Since I have a decent amount of experience in the real estate and mortgage industries, a number of friends have been asking me if it is time to refinance their ARM or fixed rate mortgage or if they should lock-in a rate on a house they are purchasing today. Summary thoughts: Rates seem pretty good right now. There is a chance that they will fall further by the end of the year, but the likelihood is 50/50. Most experts seem to think that rates will actually rise due to tightening lending standards and a deteriorating US housing market / financial system.
Here are my thoughts:
1) Further cuts likely: Based on Bernake’s commentary today, further rate cuts are likely before the end of the year due to a slowing US economy. My sense is that these rate cuts are on the mid-term horizon (maybe three mos or more). If you are thinking that you want to refinance sooner, my sense is that rates are pretty compelling today.
2) Experts Feel Like Rates Will Rise: I generally check out the BankRate mortgage expert index to get a sense of where the market is. Since there was a sense that the Fed was going to cut rates, mortgage rates dropped pretty dramatically and experts have felt that rates were going to rise. Since I have been watching this index, the experts have been right in that rates have gone up slightly over the past month or so.
3) Watch the Fees: Terri Cullen of the Wall Street Journal has a good article this week here in Fiscally Fit – WSJ.com saying that banks and lenders are increasing their fees in light of financial weakness. It’s worth shopping around and then negotiating the fees with the bank or broker. Pay closest attention to the lender fees as they are the ones that are most negotiable.
4) Personal Financial Decision: Here is a good post from Active Rain on when you should think about refinancing your mortgage. Lee Zacharczyk of Atlantic Home Loans in Freehold, NJ says that you should think about 1) How long do you expect to own your home? 2) Where are interest rates from an historical perspective? 3) How long do you expect to be in this mortgage, i.e. will you be able to pay it off early?
Just like the stock market, experts have long said that it is impossible to time the market. Home mortgages are the same way. I would make sure you are comfortable with the long-term rates and the fees you will need to pay to refinance. If you are getting a good rate with reasonable fees, locking in a lower rate for peace of mind is a worthy trade. As always, it is important to shop around.
If have questions or are interested in a recommendation, feel free to email me at nparekh00 `at` gmail