6 min read May 14, 2024

Rate and Term Refinance: What Is It and How It Works?

In December 2023, refinance applications saw a decline of 3.4%. This is due to rising mortgage rates. Refinancing can be a good option when mortgage rates are dipping.

With a rate and term refinance, homeowners replace their existing loan with a new one. The new loan has favorable rates and terms.

Homeowners usually opt for refinance to take advantage of low interest rates or to decrease monthly installments. If you plan to refinance your mortgage, you must consider all factors associated with it.


  • Refinancing has costs associated with it, so you should avoid it when you can’t afford its costs. These costs amount to around 6% of the total loan amount.
  • If there has been a recent decline in your credit score, you should avoid refinancing. A lower credit score will result in higher interest rates on your mortgage refinance.
  • You should avoid refinancing, if your current loan plan has a prepayment penalty. Generally, a penalty amount is attached if you prepay your loan within 3-5 years.

How Does a Rate and Term Refinance Work?

Here’s how a rate and term refinance works:

  1. Apply for a Refinance: You’ll need to submit a refinance application to the lender. It includes information about your income, credit score, and the details of your existing mortgage.
  2. Lock in Your New Rate: Once you’ve applied for the refinance, you’ll need to lock in your new interest rate.
  3. Get an Appraisal: After you’ve locked in your new rate, the lender will require an appraisal of your home. This will help the lender determine the current market value of your home.
  4. Review Your Closing Disclosure: Once the appraisal is complete, the lender will provide a closing disclosure. This document outlines the terms of your new loan, including the interest rate, loan term, and closing costs.
  5. Close on Your Loan: Finally, once you’ve reviewed the closing disclosure, it’s time to close on your new loan. This typically involves signing a series of documents, including the mortgage agreement and other necessary paperwork.

Reasons to Opt For a Rate and Term Refinance

There are several reasons why homeowners choose a rate and term refinance:

  1. Lowering Interest Rates: Refinancing allows homeowners to avail benefits of low interest rates. It potentially reduces their monthly mortgage payments and saves money over the life of the loan.
  2. Shortening the Loan Term: Refinancing from a longer-term mortgage to a shorter one can help homeowners build equity faster.
  3. Changing from an Adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) to a Fixed-rate mortgage(FRM): Refinancing from an ARM to a FRM provides stability and protection against future interest rate fluctuations.
  4. Removing Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI): Refinancing can be a good option to eliminate PMI if the homeowner’s equity has increased since they first obtained the loan.
  5. Consolidating Debt: Refinancing can be a way to consolidate high-interest debt, such as credit card debt or personal loans.
  6. Improving Credit: By refinancing and making consistent mortgage payments, homeowners can demonstrate responsible credit management.

It’s important to carefully evaluate the costs, benefits, and long-term implications of refinancing before making a decision.

Rate And Term Refinance Requirements

If you’re considering a rate and term refinance, it’s important to understand its requirements. Here are some of the key requirements to keep in mind:

  • Credit Score:  A good credit score can demonstrate to lenders that you’re a responsible borrower, and likely to make mortgage payments on time.
  • Home Equity: The exact amount of equity required can vary depending on the lender, but generally, you’ll need to have at least 20% equity in your home to qualify.
  • Debt-To-Income Ratio (DTI): Generally, lenders prefer a DTI ratio of 43% or lower, although some lenders may be willing to work with borrowers who have a higher DTI.
  • Closing Costs: You can expect to pay anywhere from 2% to 5% of the loan amount in closing costs. It’s important to factor these costs into your decision-making process.

Alternatives to Rate and Term Refinance

If refinancing is not the right option for you, there are several alternatives to consider:

  1. Home Equity Loan: This involves taking out a loan using your home’s equity as collateral. It provides a lump sum of money that you can use for various purposes, such as home improvements or debt consolidation.
  2. Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC): Similar to a home equity loan, a HELOC allows you to borrow against your home’s equity. It allows you to have access to a line of credit that you can draw from as needed.
  3. Second Mortgage: This involves obtaining a separate mortgage on your property, allowing you to access additional funds. A second mortgage can be used for various purposes, similar to a home equity loan or HELOC.
  4. Personal Loan: If you don’t want to use your home as collateral, you can consider a personal loan. These loans are unsecured and can be used for a wide range of purposes.
  5. Negotiating with Current Lender: It’s worth exploring the possibility of negotiating with your current lender for better loan terms. This can help you achieve some of the goals that refinancing would have addressed.

It’s important to carefully assess the costs, terms, and potential risks associated with these alternatives before making a decision.

Bottom Line

Rate and term refinance can help you save money on your monthly payments. It’s primarily focused on reducing your interest rate or changing the term length of your loan.

However, the right option for you depends on your financial situation and goals. It’s important to carefully consider the options that best fit your needs.

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What is the difference between rate and term and cash out?

A rate-and-term refinance exchanges the current loan terms with a better one. On the other hand, a cash out refinance allows you to access your home equity by borrowing more than you owe on your current loan.

What is the term refinancing?

A refinance revises the terms of an existing loan, such as interest rates, payment schedules.

Will refinancing impact my credit score?

Yes, when you apply for refinancing, lenders do hard inquires on your credit score, which temporary impacts your credit score.

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