Refinancing your mortgage may help you lower your interest rate and monthly payments, or cash out some of your home equity. Your lender may require an appraisal as part of the refinancing process. The result can affect the new interest rate you will qualify for, along with other costs.
What is an Appraisal?
An appraisal is an inspection conducted by an independent professional to assess the current market value of a house based on its size, amenities and condition. An appraiser compares the home in question to similar properties in the same area that have been sold recently.
Each lender decides whether to require an appraisal to refinance. Some government mortgage programs offer streamlined programs without an appraisal. If your lender requires an appraisal, you will have to pay for it. The fee is typically several hundred dollars.
How Can Your Home’s Appraised Value Affect Your Refinancing Options?
The current market value of your home can affect your loan-to-value ratio, which is a percentage calculated by dividing your mortgage balance by your home’s appraised value. A lender will consider the LTV ratio, in addition to your credit score and debt-to-income ratio, to set your interest rate.
If your home’s value has increased since you bought it, you may qualify for a lower interest rate. If your home’s value has fallen, however, you may not be able to qualify for a competitive interest rate because lenders consider borrowers with low amounts of equity riskier than borrowers with more equity. If the appraised value of your house is less than your mortgage balance, you may not be able to refinance the loan at all.
How Can the Appraisal Affect Private Mortgage Insurance?
If the LTV ratio is 80 percent or higher, you may need to pay for private mortgage insurance, which can cost hundreds of dollars per month. If you have been paying for PMI, your home’s value has increased since you bought it and you have more than 20 percent equity, you may be able to eliminate PMI and save money each month.
If you have less than 20 percent equity and don’t want to pay for PMI, you might be able to avoid it by choosing a cash-in refinance. You could pay down your mortgage balance to reduce your loan-to-value ratio, eliminate PMI and get a lower interest rate.
How to Prepare for an Appraisal
Given the importance of your home’s appraised value, you want to present your house in a positive light. You should make sure your home is clean and free of clutter so the appraiser can easily see all the important features. You don’t need to make major improvements before an appraisal, but you might want to apply a fresh coat of paint and make some inexpensive repairs.