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More than a quarter of American homeowners don’t know the mortgage rate they’re paying, a reality that sheds light on the mystery of why millions of American homeowners have yet to take advantage of a historic opportunity to save money by refinancing.
As mortgage rates plunged to record lows in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, the number of American homeowners who could have refinanced soared to nearly 20 million, according to research by mortgage data firm Black Knight. That total has fallen as rates have climbed, but it still numbers about 11 million.
There are several reasons homeowners don’t swap out mortgage rates, including the time and expense involved in refinancing, mortgage insiders say. A Bankrate survey just before the pandemic pointed to another culprit: Fully 27 percent of homeowners said they didn’t know their mortgage rate.
“If you don’t know your mortgage rate, it is worth checking,” says Greg McBride, Bankrate’s chief financial analyst.
Check your statement or contact your servicer
You should receive a monthly statement, either on paper or by email, from your mortgage servicer. That’s the company that collects your payments.
The monthly statement gives a variety of details about your loan — the initial amount, the amount you owe now, the length of the loan, the origination date, the payoff date and the rate.
If for some reason you’ve lost touch with your servicer, mortgage giant Fannie Mae has a Loan Lookup tool that will help you track down information about your home loan. Fannie Mae also keeps a list of major servicers, along with their phone numbers and web addresses.
How to decide whether to refi
Once you’ve determined your current mortgage rate, the next step is to decide whether you should keep the loan or refinance. Some things to consider:
How long will you keep the property? If you plan to sell in a couple of years, don’t bother to refinance. You probably won’t be able to recoup the costs of a new loan through lower payments. If you’ll be there for five years or longer, however, a refi could make sense.
What’s your break-even point? Closing costs can total 2 percent to 5 percent of the amount of the loan, so you’ll want to calculate whether the expense is worthwhile. Say you’ve got a $250,000 loan for 30 years at 4.25 percent. Your monthly payment is $1,230. If you can cut the rate to 3.25 percent, your payment will fall to $1,088. If your closing costs are $5,000, it’ll take you three years of lower monthly payments to make back the amount you spent to refi.
What’s your credit situation? If your credit score has improved substantially since you first took out your loan, it’s well worth looking into whether you can benefit from a double boost: lower mortgage rates as well as a cut in the rate you are offered because your credit score is higher. You can check your credit score for free at annualcreditreport.com.
What other factors affect your decision? Do you need a new kitchen? A cash-out refinance might be the best way to pay for it. Are you still paying private mortgage insurance? Soaring home values might mean you no longer have to shoulder that extra expense. There are reasons to refi beyond capturing a rate that’s near historic lows. “It’s not just about getting a lower rate,” says Joe Tyrrell, president of ICE Mortgage Technology.