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Do You Need a Down Payment to Refinance a Mortgage?

  • Finance
  • Natasha Young
  • 8 minutes

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When you refinance your mortgage, you rarely have to make a down payment like when you first got the loan. But refinancing still costs money, so you may need cash when you close the loan. But do you need a down payment to refinance a mortgage? Read to know more. 

Is a down payment required to refinance a mortgage? 

Most of the time, no money is required for refinancing your mortgage. Lenders normally aim for an 80% loan-to-value ratio (LTV) or lower, along with strong credit. In the conventional rate-and-term refinance, a down payment can lower your interest rate and payments and shorten your loan term. If your LTV is higher than that, you may want to pursue a cash-in refinance, requiring you to pay more.  

The additional money in a cash-in can help you cut your monthly payments if you shorten the term and get a cheaper interest rate. It can bring your LTV to the point where you can eliminate private mortgage insurance (PMI). Putting money down can sometimes help you save more money in the long term. A cash-out refinance, on the other hand, does not require a down payment. Lenders typically limit the amount you can cash out to 80% of your home’s value. 

Home equity and down payment  

When purchasing a home, a down payment is almost always required. And it is often between 3% and 20%. The down payment is essential because it creates equity in the home, which protects the lender if you default on your loan. 

You don’t need to necessarily make a down payment when refinancing because you will probably have equity in the property. You will be able to accumulate home equity in the long run as you pay down your mortgage. And also spike the value of your home.  

As a result, as long as you fulfill the minimum equity requirements, you won’t need to make a down payment when refinancing. Yet, you must pay closing expenses again, just as you did while purchasing the home. When deciding whether to refinance, know that these fees might tag along. 

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How much equity is needed to refinance your mortgage? 

Your home’s equity is the sum of your mortgage balance and market value. For instance, you have 30% equity if your house is worth $100,000 and your mortgage balance is $70,000. Some individuals think that 30% ownership is necessary for refinancing, but this isn’t always true. The requirement will change according to the refinancing you are signing up for. 

  • VA refinance: 0% 

With a VA cash-out refinance, you can typically get a new loan for up to 100% of the home’s value. Hence, hypothetically, you might refinance with no home equity. However, actual restrictions differ from lender to lender. Some lenders limit the amount of home equity applicants can borrow to just 90%, leaving the remaining 10% untapped. The “Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan” is a streamlined refinance option available for VA loans that enables refinancing with no equity and no appraisal. 

  • Conventional refinance: 3-5% 

You can often qualify for a standard rate-and-term refinance with home equity of 3% to 5%. Interest rates and loan terms can possibly be changed with conventional refinance. However, conventional lenders call for at least 20% equity for a cash-out refinance. This entails taking out a new debt that is greater than what you already owe and then paying the difference with cash. 

  • USDA refinance: 0% 

Cash-out refinances are not permitted with USDA mortgages. Yet, if you fulfill the USDA’s credit requirements and are current on your loan payments, you may refinance a USDA loan with little to no equity. 

  • FHA refinance: 3.5% 

An FHA refinance only needs 3.5% equity for a rate-and-term refinance while requiring 20% equity for a cash-out. You can be eligible for an FHA refinance if you have little to no equity. There is no appraisal needed. Yet your FHA loan must be active and in good standing to be eligible. Moreover, there can be no cash back because the new loan cannot be for more than the initial mortgage balance. 

How much does it cost to refinance? 

A down payment is unnecessary, but refinancing can come with closing costs. The average refinance closing costs are around $5,000. It often includes the appraisal fee, loan origination fee, credit report fee, survey fee, discount points, etc.  

To avoid paying these charges upfront, you can have part of them waived or rolled into your loan in a no-closing-cost refinance. The major con of a no-closing-cost refinance is that you will pay interest on a larger loan amount. It can result in you spending much more over time. A no-closing-cost refinance is a reasonable option if you don’t plan to stay in the house for long. 

You can also try to bargain down your closing charges. If you’ve previously had a loan with the lender or are otherwise a satisfied customer, you may be able to persuade the lender to forgo some of the fees. Also, some charges, such as the appraisal or survey, may not be necessary if you recently completed them. 

Whichever method you use to pay closing costs, know your budget and affordable monthly payments. Use an online refinance calculator to get an approximate. Refinancing may not be worth it if you don’t intend to stay in your house for a long time. 

Refinance closing costs 

When you refinance, your old mortgage is replaced with a new one. However, there will be charges associated with the new mortgage that you will be asked to pay. These fees, which can be between 2% and 5% of the loan balance, are paid to lenders and other parties. Before refinancing a mortgage loan, be sure to account for closing fees. Ideally, you should own the property long enough to make a profit or return your closing costs. 

How to get lower refinance rates for your mortgage? 

Getting lower refinance rates can be influenced by many factors, like your credit history and the state that you live in. Here are some ways to get lower refinance rates for your mortgage: 

By improving your credit score 

Most importantly, pay your bills on time. Also, check your credit report for mistakes and fix them immediately. 

By paying discount points 

In general, each point you pay lowers your interest rate on your mortgage by 0.25%. And one point costs 1% of the loan’s total amount. So, paying one point might lower the interest rate on a $150,000 refinance from 3 to 2.75% at $1,500 upfront. 

By comparing prices 

Shopping around is the best strategy to lower your mortgage rate. To pin down the best offer, you better start comparing lenders online. Take any fees and closing charges into account and find your best fit. 

How to know if you are eligible for mortgage refinancing? 

Your lender will calculate your LTV when you apply for a mortgage refinance to see if you qualify for a new loan. LTV can be considered to be the opposite of equity. Low LTV can make it simpler for you to be approved for a refinance. That’s not the only advantage, though. LTV is another factor mortgage lenders use to calculate your APR and interest rate. Your interest rate will be better with more equity and lower LTV. 

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Bottom line 

Down payments are not an actual necessity. But there will be costs associated with your mortgage loan when you refinance. Be open and discuss with your lender before agreeing to any payments. It can save you money, and you get to be on the good books of your lender. 


Do you have to put a down payment when you refinance? 

You may usually refinance your mortgage without putting any money down. Lenders sometimes need a loan-to-value ratio (LTV) of 80 or less, excellent credit. 

What are the requirements to refinance a loan? 

If you want to refinance, you should have equity in your house. You will probably need 20% equity in your property to get rid of private mortgage insurance. Even if you wish to refinance with cash out, you’ll often need this amount of equity as well. 

How much money do you need to refinance your home? 

It all depends on your equity and LTV. A cash-out refinancing requires at least 20% equity. You can possibly take out a personal loan to pay off your mortgage and build up your home’s equity if you want to refinance but have no equity. 

How much does your payment go down when you refinance? 

Closing expenses typically range from 2 to 5% of the loan’s principal. For instance, closing expenses for a refinance of a $200,000 mortgage could range from $4,000 to $10,000. 

Is it better to pay down the mortgage before refinancing? 

Your home’s equity will increase more swiftly if you repay your mortgage sooner. This may enable you to qualify for refinancing, which could help you save big time. 

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