To consolidate debt, should you refinance your home?
With a lot of high-interest debt to pay each month, the costs can quickly mount. Debt consolidation may be the best option for some people in these circumstances. Debt consolidation involves repaying all high-interest loans with a single, lower-interest loan. With today’s low mortgage rates, a debt consolidation refinance or home equity loan can save money. But it’s vital to recognize the benefits and pitfalls of these tactics. Securing high-interest debt against your house is dangerous, so examine the pros and cons carefully.
The Process of Debt Consolidation
Debt consolidation is intended to make paying off your debts more manageable on a monthly basis. But how exactly does it work?
High-interest debt is typically incurred through unsecured borrowing, such as credit cards and personal loans. The term “unsecured” refers to the lender’s lack of collateral to recoup losses if you default on the debt. (This is in contrast to a mortgage, which is “secured” by your home.) With multiple high-interest payments going to different lenders each month, it’s easy to get in over your head. Consolidating your debt by rolling outstanding balances into a lower-interest mortgage can simplify matters and save you a significant amount of money.
What is a debt consolidation refinance?
Any debt consolidation strategy should aim to reduce your monthly expenses. A primary mortgage is the most cost-effective source of funds for most homeowners. With today’s low mortgage rates, you could potentially use a mortgage loan with a sub-4 percent interest rate to pay off credit card debts with an annual percentage rate of 18-25 percent.
So, how exactly does it work? Homeowners who want to consolidate their debts frequently use a cash-out refinance. This entails taking out a new home loan that is greater in value than your current mortgage balance. At closing, the ‘extra’ loan amount is cashed out. You use the cash-out funds to pay off existing high-interest debt, leaving you with only one outstanding debt: your mortgage. In this manner, you are effectively repaying high-interest unsecured debts with a lower-interest mortgage loan. A cash-out refinance can also be used to pay off other major debts, such as student loans or medical bills.
To get out of debt quickly, the highest-interest debts should be prioritized. Savings can be utilized to pay down low-interest debt like student loans. Another benefit. Mortgage rates are near historic lows. There’s a strong chance you can reduce your current mortgage rate and save money on house loans and other debt interest. As with your original mortgage, closing expenses are included with refinancing. A low enough interest rate will allow you to recoup the upfront costs while saving you money on external interest payments.
Requirements for debt consolidation refinance
You must qualify for the new loan if you want to consolidate debt with a mortgage refinance. The requirements differ depending on your current loan type and the type of cash-out refinance you seek. To begin, you must have enough equity to pay off your existing debts. To qualify for a debt consolidation mortgage, you’ll typically need significantly more than 20% equity. This is because most lenders require you to leave at least 20% of your home equity alone when using a cash-out refinance.
For example, in order to receive 10-20% in cash, 30-40% equity is required. You’ll also need to have a minimum credit score. The most common type of refinance, a conventional cash-out refinance, necessitates a credit score of at least 620. The FHA also offers a cash-out refinance program that allows for a lower FICO score of 600. However, taking out a new FHA loan entails paying a mortgage insurance premium (MIP), which includes both an upfront fee and a monthly mortgage insurance fee. This raises the total cost of your new loan and reduces your savings margin. Another option for qualified veterans and service members is to consolidate debt through the VA cash-out refinance.
Unlike other refinance programs, the VA cash-out loan allows you to refinance up to 100 percent of the value of your home. Even if they don’t have enough equity for a traditional cash-out loan, veterans may be eligible.
Other debt consolidation loan alternatives
A home equity loan or home equity line of credit is a different way to tap into your home’s equity and pay off debt (HELOC). A HELOC is a revolving credit line with an adjustable interest rate (often based on the prime rate) plus a margin. It works similarly to a credit card secured against your home in that you borrow only what you need when you need it and begin repayment only when there is a balance owed. A fixed-rate home equity loan provides you with a lump sum at closing that you can use to pay off debts.
Closing costs and/or origination fees can be charged on both HELOCs and home equity loans. In other words, if now is not a good time to refinance, HELOCs and home equity loans provide another option for lowering interest rates by securing your debts against your home.
Personal loans (also known as debt consolidation loans)
A debt consolidation loan is not the same as a debt consolidation refinance.
If you don’t own a home or don’t have enough equity in your home to borrow against, a personal loan debt consolidation is a better option.
The Benefits and Drawbacks of a Debt Consolidation Mortgage
Debt consolidation can be an effective way to get out of debt quickly. However, if you make a mistake after refinancing your mortgage, the consequences could be severe.
The most obvious advantage of debt consolidation refinance is that you will save money by lowering the interest rate on your outstanding debts. This could end up saving you a lot of money in the long run. Assume you consolidated all of these debts into a single loan with an annual percentage rate of less than 4%. Debt consolidation can also help you improve your credit score. It aids in lowering your “credit utilization ratio,” which is the percentage of your total credit limit that you are currently using. The lower your utilization ratio, in general, the higher your FICO score.
It may appear that paying off high-interest credit cards with a low-rate mortgage refinance is a no-brainer. However, there are some very real dangers to be aware of. Debt consolidation strategies are notoriously ineffective. And, according to credit experts, many people who use home equity to pay off credit cards will then run them up again — until they’re in even worse shape than when they started. In the worst-case scenario, a homeowner may refinance their debts and then incur new debts so large that they are unable to afford monthly mortgage payments. They may face foreclosure and, as a result, lose their home.
It’s also worth noting that a mortgage refinance entails resetting your loan term. If you were ten years into a 30-year mortgage when you refinanced, the remaining term would be reset from 20 to 30 years. This means you’ll have to pay interest for a long time. So, despite short-term savings on your higher-interest debt, you may end up paying more in the long run. Overall, debt consolidation refinancing can be a wise way to pay off debts at a much lower interest rate. However, in order to avoid negative consequences, payments must be made with extreme caution.
Keep in mind that you still owe the money
With any type of debt consolidation loan, the borrower should proceed with caution and be extremely disciplined when it comes to repayment. This is especially true if you have a mortgage or a home equity loan, which could put your home in jeopardy if you are unable to make payments. Borrowers can get into trouble when their prior credit lines are freed up as a result of debt consolidation. It is possible to overcharge those lines and end up in debt all over again. Remember that debt consolidation does not imply that your debts have been “wiped out,” but rather that they have been restructured to be more manageable. The ultimate goal is to be debt-free; refinancing or taking out a loan is simply a means to that end.
What are your next steps?
For careful borrowers, debt consolidation can be a legitimate path to debt freedom. However, in order to avoid potential pitfalls and successfully pay off debt, you must be aware of them ahead of time.
- Seek assistance to bring your spending under control
- Make a larger-than-minimum credit card payment
- Alternatives include zero-interest transfers and personal loans
Begin by comparing mortgage refinance rates from a few lenders to see how much money you could save by repaying your debts at a lower interest rate.