Refinancers can reap record rates

Record-low interest rates for mortgage loans have convinced some people to refinance or buy a home, according to local mortgage experts. But the opportunity to take advantage of new rates isn’t open to all.

Last week the average 30-year home-mortgage rate fell to 4.44 percent, the lowest average since Freddie Mac began tracking rates in 1971.

But people who want to refinance better have a good credit and income history if they want to take advantage of the new rate, according to Century Title Company Owner Carol Bellhouse. She said restrictions such as needing a credit score of 620 to refinance have taken many people out of the running for a new rate.

The title business is so quiet now, Bellhouse is starting a credit-repair business to keep her employees busy, she said.

“I don’t see how the rates could get any lower, but the problem is it doesn’t matter how low the rate is if no one can qualify,” Bellhouse said.

Many people that talk to Dependable Mortgage Company Owner Rhonda Sherman do qualify for refinancing. But Sherman believes that’s because most people know the qualifications required before contacting a mortgage company. In addition to a 620 or better credit score, clients should have proof of a stable income source for the next three years at least and have a debt-to-income ratio of 45 percent or less, according to Sherman.

Although it’s harder to refinance or get a loan than it was a few years ago, plenty of Grand Valley residents are accomplishing these tasks, according to Fidelity National Title Company Sales and Marketing Manager Stewart Cruickshank.

“Just call your lender. Don’t assume you can’t get (your rate) down,” he said.

The sooner that call is made, the better. Cruickshank said no one can guess when the bottom is coming, so this could be it.

“I tell people if you’re going to buy a house, don’t wait,” he said.

Sherman said she has seen some upswing in refinance requests, but numbers aren’t overwhelming because rates were also low earlier in the year and last year, and many people refinanced then.

“Unless you have a fairly substantial loan, I doubt it’s worth refinancing again,” Sherman said.

Major Mortgage USA Banker Kyle Barnard said he has gotten more interest from clients wanting to refinance since rates dipped below 5 percent in May and remained below that mark throughout the summer.

“The people that were on the fence are now climbing off the fence,” Barnard said.

Barnard said he has seen renewed interest in home buying, especially since the average Grand Junction home has sold for less each quarter since the second quarter of 2009. But buyers are harder to find than people who want to refinance, he said.

Some clients have saved as much as $300 a month in mortgage payments after refinancing, and Barnard said he has had plenty of clients move from a 30-year to a 15-year fixed rate to get their homes paid off faster without increasing payments much. Fifteen-year mortgage rates dipped to 3.92 percent last week.

“I’m seeing the people that aren’t just in it to pay $40 less a month. They’re there to pay off their house sooner,” Barnard said.


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