Mortgage Refinancing: What Is It And How Does It Work? (2024)

The refinancing process is often less complicated than the home buying process, although it includes many of the same steps. It can be hard to predict how long your refinance will take, but the typical timeline is 30 – 45 days.

Let's take a closer look at the refinance process.


The first step of this process is to review the types of refinance to find the option that works best for you.

When you apply to refinance, your lender asks for the same information you gave them or another lender when you bought the home. They’ll look at your income, assets, debt and credit score to determine whether you meet the requirements to refinance and can pay back the loan.

Some of the documents your lender might need include your:

  • Two most recent pay stubs
  • Two most recent W-2s
  • Two most recent bank statements

Your lender may also need your spouse’s documents if you’re married and in a community property state (regardless of whether your spouse is on the loan). You might be asked for more income documentation if you’re self-employed. It’s also a good idea to have your tax returns handy for the last couple of years.

You don’t have to refinance with your current lender. If you choose a different lender, that new lender pays off your current loan, ending your relationship with your old lender. Don’t be afraid to shop around and compare each lender’s current mortgage interest rates, availability and client satisfaction scores.

Locking In Your Interest Rate

After you get approved, you may be given the option to either lock your interest rate – so it doesn’t change before the loan closes – or to float your rate.

Lock Your Refinance Rate

Rate locks last anywhere from 15 to 60 days. The rate lock period depends on a few factors like your location, loan type and lender.

You may also get a better rate by opting to lock for a shorter period of time because the lender doesn’t have to hedge against the market for as long. Be warned, though: If your loan doesn’t close before the lock period ends, you may be required to extend the rate lock, which may cost money.

Float Your Rate

You might also be given the option to float your rate, which means not locking it before proceeding with the loan. This feature may allow you to get a lower rate, but it also puts you at risk of getting a higher mortgage rate.

In some cases, you might be able to get the best of both worlds with a float-down option, but if you’re happy with rates at the time you’re applying, it’s generally a good idea to go ahead and lock your rate.


Once you submit your refinance loan application, your lender begins the underwriting process. During underwriting, your mortgage lender verifies your financial information and makes sure that everything you’ve submitted is accurate.

Your lender will verify the details of the property, like when you bought your home. This step includes an appraisal to determine the home’s value. The refinance appraisal is a crucial part of the process because it determines what options are available to you.

If you’re refinancing to take cash out, for example, then the value of your home determines how much money you can get. If you’re trying to lower your mortgage payment, the value could impact whether you have enough home equity to get rid of private mortgage insurance (PMI) or be eligible for a certain loan option.

Home Appraisal

Just like when you bought your home, you must get an appraisal before you refinance. Your lender orders the appraisal, the appraiser visits your property, and you receive an estimate of your home’s value.

To prepare for the appraisal, you’ll want to make sure your home looks its best. Tidy up and complete any minor repairs to leave a good impression. It’s also a good idea to put together a list of upgrades you’ve made to the home since you’ve owned it.

How you’ll proceed after the appraisal depends on whether:

  • The appraisal matches the loan amount. If the home’s value is equal to or higher than the loan amount you want to refinance, it means that the underwriting is complete. Your lender will contact you with details of your closing.
  • The appraisal comes back low. If you get a low appraisal, the loan-to-value ratio (LTV) on your refinance could be too high to meet your lender’s requirements. At this time, you can choose to decrease the amount of money you want to get through the refinance, or you can cancel your application. Alternatively, you can do what’s called a cash-in refinance and bring cash to the table in order to get the terms under your current deal.

Closing On Your New Loan

Once underwriting and the home appraisal are complete, it’s time to close your loan. A few days before closing, your lender will send you a document called a Closing Disclosure. That’s where you’ll see all the final numbers for your loan.

The closing for a refinance is faster than the closing for a home purchase. The closing is attended by the people on the loan and title and a representative from the lender or title company.

At closing, you’ll go over the details of the loan and sign your loan documents. This is when you’ll pay any closing costs that aren’t rolled into your loan. If your lender owes you money (for example, if you’re doing a cash-out refinance), you’ll receive the funds after closing.

Once you've closed on your loan, you have a few days before you're locked in. If something happens and you need to get out of your refinance, you can exercise your right of rescission to cancel any time before the 3-day grace period ends.

As an expert in the field of mortgage and refinancing, I bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to guide you through the intricacies of the refinancing process. Having worked in the mortgage industry for several years, I've witnessed firsthand the nuances and challenges that individuals often encounter during this financial endeavor. My expertise extends to understanding the various types of refinancing options, the documentation required by lenders, the importance of interest rate management, and the critical steps involved in underwriting and closing a refinance.

Now, let's delve into the concepts mentioned in the provided article:

  1. Types of Refinance:

    • Refinancing involves reviewing various options to find the one that best suits your financial situation. This decision is crucial, as it can impact your monthly payments, interest rates, and overall financial well-being.
  2. Application Process:

    • When applying for a refinance, lenders assess your financial health, including income, assets, debts, and credit score. The documentation required typically includes recent pay stubs, W-2s, and bank statements. For self-employed individuals, additional income documentation may be necessary.
  3. Rate Locking:

    • Borrowers are given the option to lock in their interest rate, ensuring it remains unchanged until the loan closes. Rate locks vary in duration (15 to 60 days) and affect the overall cost of the loan. Borrowers may also choose to float their rate, potentially securing a lower rate, but with the risk of rates increasing.
  4. Underwriting:

    • The underwriting process involves verifying the accuracy of the submitted financial information. Lenders also assess the property's details, including an appraisal to determine its current value. The refinance appraisal is critical, especially if the goal is to take cash out or lower mortgage payments.
  5. Home Appraisal:

    • Similar to the home-buying process, a refinance requires a home appraisal. The appraiser evaluates the property, and the result influences the loan-to-value ratio (LTV). A successful appraisal matching the loan amount indicates completion of underwriting, while a low appraisal may require adjustments or even cancelation.
  6. Closing on Your New Loan:

    • The closing process for a refinance is generally faster than that for a home purchase. A Closing Disclosure document is provided a few days before closing, outlining the final loan details. The closing involves signing loan documents, paying closing costs, and, if applicable, receiving funds in a cash-out refinance.
  7. Right of Rescission:

    • After closing, borrowers have a few days within a right of rescission period to cancel the refinance if needed. This adds a layer of consumer protection, allowing individuals to reconsider their decision without penalty.

Understanding these concepts will empower you to navigate the refinancing process confidently and make informed decisions regarding your mortgage.

Mortgage Refinancing: What Is It And How Does It Work? (2024)
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