No-Cost Refinances. Too Good to Be True?

With all the talk of Fed rate cuts pushing mortgage rates to lows, perhaps you’ve been thinking of refinancing and maybe even done a bit of research on the topic. It’s likely you’ve come across the term “no cost refinance,“ and you may be saying to yourself, “How do some lenders offer a refinance without costs?” or, “Is this too good to be true?”

It’s important to recognize that all financial transactions involve some costs. In the case of a mortgage these could be lender fees, appraisal fees, charges paid to a title or escrow company and even days of interest on the loan itself. It would not be fair to say that a refinance has “no costs,” but perhaps more accurate to realize there are different ways these costs can be paid. Let’s look at the three most common ways a borrower will cover the expenses of a refinance:

  1. Increased loan amount: Let’s say our borrower has an existing loan balance of $400,000 and closing costs that total $3000. This applicant would aim to finance $403,000 with the new loan. So long as the appraised value of the home will permit and so long as the new rate and payment allow, this would be the most common way we’d see a borrower refinance his or her home loan.
  2. Out of pocket: In our example above, this homeowner would not increase the loan amount, but instead leave it at $400,000 and would write a check, at closing, for the $3000 in total settlement charges. The largest benefit here is that the loan amount does not increase. This is the least common approach we see.
  3. “No Cost” structure: In a no cost refinance, the borrower actually opts to take a slightly higher rate than he could otherwise attain. With the higher rate, the lender will usually be able to offer a higher “rebate” or lender credit, and these funds are then used to pay the settlement charges. The borrower does not increase the loan amount, but foregoes a rate that might otherwise have been slightly lower.

So you may be asking, “Why would anyone deliberately take a higher rate?” The answer comes down to math and a slight shift in philosophy. In the case of the math, a lower rate and payment, no increase in loan balance, and costs that do not need to be paid out of pocket are all desirable and very likely have financial benefit in both near- and long-term. And in a philosophical light, the borrower is accepting that it is better to get most of the benefit at none of the cost than all of the benefit at some of the cost.

What’s the best way to refinance? The answer depends entirely on your own situation. If your subject property is in California, get in touch today and we’ll help you make that determination.

Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose,


Robert J. Spinosa
Vice President of Mortgage Lending
Guaranteed Rate
NMLS: 22343
Cell/Text: 415-367-5959

Marin Office: 324 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, CA 94960
Berkeley Office: 1400 Shattuck Ave., Suite 1, Berkeley, CA 94709

*The views and opinions expressed on this site about work-related matters are my own, have not been reviewed or approved by Guaranteed Rate and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Guaranteed Rate. In no way do I commit Guaranteed Rate to any position on any matter or issue without the express prior written consent of Guaranteed Rate’s Human Resources Department.

Guaranteed Rate. Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee NMLS License #2611 3940 N. Ravenswood Chicago, IL 60613 – (866) 934-7283

Leave a Reply