How soon can you refinance? No waiting period for some

Erik J. Martin
The Mortgage Reports contributor

You might be able to refinance right after closing

When mortgage rates strike record lows, homeowners find themselves wondering, “how soon can you refinance?

Maybe you just bought a house, or even refinanced recently. The good news is, it might not be too soon to refinance again.

Many homeowners can refinance into a lower rate with no waiting period. And others only need to wait as little as 6 months.

So there’s a good chance you’re eligible to refinance at today’s historic low rates.

Verify your refinance eligiblity (May 7th, 2021)

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How soon can you refinance?

How soon you can refinance depends on the type of mortgage loan you have, and the type of refinance you’re planning to use.

Conventional loan refinance rules

If you have a conventional mortgage — one backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac — you might be able to refinance immediately after closing your home purchase or a previous refi.

Keep in mind that many lenders have a six-month “seasoning period” before a current borrower can refinance with them. So you’ll likely have to wait if you want to refinance with the company you’re already using.

You can get around that six-month rule by simply shopping around and refinancing with a different lender.

But you can get around that six-month rule by simply shopping around and refinancing with a different lender.

While it’s rare, some lenders charge a prepayment penalty fee that could derail your refinance plans. Check to see if your existing loan has a prepayment penalty clause before moving forward.

It’s recommended that you shop around before refinancing in any case, to make sure you’re getting the lowest rate possible.

Find a low refinance rate (May 7th, 2021)

Cash-out refinance rules

If you’re hoping to take cash out, you’ll typically have to wait six months before refinancing regardless of the type of loan you have.

In addition, a cash-out refinance typically requires you to leave at least 20% equity in the home.

So before you can use a cash-out refi, you need to be sure you’ve built up enough equity to make one worthwhile.

Government loan refinance rules

The rules are a little different if you have a government-backed mortgage, which includes FHA, VA, and USDA loans.

With a government loan, you have the benefit of being able to use a streamline refinance. Streamline refinancing cuts down the time and paperwork associated with a refi so you can get a lower rate, faster.

However, you have to wait 6-7 months before using a streamline refinance. And you must have a recent history of on-time mortgage payments.

Verify your refinance eligibility (May 7th, 2021)

It’s better to refinance sooner rather than later

Truth is, it’s never too early to think about refinancing after already closing on a mortgage.

“There is no minimum time wait. A mortgage is a contract. As soon as you can get a better deal, you should terminate the contract and take that better deal,” says Realtor and real estate attorney Bruce Ailion.

Closing attorney Chuck Biskobing says there are no major risks to refinancing within a year or so of purchasing.

“I’ve seen people refinance three times in a year to follow falling interest rates,” says Biskobing.

“I’ve seen people refinance three times in a year to follow falling interest rates.” –Chuck Biskobing, Closing attorney

“Say you want to apply the money saved each month back to the loan in the form of accelerated payments toward the principal,” he says.

“If so, you will almost certainly pay off the new loan faster than the old loan. And you’re not adding enough time on the loan to really matter.”

In other words, you’re not resetting your loan term by much if you’re just six or eight months into your mortgage.

But if you’re much further into your loan—say five to 10 years—resetting to a new 30-year mortgage may not pay off. To calculate if it’s worth it based on your remaining term, try this refinance calculator.

When is a refinance worth it?

“What’s most important to focus on is, what are the monthly and lifetime savings of the loan? What are the costs? And how long will it take you to recover those costs with the savings you’ll earn?” asks Ralph DiBugnara, president of Home Qualified.

“The best candidates for refinancing are those with high mortgage rates relative to a new lower rate, who intend to stay for a long time in their home, and have the cash ready to pay for closing costs,” says Gay Cororaton, senior economist for the National Association of Realtors.

Alternatively, the lender can roll the closing costs into the mortgage within the principal or in the form of a higher interest rate.

But that “higher” interest rate may still be far below your current rate, and it comes with no closing costs from your pocket or added to the loan balance.

Dropping your rate with no associated costs makes the decision to refinance an easy one.

Example: Cut your interest payments by $29,000 with a refi

Your previous home buying or refinance process wasn’t easy. There was a lot of red tape involved, and the closing costs were expensive. So why would you want to repeat all those steps again?

There are plenty of good reasons.

First, you may be able to save a lot of money. In 2020, mortgage rates are hovering near the lowest levels in history — meaning thousands of dollars in savings for many.

Say you recently closed on a $250,000 mortgage for 30 years at a 4.5 percent fixed rate.

Assume you now have the opportunity to refinance at 3.75 percent, resetting the 30 years.

You’ll save close to $100 a month on your mortgage payments. Add that up over 30 years, and you will have paid almost $29,000 less in interest.

And the lower rates go, the bigger your savings will be.

If you count on staying put for a while, this strategy is totally worth it.

“It makes sense to refinance if the interest payment savings make up for all the related costs and fees associated with closing a new mortgage,” says Cororaton.

Other good reasons to refinance

Another reason to refinance is that you can lower your monthly payment.

In the previous example, that owner could save nearly $100 a month by refinancing. That kind of green adds up fast. And it can make a big difference as your life situation changes.

Maybe a baby is on the way. Perhaps you want to buy a new car. Or you’re seeking to salt away more money toward a college fund. These are all important motives to lower your mortgage payments.

Refinancing sooner versus later can also be a good strategy if you:

  • Want to take extra cash out (tap your equity) to pay for something big like a remodel, automobile, or debt consolidation.
  • Need to take a partner off your loan due to a recent separation.
  • Have an FHA loan, for which you pay private mortgage insurance (PMI), and want to eliminate your PMI payments.
  • Have seen a boost in your credit score recently; you may qualify for an even lower interest rate with a higher credit score.

A refinance is not always just to lower your payment, but can help you accomplish your financial goals.

Verify your new rate (May 7th, 2021)

Refinance FAQ

How long do you have to wait to refinance?

You have to wait 6 months since your most recent closing (usually 180 days) to refinance if you’re taking cash-out or using a streamline refinance program. Otherwise, there’s no waiting period to refinance. Your current lender might ask you to wait six months between loans, but you’re free to simply refinance with a different lender instead.

How often can you refinance your mortgage?

You can refinance your mortgage as many times as it makes financial sense to do so. The only caveat is that you might have to wait six months from your most recent closing (whether it was a purchase or previous refinance) to do it again.

Also, remember that refinancing includes closing costs. Those typically equal 2-5% of the loan amount, which is enough to deter most people from refinancing every time interest rates fall.

Is it worth refinancing to save $100 a month?

That depends. Take a look at an example: Say you refinance to save $100 per month, and it costs you $3,000 in closing costs. It would take 30 months (or 2.5 years) to break even with what you spent. After that, you’d start seeing net savings. So if you planned to stay in the house more than 2.5 years after your refi, it might be worth saving $100 per month.

How much does refinancing cost?

Refinancing costs are similar to closing costs when you buy a house — about 2-5% of the loan amount on average. So if you refinance with a loan balance of $200,000, it would likely cost about $6,000-$10,000.

However, when you refinance, you have the option to roll closing costs into your loan or get a “no-closing-cost” loan with a slightly higher interest rate. So you might not have to pay those costs out of pocket.

What is the downside of refinancing your mortgage?

One big downside of refinancing your mortgage is that the loan starts over. Unless you can afford a shorter loan term with a bigger monthly payment, there’s a good chance you’ll be paying it off  — with interest — for a longer time. However, this might not matter if you plan to move before the loan is up (which most homeowners do).

Another downside of refinancing is that there are closing costs. So you have to weigh your potential savings against what you’ll owe at the closing table.

How can I avoid closing costs on a refinance?

There are two main ways to avoid closing costs when you refinance. First, you can look for a “no-closing-cost refinance,” which typically means the lender covers your closing costs in exchange for a higher interest rate. Or, you may be able to roll closing costs into your new loan. Technically, you still pay closing costs with this method. But they’re financed along with the rest of your mortgage, so you don’t owe anything out of pocket on closing day. 

Does refinancing hurt your credit?

When you refinance, mortgage lenders check your credit using what’s known as a “hard credit pull.” A hard pull can knock a few points off your score.

However, you can get refinance quotes from multiple lenders without having multiple credit dings. As long as you get all your quotes in a ‘reasonable shopping period’ (2-4 weeks), all credit inquiries during that time count as a single event. So the effect on your credit will be minimal.

Does refinancing start your loan over?

Yes. When you refinance, you’re opening a brand new mortgage loan. So you start your repayment schedule over at day one. However, you have the option of choosing a shorter loan term when you refinance if you wish. For instance, you could refinance from a 30-year mortgage into a 15-year mortgage and pay off the loan much sooner. Just be aware that a shorter loan term means you’ll have a larger monthly payment.

No need to worry about refinancing “too soon”

Refinancing is worth it if you discover that you can save monthly or over the life of the loan.

Most mortgage shoppers aren’t at risk of refinancing “too soon” and can apply even shortly after their previous loan closes.

Check your refinance savings and don’t miss out on lower housing costs.

Verify your new rate (May 7th, 2021)