WRITTEN BY JAYMI NACIRI
Those sub-3% mortgage rates sure look enticing. But, can you get your hands on one? If you don’t have excellent credit, the best rates might not be on the table. But that doesn’t mean you can’t refinance.
Minimum credit score
A score above 700 is generally considered to be excellent and will open up your refinance options. But, contrary to what you may think, you can have a lower credit score and still qualify.
“Credit requirements vary by lender and type of mortgage. In general, you’ll need a credit score of 620 or higher for a conventional mortgage refinance,” said Experian. “Certain government programs require a credit score of 580, however, or have no minimum at all. As is true for other types of loans, the higher your credit score, the more likely a mortgage refinance lender will be to work with you. Not only are your chances of approval higher, but you’ll typically receive a lower interest rate and more favorable loan terms than qualifying borrowers with lower scores.”
Going with a higher rate
Even if you don’t qualify for the lowest available rate, any drop will save you money on a monthly basis, and also over time. A refinance calculator shows how a .25 reduction in rate can save you almost $100 a month on your mortgage. Of course, you’ll want to weigh those savings against the cost of that refi and also consider how long it will take you to recoup those costs.
Buying down your rate
If you don’t qualify for the lowest rate and you want to go lower, you can buy down the rate. “Mortgage points are one way for homeowners to lower their interest rate,” said Bankrate. “When you pay for points on a mortgage, you are actually paying interest right now for the loan. In return, the homeowner can lock in a lower and discounted rate. The rate depends on how many points are purchased. Your mortgage rate will drop more if you purchase more points.”
Typically, one point means a .25% discount in the mortgage rate, and this will cost you 1% of the total mortgage loan amount. If you were looking at a $300,000 mortgage, it would cost you $3,000 to lower your rate by a quarter point. “Homeowners can buy more than one point, depending on their financial situation.