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How to Refinance a Conventional Loan

by Shala Munroe

Conventional loans sometimes save you money over government-backed ones such as Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans because you aren't required to pay monthly mortgage insurance premiums in many cases. They often have stricter regulations, however, and that's true whether you're refinancing a conventional loan or applying for a new one. The process and costs involved are similar. Not everyone is a good candidate for a refinance; it works best if you can save money through an interest rate reduction or by shortening the term of your existing loan.

Examine your existing loan information so you can compare current rates and view the remaining length of your loan.

Check your credit report and score. The score affects which rate you qualify for, as do a high debt-to-income ratio or negative items on your credit report. Order an instant free credit report from all three major credit bureaus using AnnualCreditReport.com. View your scores for an additional fee. Low scores, such as those below a 680, might disqualify you from getting the best interest rates offered for conventional loans. Spend time correcting negative items on your credit report if necessary, such as paying down high credit card balances or making sure all bills are paid on time.

Call mortgage companies or go online to compare rates for conventional loans. If the current rates are higher than the rate on your existing loan, it might not be a good time to refinance. Provide your average credit score from the three credit bureaus to receive a prequalification on a refinance.

Decide on the right loan for your needs. If you're currently in a 30-year mortgage, a 15-year mortgage might be a good option because it lets you pay off your house faster at a lower interest rate than 30-year mortgages, but the monthly payments typically are higher. To stick with a 30-year mortgage, choose an option with an interest rate lower than your current one.

Ask about the closing costs and any upfront fees involved with the refinance. Each mortgage company has its own requirements, but prepare to pay 3 to 6 percent of your refinance amount in closing costs, according to the U.S. Federal Reserve Board.

Forward all required documentation to your chosen lender, including current pay stubs or recent income tax returns. Set a closing date and attend the closing to sign the final refinance paperwork.

About the Author

Based outside Atlanta, Ga., Shala Munroe has been writing and copy editing since 1995. Beginning her career at newspapers such as the "Marietta Daily Journal" and the "Atlanta Business Chronicle," she most recently worked in communications and management for several nonprofit organizations before purchasing a flower shop in 2006. She earned a BA in communications from Jacksonville State University.

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