Q: I am one and a half years into a 3-year adjustable rate mortgage on my home. The loan is for about $185,000.
I hear a lot of ads for no-fee, zero cost mortgages and was wondering what your thoughts are on them. I have not researched their rates but they do make it sound like it’s a free mortgage and I’m a firm believer that nothing is for free.
A: “It’s the biggest no-brainer in the history of the world.” You mean those commercials, right? I’ve heard them, too and like you, I don’t believe that there is a free lunch.
But when it comes to refinancing, there are plenty of lenders who will refinance your loan without charging you points or fees upfront. These are called “no-cost” loans and you get them by agreeing to pay a slightly higher interest rate or the fees and costs are added to your loan thereby increasing the amount you owe on the loan. Typically, you trade points and fees for a quarter-point rise in the interest rate.
(You can also buy down the interest rate on your loan by paying extra points and fees.)
To get a good deal, you should shop around. Call the lender you’ve heard on the radio and get a full quote. Then, go to www.bankrate.com to see what else is being offered in your area. Be sure to go to a major national lender (check out www.jdpower.com for a list of the top lenders for customer service), a local bank and a local mortgage broker. If you belong to a credit union, they tend to have less expensive mortgage products.
I do think that now is a good time to think about refinancing your 3-year ARM into something more permanent. Long-term interest rates are still historically low, especially compared to the risk you’d take getting another ARM.
So think about trading in your 3-year ARM for a 30-year or 15-year fixed-rate mortgage. While the interest rate will be higher than what you’re currently paying, you’ll be locked in for at a great rate for the long run.