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Key takeaways

  • The benefits of a cash-out refinance include access to money at potentially a lower interest rate, plus tax deductions if you itemize.
  • On the down side, a cash-out refinance increases your debt burden and depletes your equity. It could also mean you’re paying your mortgage for longer.

A cash-out refinance allows you to convert a portion of your home’s equity into ready money. Some homeowners use the funds to consolidate debt or fund home improvements or higher education costs. Others put the money towards starting a business, investing in rental properties or making other big-ticket purchases. Whatever your goals, if you’re considering a cash-out refinance, review the advantages and downsides.

What is a cash-out refinance?

In a cash-out refinance, you replace your existing mortgage with a new loan for a larger amount. This new loan pays off the original mortgage and provides additional cash you can use for any purpose. The cash comes from your home’s equity.

Many cash-out refinance lenders allow you to access up to 80 or 85 percent of your home’s value. This amount could vary, though, depending on your creditworthiness, property type and your existing mortgage. Generally, lenders require you to maintain at least 15 to 20 percent equity in your home (though there are exceptions) after a cash-out refinance, so if you bought a home recently with a low-down payment loan, you might not qualify for a cash-out.

Cash-out refinance pros and cons

As with any financial decision, there are benefits and drawbacks to a cash-out refinance. Keep them in mind as you determine if this mortgage refinancing method would work for you.

Cash-out refinance pros

  • Access to a large sum: The biggest upside of a cash-out refinance is that you get the money you need by unlocking home equity you already have.
  • Lower interest rate: A cash-out refinance might have a lower interest rate compared to credit cards and personal loans.
  • Predictable payments: If you refinance to a new fixed-rate loan, your monthly principal and interest payments won’t change. That’s not the case with home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), which generally carry variable rates.
  • Possible tax deductions: When you file your taxes, you can deduct the interest you pay on the cash you took out so long as you use the funds to make eligible home improvements.
  • Potential to boost your credit score: If you use a cash-out refi to consolidate higher-interest debt, your credit score could improve.

Cash-out refinance cons

  • You owe more: Because you’re taking out a larger loan amount, your overall debt load increases. No matter how close you were to paying off your original mortgage, the cash out raises your debt level.
  • You might be kicking your debt down the road: If you’re cashing out to pay off high-interest debt, take a long pause. Make sure you’ve addressed whatever spending issues led you to run up the debt in the first place. Otherwise, you might find yourself in a debt spiral.
  • Closing costs: Just as you paid closing costs on your original mortgage, you’ll pay similar expenses when you refinance. (The good news: Refinance fees aren’t nearly as expensive as the closing costs on a home purchase.)
  • Foreclosure risk: Your home is the collateral for the cash-out refinance, so if you don’t repay the loan, you could lose your home.

Should I get a cash-out refinance?

A cash-out refinance could be ideal if you qualify for a better interest rate than you currently have and plan to use the funds to improve your finances or your property. This could include upgrading your home to boost its value or consolidating high-interest debt to free up room in your budget.

If you can’t get a lower interest rate, however, a cash-out refinance might not be the best move, especially if you refinance to a new 30-year loan.

In addition, if you expect to sell your home in the short term, it might not make sense to do a cash-out refinance; you’ll have to repay the larger balance at closing.

Alternatives to a cash-out refinance

Home equity loans and HELOCs also allow you to borrow against your home’s equity, offering the same tax break on the interest if the money’s spent on eligible renovations. Home equity loans provide a lump sum payment similar to a cash-out refinance, while a HELOC is a revolving credit line.

Both are often quicker and less expensive to get than a cash-out refi. However, they also use your home as collateral, and could come with higher interest rates compared to refinancing.

FAQ

  • The process of obtaining a cash-out refinance typically takes 30 to 60 days.
    1. Calculate your equity: Start by calculating the equity in your home. This’ll help you understand how much you could potentially cash out.
    2. Shop lender offers: Survey at least three mortgage lenders to contrast their rates, fees and terms.
    3. Get your financial records in order: Be prepared to provide income, asset and liability documentation. You’ll also need to provide information about your existing mortgage and your property. If you’ve recently had an appraisal, be ready to show proof of that, as well.
    4. Apply: Submit your cash-out refinance application. An appraiser will determine the value of your home so that your lender can decide how much you could cash out.
    5. Close the loan: Once approved, you’ll finalize the terms of the loan and sign off on the closing paperwork. After this, you’ll receive the cash difference between your new, larger loan and the previous mortgage balance, minus any associated closing costs. Keep in mind, you won’t get the cashed-out funds for at least three business days after closing.