Mortgage rates are enticingly low, so if you’re thinking about refinancing, make sure you take advantage of that and get the lowest rate and best deal possible. Bankrate has made it easier for you to compare refinance offers by reviewing dozens of mortgage lenders in several key areas. Based on those benchmarks, here is our guide to the best mortgage refinance lenders in 2021.
To determine the best mortgage refinance lenders, Bankrate evaluated lenders based on several criteria, including cost (competitive refinance rates and low or no fees); expediency (approval and closing times); scope of refinance offerings; and borrower testimonials.
Best mortgage refinance lenders
Wyndham Capital Mortgage
Charlotte, North Carolina-based Wyndham Capital Mortgage is a digital lender that’s funded more than $18 billion in loans and serviced more than 60,000 borrowers. With some of the lowest refinance rates available, the lender is a competitive choice for homeowners looking to save.
Wyndham Capital Mortgage’s refinancing options include rate-and-term refinancing, in which you change the interest rate or term of your mortgage, or both; cash-out refinancing, in which you cash out equity in your home; FHA streamline refinancing; and VA streamline refinancing (an Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan, or IRRRL). The lender also offers a simplified refinance option that allows borrowers to refinance to a lower rate without mortgage insurance and no minimum credit requirement.
In addition, the lender doesn’t charge fees or stick you with hidden costs, and facilitates fast automated preapprovals so you can compare its refi offers quickly with others, as well as expedient e-closings that cut down on time to close.
Wyndham Capital Mortgage has no brick-and-mortar locations, however, so you can’t apply to refinance in person.
Better.com is a digital lender known for a 100-percent online process through which you can access rates, resources and loan preapproval 24/7. The lender was named one of Bankrate’s best mortgage lenders overall and best online mortgage lenders in 2021.
Better.com’s refinancing options include rate-and-term refinancing and cash-out refinancing on conventional and FHA loans. Like other lenders on this list, this one also has some of the lowest refinance rates on the market.
What also helps Better.com stand out is that you won’t pay an origination fee when you refinance, and, if you furnish a better offer from another lender, the lender will either beat it or pay you $100. With its fast platform and technology, you can also snag a rate quote in seconds, a preapproval letter within three minutes and a closing in under three weeks.
The downsides to Better.com include the fact that there are no brick-and-mortar locations — the lending process is done completely digitally — and that the lender doesn’t make loans in all states.
NBKC Bank is a brick-and-mortar and online financial institution that provides a variety of loans and services across the country. On the mortgage side, the bank’s refinance offerings include rate-and-term refinancing, cash-out refinancing, FHA streamline refinancing and VA streamline refinancing (IRRRL), and a special refinance option for some borrowers, all with competitive rates.
What makes NBKC Bank also worth considering is its reputation for exceptional customer service and speedy response times from loan officers. Customer reviews are overwhelmingly positive, as well.
Note you’ll have to pay lender fees to refinance with NBKC Bank, although if you’re a Costco member, you could be eligible for a discount. There are also only four branches you can visit in-person, all within the Kansas City area.
Bank of America
There can be advantages to refinancing with Bank of America, the second-largest bank in the U.S., which ranked No. 2 by J.D. Power for mortgage origination customer satisfaction in 2020. The bank’s mortgage refinance offerings include rate-and-term refinancing, cash-out refinancing and FHA and VA refinancing.
You could stand to save significantly refinancing with Bank of America, which has some of the lowest refinance rates. However, you might be able to find an even lower rate or better deal elsewhere, so be sure to shop around.
Through Bank of America online, you can prequalify and apply for a refinance easily and submit documents digitally. You might also be eligible for auto-pay or other discounts on the origination fee if you’re an existing customer. One drawback: Bank of America’s lender fees aren’t made public, so you’ll have to consult with a loan officer to get this information.
Costco isn’t just a place to buy groceries, furniture or tires. If you’re a Costco member, you can also shop for some of the lowest and most competitive refinance offers through Costco’s mortgage marketplace, with options including rate-and-term refinancing and cash-out refinancing.
The refinance offers aren’t funded or underwritten by Costco, however; the retailer simply allows you to compare rates from partner lenders, with special benefits because you’re a member.
If you’re an Executive-level Costco member, the lender fees on a refi through the mortgage marketplace won’t exceed $250. Likewise, if you’re a Gold Star member, you’ll pay $550 or less. Every loan offer you get provides a transparent fee estimate, as well, and according to Costco, participating lenders fund loans more quickly than the industry average.
The disadvantage, of course: You have to be a Costco member, which comes with its own cost.
What types of mortgage refinancing are there?
In general, there are two main types of mortgage refinancing:
- Rate-and-term refinancing, which involves replacing your current mortgage with a new loan that comes with a different interest rate, a different loan term or both
- Cash-out refinancing, which enables you to tap the equity in your home (in the form of a lump sum given at closing) in addition to lowering your rate
When is the best time to refinance your mortgage?
It can be a good time to consider refinancing your mortgage when interest rates drop below the level they were when you got your current loan — ideally one-half to three-quarters of a percentage point lower.
It can also be smart to refinance if your credit has improved and you can now qualify for a new loan with a lower interest rate.
Because refinancing involves closing costs, you also have to consider your breakeven point: the time when you can expect to recoup these costs based on how much you’ll be saving on your monthly payment. If you don’t plan to stay in your home long enough to break even, refinancing might not be the best route if your goal is to save money.
Ultimately, the right time to refinance your mortgage is when it makes the most financial sense for you. This will depend on several factors, including:
- How long you have left on your current loan
- How long you plan to remain in your home
Why should you refinance your mortgage?
There are many good reasons to consider refinancing your mortgage, including the ability to:
- Capitalize on a lower interest rate, which can decrease your monthly mortgage payments and result in less interest paid over the life of your loan
- Shorten your loan’s term so that you can pay it off sooner, and pay less interest overall, or lengthen your loan’s term in order to lower your monthly payments
- Replace an adjustable-rate mortgage with a fixed-rate mortgage
- Cash-out your home’s equity to fund home improvements, consolidate debt, finance an education or pay any other expense
- Remove mortgage insurance if your home has gained value
What are the requirements to refinance your mortgage?
There are a few requirements to qualify for a mortgage refinance.
- Credit score – In order to refinance, you’ll need to meet credit score requirements just as you did with your first mortgage. The exceptions are FHA streamline refinancing and VA streamline refinancing (IRRRL), which don’t call for a credit check.
- Debt-to-income (DTI) ratio – Some lenders look for a debt-to-income (DTI) ratio of 50 percent or less, and many prefer no more than 36 percent. The DTI ratio is your total monthly debt obligations divided by your gross monthly income.
- Equity – You should have a sufficient amount of equity in your home in order to refinance. Most lenders prefer you to have at least 20 percent.
- Seasoning – For most lenders, you’ll need to meet a “seasoning” requirement, as well, which is a period of time you need to wait before you can refinance. This is usually a minimum of six months since you last refinanced or purchased your home.
Should you refinance with your current lender?
You are not required to refinance your mortgage with your current lender, and it’s smart to shop around for offers. However, there can be advantages to sticking with your current lender. First, your lender might be willing to match or beat a lower rate quoted by another lender. Second, it’s often easier to refinance with your existing lender because the lender already has a lot of your financial information. Third, your lender might lower or waive certain refinance fees to keep you as a customer.
How to refinance your mortgage
There are several steps involved in refinancing your mortgage. Here is an overview of what to expect:
- Determine your goals. What will refinancing help you achieve? Knowing how much home equity you’ve accumulated is important so you can better define your goals.
- Do the math. Calculate your breakeven point for closing costs, and consider whether you’ll be in your home long enough to recoup them. Now is a good time to also decide whether you’ll pay closing costs upfront or add them to the new loan.
- Check your credit report and work to improve your score or correct errors, if needed.
- Shop around and get refinance rate quotes from several lenders.
- Apply. When you find the best deal, it’s time to complete an application. Be sure to have all of your financial information prepared and be ready to provide it when you apply and throughout the underwriting process.
- Prepare for a home appraisal — your lender is likely to require one.
- Gather the funds you’ll need to cover closing costs if you plan to pay them on closing day.