Lower monthly payments. More available money to pay off other debts. Protection against future job losses. Shorter loan terms. Lower overall interest costs. Less interest rate uncertainty than adjustable rate mortgages provide.

Refinancing can offer people all that and a bag of chips. But what’s most important to homeowners today? Does refinancing make sense for many of them? How much can they save, and what kind of loans should they be considering? What do they hope to accomplish?

“Rates have pretty much dipped down to a low that we haven’t seen in a long time,” says Pamela Capo, senior loan officer at Competitive Mortgage Services Inc. in Atlanta. “People are looking at the lowest monthly payment” they can get.

“I had somebody two weeks ago already at a $150 savings a month and another couple is saving $480 a month and that’s a big deal.”

We interviewed several consumers and lending experts to find out what borrowers are doing. The borrowers agreed to share their financial data with us, and we provided it to mortgage lending professionals. They, in turn, analyzed the numbers, ran some calculations and came up with practical advice about how these homeowners might want to proceed.

By studying these examples and the pros’ advice, mortgage hunters will better educate themselves about the lending process. That should make it easier for them to decide if they too should take advantage of today’s low rates and refinance.

The “Farewell To ARMs” refinance
Like tens of thousands of other borrowers who took out ARMs after rates started climbing in early 1999, the Andersons decided to refinance their Minnesota townhouse. Though their new fixed rate won’t be much lower than the rate they’re currently paying on their ARM, they will save some money and eliminate the uncertainty of a variable rate.

The “Term Shortening” refinance
Kelley and Brian MacKay purchased their home during the mid-1990s using a Department of Veterans Affairs loan with no down payment. Seven years later, they’re looking to refinance to cut their monthly costs and reduce the term of their loan.

The “Pure Savings” refinance
Tom and Sandee Alo want to save at least $250 a month. It’s a relatively lofty goal, given their loans are only seven months old. But depending on how they proceed, it is possible.