Home Ownership

How much equity do you need to refinance your home mortgage loan?

Husband and wife sitting in living room, evaluating their home equity determining if they are able to refinance with a home loan

Know Your Home’s Equity: Calculating Your Loan-to-Value Ratio

When deciding if you qualify for a mortgage refinance, the loan-to-value ratio (LTV) is an important metric used by lenders to determine your eligibility. Your LTV will not only help determine whether or not you qualify, it can also help a lender suggest  terms, APR and other choices for you to consider for your refinance loan.

For the typical refinance,  the LTV also determines if you’ll need something like mortgage insurance, or if the lender will require extra protections. But, what is an LTV?

Simply put, your LTV is the ratio of how much you owe on your current mortgage loan divided by the current value of your home. So, if your home is valued at $100,000 and your current mortgage is $80,000, your LTV is $80,000 divided by $100,000, which equals 80%.

If you find it easier to calculate your equity, you can also use this to estimate your LTV. Simply subtract the equity in your home from its total value, then divide that new number by your home’s total value. This works because your home’s current value is roughly equal to your mortgage plus your equity.

How much equity do you need to refinance different mortgage loan types?

Once you know your LTV, you can begin to assess the loan amount oan you wish to apply for. However, different mortgage types have different maximum levels forLTVs, so find your mortgage type below to see if your home equity will qualify for refinancing or a home equity loan.

Father playing with son happy about the equity that he has accrued

Most lenders want you to have at least 20 percent equity.

Loan-to-Value Requirements: Conventional Mortgage Loans

You’ve probably heard that you need at least 20 percent equity—or an LTV of 80 percent or less—to get a conventional loan to refinance your mortgage. However, that’s not always the case.

Strictly speaking, you only need 5 percent equity in some cases to get a conventional refinance. However, if your equity is less than 20 percent, then you’ll likely face higher interest rates and fees, plus you’ll have to take out mortgage insurance.

Most lenders want you to have at least 20 percent equity. They will also usually waive the mortgage insurance requirement if your LTV is less than 80 percent and you have a good history of paying your bills on time.

You should speak to your lender about their flexibility with your home refinance if your existing loan is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Traditional refinances can sometimes work with an LTV higher than 80 percent if these programs own your loan and if you’re not seeking a cash-out refinance.

There are many options outside of a traditional refinance.

Loan-to-Value Requirements: Home Equity Loans

Another option is to refinance  using your home equity through a home equity loan. Most consumers probably think of home equity loans as additional liens added to their property.  However, you can use a home equity loan to refinance your first mortgage, a current home equity loan, or a home equity line of credit. For the group of homeowners who have built up equity, refinancing with a home equity loan could make sense in when rates are higher than you current mortgage.

One significant benefit of refinancing with a home equity loan is the difference in cash paid at closing. Traditional refinancing can require thousands of dollars at closing. With a home equity loan, like at Discover Home Loans, there is no cash due at closing.

In addition, refinancing with a home equity loan allows you the opportunity to get funds from your home to use for many purposes.  One qualifying metric home equity lenders use is combined loan-to-value (CLTV). CTLV is your current mortgage balance plus your desired home equity loan amount, divided by your home value. Discover Home Loans has loan amounts from $35,000-$200,000 and for some loan amounts less than 90%.

Loan-to-Value Requirements: FHA Mortgage Loans

Loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration are often called FHA loans and they allow you to refinance even in dire straits.

The FHA has a program that streamlines loan refinancing if you already have an FHA loan. The good news here is that you don’t need to have an appraisal, and there are fewer hoops to jump through.

FHA streamline refinancing can even occur if you have negative equity. That means your LTV is above 100%, or you’re what would traditionally be called “underwater” on your home. The agency says it’ll help you refinance even if you owe up to twice as much as your home is worth.

FHA loans have a few unique attributes worth considering, if you plan to refinance through the FHA (which is often recommended for homeowners with high LTVs):

Streamlined refinances

  • Your loan must be current.
  • Cash-out amounts cannot exceed $500.
  • Closing costs cannot be added to your loan amount.
  • Existing mortgage insurance must be extended to the refinance.
  • Lenders have the option to offer “no cost” refinances where they pay  closing costs, but they’re allowed to apply a higher interest rate on these types of loans.

Other FHA refinances

  • Cash-out refinances can be as high as 85 percent of your home’s value.
  • All loans require mortgage insurance.

The big thing to note about FHA refinancing is that you always need mortgage insurance. If you have an LTV below 80%, you will often not need to pay for that insurance with other types of loans. Always ask your lending professional about all of your options. They can help you look for hidden costs, like unnecessary insurance requirements, and tell you how they can impact the total amount you’ll pay over the life of the loan.

Loan-to-Value Requirements: VA Mortgage Loans

Loans Loans offered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have their own streamlined refinancing option that you can take advantage of, called the VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan. You may see this designated as an Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL).

You’ll need to have an existing VA loan to refinance with a new VA loan, whether or not you use the IRRRL program. This is called a VA-to-VA refinance and it reuses the entitlement you used for the original loan.

Some basic tenants of the IRRRL program include:

  • You won’t need an appraisal or credit underwriting when applying.
  • There is no mortgage insurance requirement.
  • Like the FHA, lenders have the same type of “no cost” refinances.
  • The VA says your interest rate may rise if you’re refinancing an existing VA ARM to a fixed rate loan.
  • Any VA lender can process an IRRRL application.
  • You cannot receive any cash from the loan proceeds, or use it to pay any other loans.
  • Most VA loans come with a VA funding fee that is based on your loan type, as well as your military category.

While the VA doesn’t place a limit on the amount you can borrow for a refinance, it does set a cap on how much liability it assumes for your loan. In general, it will cover up to $36,000 per veteran, and lenders generally offer a loan of up to four times this value if you don’t have a down payment. You’ll still need a good credit history and a home appraisal.

You can typically borrow higher amounts and reduce your interest rate by having more equity in your home, having a good credit history and providing a down payment.

Loan-to-Value Requirements: Jumbo Loans

A conventional loan is considered “jumbo” when it exceeds limits set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In most counties and parishes in the U.S., the traditional mortgage cap is about $510,400, so anything larger is a jumbo loan. Limits rise in places where home values are higher and can reach as much as$765,600.

You can see loan limits for your county or parish here.

Each lender will have their own requirements for this type of loan, so there’s no uniform rate, APR, monthly payment or fees that you can expect. That said, many lenders will still want you to have an LTV no higher than 80%, but it is common for some to consider higher LTVs.

In the past, jumbo loans often had an interest rate that was much higher than those associated with conventional loans. This has not been the case in the years following the 2008 housing crisis. The interest rate difference  between jumbo loans and conventional loans has lessened since then, but many lenders require larger equity amounts or down payments on jumbo loans.

Making Your Decision

The relative benefits of a home refinance depend on your individual circumstances and your actual debt payments. So, it is best to learn about your home’s equity and LTV before looking at your options. With that information and an understanding of your credit, you should seek out multiple lenders to see what options and rates are available to you.

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