What Is a Short Refinance?

A “short refinance” is a transaction in which your bank or mortgage lender agrees to pay off your existing mortgage and replace it with new a loan with a reduced balance, essentially helping you avoid foreclosure.

It benefits both the bank and the homeowner, as the bank ideally loses less than they would via foreclosure, and the homeowner gets to stick around.

A short refinance is a cross between a short sale, which involves selling your home for less than the existing lien(s), and a rate and term refinance, where you replace an old loan with a new one.

So why would someone want to execute a short refinance anyways?

Well, because property values have plummeted so much in the past couple years, millions of homeowners are upside down on their mortgages, meaning they owe more than the property is worth.

Short Refinance Example:

Purchase price: $500,000
Mortgage balance: $450,000
Current home value: $400,000
Short refinance loan amount: $380,000

In the above scenario, the homeowner wouldn’t be able to refinance without bringing in at least the $50,000 difference between current value and existing mortgage balance.

In reality, the homeowner would need to bring in even more money to execute a traditional refinance because banks and lenders no longer offer 100% financing, and closing costs would also need to be considered.

This can be a huge roadblock for homeowners looking to take advantage of the record low mortgage rates currently on offer, especially those experiencing difficulty paying the mortgage every month.

The short refinance is a great solution for distressed homeowners because it not only reduces the loan balance to an LTV below 100%, but also comes with a fresh interest rate, likely one lower than what the borrower had before.  The result is a significantly reduced monthly mortgage payment.

The drawback is actually convincing a bank or lender to offer you a short refinance, as it’s not necessarily in their best interest (or the investor who actually owns the mortgage) unless they’re completely determined that you’ll default, and the ensuing foreclosure will be more expensive for them.

That said, it could takes months to get a short refinance done, and there’s never any guarantee. If one is granted, the bank will essentially settle your old debt for less, which will probably hit your credit score.

Of course, the impact will be similar to that of a foreclosure or short sale, so it’s not necessarily any worse than the alternatives, especially if you can’t keep up with mortgage payments.

Short Refinance Advantages:

  • You keep your home
  • You get a reduced mortgage balance
  • You may get a lower interest rate
  • You get equity in your home
  • Reduced monthly payment

Short Refinance Disadvantages:

  • Hurts your credit score
  • Time consuming
  • No guarantee
  • Need to qualify with full documentation

If you’re interested in getting a short refinance done, contact your lender to see if they’re willing to work with you. If not, you might want to explore other options, such as HARP 2.0, which no longer carries any LTV constraints.

Read more: How to refinance with negative equity.

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