Streamline Refinance Guide for 2024: Process and Benefits

January 15, 2024 - 15 min read

A Streamline Refinance can lower your rate fast

Even with mortgage rates remaining relatively higher than they were a few years ago, some homeowners find it necessary to pursue refinancing. And the best way to do so may be with a Streamline Refinance.

Once you qualify, a Streamline Refinance program allows you to refinance into today’s rates with little to no effort.

You don’t have to verify your income or employment. Some mortgage lenders won’t look at your credit score. And you can even skip the home appraisal.

If you currently have an FHA, VA, or USDA mortgage, you might qualify for a streamlined rate reduction.

Verify your Streamline Refinance eligibility. Start here

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What is a Streamline Refinance?

The Streamline Refinance is designed to make refinancing easier for homeowners who have government-backed mortgages.

With a Streamline Refinance, the mortgage lender is not required to re-check your income, credit, or employment — so the process can go a lot faster. These are also called “low-doc” mortgages because there’s less paperwork involved.

Verify your Streamline Refinance eligibility. Start here

Streamline Refinance offers various perks, including:

  • The option to refinance without the need for a home appraisal, allowing you to refi with minimal or no home equity
  • A lower credit score won’t result in a higher interest rate, thanks to the absence of a credit check (subject to individual lender minimums)
  • You may qualify for a new mortgage through refinance, even if you’ve lost your job or experienced a pay cut, as no income or employment verification is required

Plus, government-backed loans typically have lower interest rates than other mortgage loan options.

So by using a Streamline Refinance, you could potentially secure a rate below market averages.

Who can use a Streamline Refinance?

All the major government-backed loans offer Streamline Refinancing. So if you have an existing FHA loan, VA loan, or USDA loan, there’s a good chance you could use a Streamline Refi to lower your mortgage rate.

You may notice conventional loans are missing from this list. Typically, homeowners with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac mortgages are not eligible for any type of Streamline Refinance.

Verify your Streamline Refinance eligibility. Start here

And not all candidates with a government-backed loan are automatically eligible for a Streamline Refinance.

You still have to meet certain requirements, which usually include a history of on-time payments and a clear benefit to the new loan. (Benefits can include a lower interest rate or lower monthly payments. We’ll go into more detail on that below.)

Some types of Streamline Refinancing will require income verification and credit qualifying. For example, if you’d like to remove a co-borrower from your loan, you’d need a credit-qualifying Streamline Refi.

FHA Streamline Refinance loan

The Federal Housing Administration backs FHA Streamline Refinance loans for homeowners with existing FHA-insured mortgages.

To qualify for an FHA Streamline Refinance loan, you’d need to meet these guidelines:

  • 3 months of on-time mortgage payments
  • At least 210 days since your last refinance
  • There must be a clear benefit. Usually you must lower your current FHA loan rate by around 0.50%

The FHA backs two kinds of Streamline Refinance loans:

  • Non-credit qualifying: With this loan, income, assets and credit are not verified; nor is employment. Appraisals are not required, either
  • Credit-qualifying: This refinance option requires a credit check and income verification but does not require a home appraisal

Choosing the credit qualifying Streamline Refi helps homeowners drop a co-borrower from their home loan.

Or, if you got a higher interest rate because you had credit problems on your closing date, it may be in your best interest to go with the credit-qualifying loan option.

With the FHA Streamline Refinance, homeowners whose FHA mortgage was endorsed on, or prior to, May 31, 2009 are eligible for special, reduced FHA mortgage insurance rates.

The FHA Streamline Refinance can be used to refinance any existing FHA mortgage, even if you’re currently using the home as a vacation home or investment property.

Verify your new rate

FHA Streamline Refinance rates

FHA Streamline Refinance rates follow current rates for all FHA loans. Today’s average FHA rate is short code, as reported to The Mortgage Reports on June 13, 2024*.

Loan Type Current Rate*
FHA 30-year fixed-rate% (% APR)
FHA 15-year fixed-rate% (% APR)

*Rates shown reflect an average interest rate for a “prime” borrower. Your own rate will vary. See our full loan assumptions here.

VA Streamline Refinance or “IRRRL”

The VA Streamline Refinance program is available to homeowners with VA-guaranteed mortgages.

The program’s official name is the Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL) and it’s backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Verify your FHA Streamline Refinance eligibility. Start here

To be eligible for a VA Streamline Refinance (IRRRL), you need to meet these guidelines:

  • You must have an existing VA-backed home loan in order to be eligible
  • You must certify that you currently or previously occupied the home
  • Your mortgage payment must be reduced by the refinance, unless you’re replacing an adjustable-rate mortgage with a fixed-rate mortgage
  • Your mortgage payment history may not include more than one late payment in the last 12 months

VA Streamline Refinance guidelines state that income, assets and credit should not be verified; nor should employment. Furthermore, in most cases, home appraisals are not required to refinance.

Mortgage insurance is not required for the VA IRRRL, regardless of loan-to-value ratio (LTV). However, there is a cost associated in the amount of 0.5 percent of the loan amount (unless you can qualify for disability services through the VA).

Unlike an FHA Streamline Refinance Loan, the VA’s IRRRL lets homeowners cash out part of their home equity — up to $6,000 worth to be spent on energy efficient home improvements.

VA streamline refinance rates

VA streamline refinance rates are in line with current rates on other VA loans. Today’s average VA rate is short code, as reported to The Mortgage Reports on June 13, 2024*.

Loan Type Current Rate*
VA 30–year fixed–rate% (% APR)
VA 15–year fixed–rate% (% APR)

*Rates shown reflect an average interest rate for a “prime” borrower. Your own rate will vary. See our full loan assumptions here.

USDA Streamline Refinance

The USDA Streamline Refinance program is available to homeowners with USDA-guaranteed home loans.

This program is now available in all 50 states. (It started as a pilot program in just 34 states.)

Verify your FHA Streamline Refinance eligibility. Start here

The eligibility requirements for the USDA Streamline Refinance are as follows:

  • Your home to be refinanced must be your primary residence
  • Your mortgage payment history may not include mortgage lates within the last 12 months
  • The home must be in a qualifying state

The USDA runs two Streamline Refinance loan programs:

  • USDA Streamline-Assist: There is no income, credit, or employment verification; nor are appraisals required
  • USDA Standard Streamline: The USDA will check your credit report, verify your income, and check your debt-to-income ratio. But there is still no home appraisal requirement

As with FHA and VA streamline refinancing, underwater properties may be refinanced via the USDA Streamline Refinance program.

Is there a conventional Streamline Refinance?

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac do not offer a conventional Streamline Refinance.

Until a few years ago, Fannie Mae had a low-doc conventional refi program known as HIRO which stands for High LTV Refinance Option. Now expired, HIRO once served along with the Freddie Mac Enhanced Relief Refinance Mortgage program as a replacement for HARP.

Verify your FHA Streamline Refinance eligibility. Start here

Homeowners with conventional loans can still get rate-and-term mortgage refinances which could lower their monthly mortgage payments. Rate-and-term refis roll your existing loan balance into a new loan with a new rate, a new term, or both.

Unlike with a Streamline Refi, mortgage lenders will put conventional rate-and-term applicants through the entire underwriting process, checking credit reports, income, and current debt load to make sure the borrower qualifies.

Lenders will also order a home appraisal for most new mortgage loans.

Appraisals and refinancing

The new appraisal matters because it shows your home’s current market value. With a conventional refinance, your new mortgage loan can’t exceed 97% of your home’s value.

For example, if your home is appraised at $500,000, your new loan can’t exceed $485,000.

If you owe more than $485,000 on your current mortgage — or if you need to roll in closing costs which would push your loan balance past $485,000 — your refi won’t get off the ground.

This rule is the refinance equivalent of making a 3% down payment on a home purchase loan.

Waiving the refinance appraisal

Some mortgage lenders will waive the in-person appraisal, speeding up the loan process and knocking hundreds of dollars off the new loan’s upfront costs.

If the lender agrees to waive your appraisal, it will rely on existing data to come up with your home’s value instead of sending a real estate appraiser to check out your property.

A lender will more likely waive the appraisal if you’ve closed your home recently, because you’ll already have a recent appraisal on file, or if you made a large down payment which generated a lot of equity upfront.

Your lender may not agree to waive your appraisal, but it’s worth asking. Be sure to ask before applying for the loan.

Conventional refinance rates

Loan Type Current Rate*
Conventional 30-year fixed–rate% (% APR)
Conventional 15-year fixed–rate% (% APR)

*Rates shown reflect an average interest rate for a “prime” borrower. Your own rate will vary. See our full loan assumptions here.

Verify your conventional refinance eligibility. Start here

Streamline Refinance FAQ

Is Streamline Refinance a good idea?

If you qualify, using the Streamline Refinance is often a very good idea. It lets you refinance into a lower rate and monthly payment with very little effort or time required. And you can do so even if your mortgage is underwater, meaning you owe more than the home is currently worth. Note that you will be required to pay closing costs on a Streamline Refinance.

What is the benefit of a Streamline Refinance?

The main benefits of a Streamline Refinance are that you can lower your mortgage interest rate and monthly payment; there’s no income, credit, or employment verification; no home appraisal is required; and you can use it even if your mortgage is underwater. These benefits of a Streamline Refinance are basically unmatched by any other refinance program.

Do I have to pay closing costs on an FHA Streamline Refinance?

Yes, the FHA streamline refinance has closing costs just like any other mortgage. FHA Streamline closing costs should be about 2 to 5 percent of your loan amount (less the home appraisal fee, which is generally about $500 to $1,000). If your current FHA loan is less than three years old, you can save money by getting a partial refund of the FHA’s upfront mortgage insurance premium.

How do you qualify for a Streamline Refinance? 

The rules to qualify for a Streamline Refinance vary depending on whether you have an FHA, VA, or USDA loan. In most cases, the minimum requirements to qualify for a Streamline Refinance are that your loan is the same type as the one you’re refinancing to (e.g. FHA to FHA); you have a proven history of on-time payments; and there’s a measurable benefit (“net tangible benefit”) to refinancing.

Do I need to undergo a credit check for a streamline refinance?

In some cases, a Streamline Refinance does not require a credit check. VA, FHA, and USDA will all accept Streamline Refi applications without re-verification of your credit score. In practice, however, many lenders set their own credit minimums. So if your credit score has fallen and your current lender will not approve you for a Streamline Refinance, it’s worth shopping around with other lenders to see if one will approve you.

Can you take cash out with a Streamline Refinance?

No, you cannot take cash out with a Streamline Refinance. Homeowners will need a cash-out refinance to borrow cash from their existing home equity. There is one exception: the VA Streamline Refinance, also known as the IRRRL, can cash out up to $6,000 from equity, but only to pay for energy-efficient home improvements.

Does FHA Streamline get rid of PMI?

The FHA Streamline Refinance Loan does not get rid of PMI. Every FHA loan requires mortgage insurance, regardless of whether it’s a purchase or Streamline Refinance. However, you may be eligible for a refund of your upfront mortgage insurance premium (UFMIP). That’s if you use the FHA Streamline Refinance within three years of getting the original loan.

How many times can you Streamline Refinance? 

You can use the FHA Streamline more than once as long as it’s been at least 210 days since your last refinance, you’ve made on-time payments, and there’s a benefit to the refinance. You can use the VA Streamline Refi more than once too — again, provided you meet the minimum requirements for on-time payments and net tangible benefit.

What is a streamline rate reduction?

A “streamline rate reduction” is the same thing as a Streamline Refinance. Specifically, the VA calls its refinance option the “Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan” (IRRRL). But the same could be said for similar offerings from FHA and USDA. All Streamline Refinances allow you to lower your mortgage rate and monthly payment with minimal paperwork and easy qualification standards.

How does a streamline mortgage work?

A Streamline Refinance (or streamline mortgage) works differently than other refinancing options. You can only apply for one if you have an FHA, VA, or USDA loan. Also, you do not have to re-verify your income, employment, or home value for a Streamline Refinance — which is the norm with almost all other mortgage programs.

Why do lenders offer Streamline Refinances?

The FHA, USDA, and VA back Streamline Refinance loans because these loans help borrowers, but also because they help lenders and loan programs. Lenders lose money when borrowers default. And when lenders lose money, the FHA, USDA, and VA step up to cover the lenders’ losses. So helping a homeowner into a more stable mortgage helps all parties.

Can I do a streamline refinance if I have negative equity (underwater) on my home?

Yes, one of the key benefits of streamline refinancing is that it doesn’t require an appraisal. This means you may be eligible for a streamline refinance even if your home’s value has decreased and you have limited or negative equity.

Can I streamline refinance if I'm behind on my mortgage payments?

Streamline refinancing is generally available as long as you meet the specific requirements set by the lender. However, if you’re behind on mortgage payments, it’s crucial to communicate with your lender as soon as possible to explore available options.

Can I streamline refinance if my mortgage is not an FHA loan?

Streamline refinancing is not limited to FHA loans. Other government-backed loan programs, such as VA and USDA loans, also offer streamline refinancing options. However, eligibility criteria may vary depending on the loan program.

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Maggie Overholt
Authored By: Maggie Overholt
The Mortgage Reports contributor
Maggie Overholt is a former Editor at The Mortgage Reports, where she helps make complex topics more approachable. She has also written for publications specializing in insurance and personal finance.
Aleksandra Kadzielawski
Updated By: Aleksandra Kadzielawski
The Mortgage Reports Editor
Aleksandra is the Senior Editor at The Mortgage Reports, where she brings 10 years of experience in mortgage and real estate to help consumers discover the right path to homeownership. Aleksandra received a bachelor’s degree from DePaul University. She is also a licensed real estate agent and a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR).