the lower rate,” says Robert Lattas, a real estate attorney in Chicago.
Of course, refinancing may be worth all the hassle, say advisers. The new loans mean smaller monthly payments — a godsend for homeowners struggling to make their current payments. And the latest version of the government’s refinancing program, dubbed HARP 2.0, aims to help homeowners who owe more on their home than it’s currently worth.
Despite those benefits, experts say homeowners should first consider the drawbacks. Refinancing tends to extend the mortgage payment period, so a borrower who stays put in the home for the long run could be stuck with their mortgage well into retirement, says Doug Miller, executive director of Consumer Advocates in American Real Estate. Separately, homeowners who plan to sell their home a few years after refinancing might find the costs of getting the new loan outweighs the savings.
That said, for those determined to refinance, here are the five things financial advisers say to weigh first.