Refinancing your mortgage can help lower your monthly payments and save you money over the life of the loan, but doing so more than once (or many times) may cost you more than you expect. Here’s what you need to know about how often you can refinance your mortgage, including what to watch out for.
How often can you refinance a mortgage?
There is no limit to how many times you’re allowed to refinance a mortgage, though a lender may enforce a waiting period between when you close on a loan and refinance to a new one. Often, lenders have what’s called a “seasoning” requirement — a period of time you need to wait before refinancing, generally at least six months.
However, that may only apply if you’re refinancing with your current lender; you could find a lender that is willing to do the refinance sooner and skirt the six-month rule altogether. (Note that if you’re considering a cash-out refinance, the waiting period, in many cases, is firm at six months.)
For government-insured mortgages, there are different requirements. Homeowners who have an FHA loan and are looking to do an FHA streamline refinance are required to wait 210 days (seven months) from the closing date of the first mortgage, and six months from the due date of their first mortgage payment, before being able to refinance. For an FHA cash-out refinance, there is only a six-month payment requirement.
Similarly, homeowners with a VA loan considering a VA streamline refinance (called an Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan, or IRRRL) are required to wait either 210 days from the date of their first mortgage payment or the date the sixth mortgage payment is made, whichever is later. For a VA cash-out refinance, the required waiting period is also at least 210 days from the closing date of the first mortgage.
Aside from these timelines, when considering how often you can refinance a mortgage, you want to make sure doing so makes financial sense. If the new interest rate isn’t significantly better than what you have right now, you may not save much after factoring in the cost of the refinance.
How much it costs for multiple refinances
It doesn’t always make sense to keep refinancing your home if interest rates go down or your credit score goes up. Just like your first mortgage, a refinance has closing costs. Each time you refinance, you’ll have to pay fees, such as for the application, appraisal, credit check, attorney and title search. These can vary depending on your area and the lender, though it’s common to pay anywhere from 2 percent to 5 percent of the loan principal.
The key to realizing savings is to take into account how much you’re lowering your interest rate, and how long you intend to stay in the home. If you plan to live there long-term, refinancing more than once may make sense, but you have to factor in your closing costs carefully.
Let’s say you have a 30-year fixed mortgage for $240,000 with 5.71 percent interest. Your monthly mortgage payment is $1,394, excluding insurance and taxes.
Fifteen years into your term, your balance is now $168,498. Rates have fallen, so you decide to refinance to 3.7 percent and a 15-year loan, cutting your monthly mortgage payment to $1,221 and dropping $31,108 in interest. If the closing costs equal 3 percent of the principal, or $5,055, you’d break even in roughly two years. However, if you’re charged 5 percent of the principal ($8,425), it’d be four years before you recouped them.
|Loan principal||Refinance term||Closing costs||Break-even|
|$168,498||15 years||3% ($5,055)||2.4 years|
|$168,498||15 years||5% ($8,425)||4.1 years|
What if after six months you decide to refinance a second time? Your balance is now $164,902. Suppose you can lower your rate to 3.19 percent and extend the loan 15 years. You’d bring down your monthly mortgage payment to $1,154. If closing costs remain the same (3 percent of the principal, or $4,947), it’d be six years to recoup them. If your closing costs were 5 percent ($8,245), it’d be 10 years.
|Loan principal||Refinance term||Closing costs||Break-even|
|$164,902||15 years||3% ($4,947)||6.1 years|
|$164,902||15 years||5% ($8,245)||10.2 years|
Now, what if when you refinance the second time, you get a lower rate, but only slightly? If you refinance from 3.7 percent to 3.68 percent, for instance, now into a 30-year loan to lower your payment (at 15 years, you’d have a higher payment), you’d break even on closing costs in less than a year, and have a lower payment ($757), but you’d also end up with higher interest in total — more than $60,000.
|Loan principal||Refinance term||Interest rate||Interest savings||Closing costs||Break-even|
|$164,902||15 years||3.68%||-$60,121||3% ($4,947)||10.6 months|
As you can see, it’s crucial to calculate the impact of closing costs, your new rate and how long you plan to live in the home to ensure that refinancing once, two times or even more than that is worth it.
Keep in mind there may also be a prepayment penalty, or a fee you’re charged if you pay the loan before the term is up, which can add to your costs. Make sure to read the fine print of your loan to see if there is a penalty, and, if so, consider whether paying it is worth it in the long run.
Is it a good idea to refinance again?
Refinancing your mortgage can offer some significant advantages. Here are a few scenarios when it could make sense for your financial situation:
- Interest rates are much lower. The general rule of thumb is to look for refinance rates that are a minimum of 1 percentage point lower than your current one, or even more depending on your closing costs. You can use Bankrate’s refinance calculator to see if the math works out in your favor.
- Your credit score has improved significantly. If your credit score is much higher than it was when you got your first mortgage, you may qualify for lower rates now, helping you save.
- You’re interested in a cash-out refinance. If you need extra cash to complete renovations, consolidate debt or for a large expense, a cash-out refinance may be worthwhile, although you’ll have a higher interest rate.
- You’re having trouble keeping up with current payments. Your income or cash flow situation can change at any time. If you need some breathing room, refinancing can make sense, especially if you qualify for a lower rate. However, note that each time you lengthen your loan term, you may end up paying more in interest overall.
Now that you know how often you can refinance your home, you’ll want to do some careful research to see whether it’s worth it to do multiple times. If you qualify for a rate that’s much lower than what you have now, you can save thousands in interest. It could be that lowering your payments can help you prevent your loan from going into default, as well.
No matter your reason, it’s a good idea to shop around with multiple lenders to find the best rates and terms.