As a Senior, Does It Make Sense to Refinance My Primary Home?

As a Senior, Does It Make Sense to Refinance My Primary Home?
Mike Valles

If you are a senior and are retired—or about to be—you may wonder if it would be a good idea to refinance your home. Doing so could lower your monthly payments and free up more of your retirement income to enable you to live more comfortably.

While getting a home refinance could benefit your financial situation, there are some things you need to know beforehand. They will help you make a more informed decision so there are no regrets later.

Bankrate gives some guidelines to help you determine if refinancing your primary residence is a good idea. First, it says that if you are going to refinance, you want to get lower refinance rates than the rate you have now.

Second, refinancing makes sense if you can use some of your home’s equity to reduce or eliminate any debt you have with high interest rates.

Finally, if you are still paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), you can refinance to stop paying it.

Investopedia mentions that it would be a good idea to refinance a home loan if you think your mortgage payments will be too high to continue after reducing your income to a fixed amount.

Not Too Old to Refinance

Because of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, lenders cannot discriminate against your age. That means you may be eligible for a 15- or 30-year mortgage. The primary concern lenders have, says TheMortgageReports, is whether you can meet the payments.

Since you probably do not have any income reported on a W-2, you can show that you have other various sources of retirement income. These can include IRAs, 401(k)s, and other retirement assets. You will need to verify that you currently have access to the money in these accounts and that you can do so without penalties.

RocketMortgage says that if your accounts consist of bonds, mutual funds, and stocks, you may not be able to borrow as much as you hoped. The volatility of some of these items means that a lender will only consider about 70 percent of this type of asset.
You also will be required to show that you have enough additional money for a minimum of three years of living expenses and loan payments. Documentation is needed to prove that you have access to those accounts.

15- or 30-Year Mortgage?

When you refinance, you will be asked whether you want a 15-year or a standard 30-year mortgage. Both mortgages have advantages, but a 15-year mortgage will require considerably higher payments. It will also enable you to get out of debt sooner—if you can manage the payments and still have enough to live.

A 30-year mortgage will enable you to decrease your monthly payments if you get lower refinance interest rates. It can make it easier to pay your monthly bills and medical expenses as you get older.

A fixed-rate mortgage is apt to be a better choice than an adjustable-rate mortgage. Although the rate on an adjustable-rate mortgage may be lower to start with, there is no guarantee that it will stay low when it comes time to recalculate.

Other Options to Help Get Refinancing

Some banks and lenders may offer other options to refinance your mortgage, including:
  • Freddie Mac’s senior home-buying program;
  • Fannie Mae’s senior home-buying program;
  • Getting a co-signer; or
  • Asset depletion loans. Since you have no regular income, this method uses your liquid assets and divides them by the months of the loan—360 months for a 30-year loan, for example. The result reveals how much monthly income you have per month to assess whether you qualify.

When Not to Refinance

If you are thinking of moving soon, it does not make sense to refinance. You want to be able to stay in your current home to recover the cost of refinancing before you move.

Your credit score can also help you determine when you should not refinance. If you do not have good credit, you will not get a good deal when refinancing, but it also depends on what type of loan you want and where you get it.

In most cases, LendingTree says that you will need a minimum credit score of 680 if you are borrowing more than 75 percent of the home’s value and have a maximum debt-to-income ratio of 36 percent. A higher credit score—720 or higher—is needed if your debt-to-income ratio has a maximum of 45 percent.
A credit score that ranges between 620 and 680 may have additional terms before you can get a refinance mortgage. In addition to paying for closing costs, you may also be required to have two to six months’ expenses in savings and will need to pay for PMI if you have not yet paid more than 80 percent of your home’s value.

When to Pay Off the Mortgage

Instead of refinancing, there are situations when you would do better by paying off your mortgage—such as if you have the money to do so, apart from your retirement money. You should only do so if you still have a sizeable retirement fund and money for emergencies and other unexpected costs.
If you have not begun reducing the principal on your current mortgage, a new mortgage only increases your debt—even with a lower monthly payment. It may make sense, though, if you are having difficulty making payments now or are about to default on your mortgage.

Alternatives to Refinancing

Instead of refinancing your home, you have some options concerning what you might do with your home’s equity. U.S.News suggests that you might downsize your home and invest your balance. When you downsize, you could move to a location with lower costs.
You could also get a reverse mortgage and let the lender pay you a certain amount each month or get a lump sum. In that case, the size of your retirement income does not matter because a reverse mortgage can help you live more comfortably in your retirement years.

Setting Up a Trust for Future Payments

RocketMortgage says you should not worry about dying before you have the refinance off. Your beneficiaries can always sell it if they need to.

After you pass away and will your house to your beneficiaries, you can provide for future payments—if you are not sure your beneficiaries can. If you believe they will have to sell the house to pay off the mortgage, you can prevent the sell-off by creating a trust to cover the monthly mortgage payments and taxes.

The Epoch Times, copyright © 2022. The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors. They are meant for general informational purposes only and should not be construed or interpreted as a recommendation or solicitation. The Epoch Times does not provide investment, tax, legal, financial planning, estate planning, or any other personal finance advice. The Epoch Times holds no liability for the accuracy or timeliness of the information provided.
Mike Valles has been a freelance writer for many years and focuses on personal finance articles. He writes articles and blog posts for companies and lenders of all sizes and seeks to provide quality information that is up-to-date and easy to understand.
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