Reasons You Might Want to Refinance Now

by : Kristin Abouelata - Home Loans

Have you been reading the papers or listening to the news lately? (Ok, I guess you have been because you are reading THIS paper. Just call me Master of the Obvious). Rates are low. Actually, rates are really quite low. You may be considering refinancing in the next couple of months. Maybe you need equity from your home but you're hesitant to touch that great rate you got a couple of years ago. Or, maybe you're sure you want to refinance but are waiting for the latest news from the "Fed" before you take the plunge. Well, there are a few reasons why you may want to take action sooner than later.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the major lending institutions for non-government loans, have recently announced that they will move to risk based pricing in the new year. What is risk based pricing and why do you care? This announcement means that loans with higher risk characteristics will receive a higher rate. In the recent past, risk based pricing was typically reserved for non-conforming loans, or loans that were outside conventional guidelines. In 2008, you can expect to see risk based pricing passed on to conforming loans. What constitutes a higher risk? First and foremost is your credit score. If your loan to value is greater than 70% - your rather healthy credit score of 680 won't get you the same rate that your neighbor's 720 credit score will get him. Same goes for your sister and her 620 credit score. Her mortgage rate will be much higher than yours. Fannie and Freddie will assess tiered "hits" or cost increases to borrowers based upon their credit scores. That could make a huge difference in the rate you will be quoted in December and the rate you would be quoted next year. It may also mean you might not qualify for a loan tomorrow that you would qualify for today. And now lenders will have to pull your credit to actually give you a hard and fast quote. If you have a good idea of what your credit score is, you can compare lender's quotes more effectively. But if you haven't a clue as to what your credit score is, a lender will have to know it in order to be on target with a quote.

And there's more. Although pundits say the rates will stay low (and no, I'm not a pundit), another cost will be passed on to the consumer that will begin to be realized by many lenders very shortly. As a result of recent increases in foreclosure rates, Fannie Mae has decided to increase its margin in order to maintain adequate capital reserves for federal regulators. And Freddie Mac is expected to follow suit, although the announcement is not official as of the date I am writing this column. It may be official by the time you are reading it. Even if rates remain stable through the upcoming period, increased margins mean higher effective rates to consumers. Thus, if you are mildly considering a refinance for whatever reason, you should really decide now if it's right for you. Waiting too long could cost you money.

Of course, refinancing has to make sense. You need to consult with a reputable mortgage lender who can help you analyze your options and choose what's right for you. You need to weigh the savings against the closing costs and also take into consideration how the refinance may or may not benefit you. But, don't drag your feet. Do your homework. Get your ducks in a row. And finally, the risk based pricing and all that other stuff I discussed will also apply to new home purchases (but not select first time homebuyer programs- they remain the same). Whatever type of mortgage you are considering, now is the time to investigate before the changes occur.