Reduce Your Debt Load With Home Mortgage Refinancing

By: Crystal Mate

What volume of debt are you carrying right now? If you are like most Canadians, you have debts that exceed your annual net income. Getting a handle on all of this debt can put a lot of strain on today's households. Home mortgage refinancing is one possible solution to the debt load problem.

Where is All This Debt Coming From?

The rise in debt loads for Canadian families has been widely reported. According to Statistics Canada, the median debt load for Canadian households grew 38% between 1999 and 2005.

A lot of this increase is attributed to higher costs for home purchases and the need to take out a mortgage. But there are other expenses involved. Line of credit debt doubled in the same six-year period, while vehicle loans increased by over 40% and credit card debt jumped 58%.

Households have typically cut back on savings to finance some of their debt, a trend that has some economists worried. With no savings to fall back on and heavy debt loads, an increase in interest rates could be devastating. Most experts advise families with high debts relative to their income to put themselves on a budget, and start saving everywhere they can.

Can Home Mortgage Refinancing Help?

Home mortgage refinancing is not for everyone, but for many people it can make sense.

With home mortgage refinancing, you pay off your existing mortgage to switch to one with a lower rate. Cash-out refinancing enables you to borrow more than you currently owe on your mortgage, giving you some extra money for other expenses, like outstanding debts, home renovations, or university tuition.

There are costs associated with home mortgage refinancing so you should evaluate those closely before deciding to refinance. The fees are the same as the ones you paid for your original mortgage. Depending on the terms of your first mortgage, there might also be a fee for paying it off early.

Is home mortgage refinancing a good strategy? It depends a lot on interest rates, both current market rates and those charged on the debts you have. Refinancing might be the right decision if you want to:

• Save money on your mortgage. If your main concern is lowering your monthly mortgage payments, refinancing might be an option, depending on your circumstances. If you are planning on moving within the next 2-3 years, home mortgage refinancing would not be wise - you'll be moving before you realize any savings from the lower rate. If you plan to stay, look for a difference of at least 2% between your current mortgage interest rate and the market rate. Typically, anything less than a 2% difference will not save you much. Refinancing to switch between a fixed and variable rate can also save you money.

• Pay off your mortgage sooner. Switching from a long-term to short-term mortgage helps you pay off more of the principal.

• Consolidate debts. Cash-out refinancing can provide you with a loan at a much lower interest rate than the rates charged on your outstanding debts. You can pay off your debts and save a significant amount in interest.

For advice on whether home mortgage refinancing is right for you, consult a mortgage professional.

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