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Refinance, Lower Mortgage Payments and More
Borrowers enjoy many benefits from mortgage refinancing beyond just lower interest rates.

When mortgage rates fall below the 7% mark, it is boom time for refinancing. Still, for every person who's calling to refinance, there are probably two or three other people who aren't paying attention.

"Realistically, a vast majority of people close their loans, make their payments and don't worry about it again," says Bob Cannon of BancMortgage Financial Corp. "They don't refinance when they should be looking at it."

Those people should look again. Refinancing a mortgage means looking at all your options -- not just the interest rate. You also may want to look at refinancing if:

You have a jumbo mortgage and can switch to a conventional one.

You want to shorten the number of years on your loan.

Jumbo to conventional

Getting rid of a "jumbo" loan can save, says Bankrate.com financial analyst Greg McBride. Jumbo loans are those that are above the limits set by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae -- the quasi-government agencies that buy and sell mortgages in the secondary market. They trade in "conventional" mortgages below that limit. Jumbo mortgages are those above that figure, and they carry a slightly higher interest rate.

McBride gives the example of a homeowner who took out a jumbo mortgage for $270,000 when the maximum conforming single-family mortgage was $260,000 - a few months later it was raised to $300,700. The loan was for 30 years at 8.1%.

"The monthly payment," says McBride,"would be $2,000. (If rates are lower when) you refinance, that loan now counts as a conforming loan so you can get the lower conforming rate. (If the rate) is 6.92%, you save $218 on the monthly payment. Even if the refinancing costs you 2 % of the loan, you can break even in approximately two years."

Making the jump

Jumping from jumbo to conventional means getting a lower rate. In the example above, McBride says, 25 % of the savings is because the homeowner refinanced from a jumbo to a conforming, while 75% is due to lower interest rates.

Go from 30 to 15 -- consider the options

Suppose you bought a 30-year fixed rate mortgage seven years ago for $125,000 at 9%? Your monthly payment is $1,005.78 and your balance is $117,000. You'd love to knock down that 9% a couple of notches, but instead of refinancing the 30-year mortgage at a lower interest rate, McBride suggests going for a slightly higher monthly payment and refinancing to a 15-year mortgage.

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