When we purchased the majority of our investment portfolio in 2016/2017, primary mortgages with excellent credit were sitting around 3.5% and investment property mortgages were about 4.5-5%. We thought these were amazing rates. Fast forward to a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. A new baseline for low rates is created: We closed on our primary residence in November 2020 at 2.625% with nothing special about getting that rate.
Let’s go back to early pandemic days in the spring of 2020. Mr. ODA is always watching the market, but was particularly interested in the mortgage interest rates because we were coming up on the 61st month on our primary residence’s 5/1 ARM. Just a couple of months into the pandemic, we decided to move, so the ARM refinance (refi) became moot. But since rates were so low, he looked into refinancing our investment properties.
There are a few caveats. With the first company, we couldn’t refinance loans that had a balance less than $100k and be able to maximize the pricing structure they advertise so proudly ($0 closing costs). There was also an investment property fee, and took a long time for both of these to close.
As with the original loan, you’ll want to weigh the financial cost of refinancing against what the new rate will save you. When we looked at the variables, only 2 of our loans were worth pursuing a refinance.
In 2020, we refinanced House 9 from 4.875% to 3.625%. Our monthly payment went from $778.80 to $674.55.
The original loan amount on this property was $110k originated on 9/22/2017. We had paid it down to about $105,800 (shows how slowly the amortization schedule works for you in the early years), but with the closing costs rolling into the new loan (and cashing out $2,000), the balance became $111k. Eek, seems counterintuitive to refinance to a higher balance, but it’ll save us in the long run. We have greater cash flow each month with the lower mortgage payment, a larger percent of the monthly payment goes toward principal vs interest (amortization schedule again!), and we’ll save ourselves over $9k in interest over the life of the loan, if we make no additional principal payments.
We refinanced through a “zero closing costs” type entity. However, there are stipulations to what counts as $0, and investment properties aren’t exactly that. We had to pay an ‘Investment Property Fee’ of $2,358.75. The company paid the closing costs (e.g., credit report fee, title fees, recording fees) worth $548.91. We paid our prepaids, but also received a lender credit of $300. Essentially, we paid a slightly higher rate than the market would offer because the company rolls its closing costs into that rate, akin to paying points or receiving lender points to shift your rate up and down.
Mr. ODA initiated the refinance through an application in the beginning of March. We were quickly informed that we wouldn’t even be assigned a loan officer for two weeks. At the end of those two weeks, we were told they still didn’t know if they could move forward with our refinance. A week later, Mr. ODA followed up, and they had approved us to move forward. We were patient through the process, but it wasn’t until mid-May that we finally closed (in a parking lot, under a tent = pandemic closing #1!).
We rent this property for $1,280 and pay a property manager 10% of that. Minus the $674 mortgage and we’re still sitting quite pretty. While we reset the payoff clock by 3 years by starting a new 30 year mortgage, the extra money working for us in future years will far outweigh the costs of refinance.
In January 2021, we refinanced House 7 from 5.05% to 3.375%. Our monthly payment went from $664.31 to $559.34.
Our loan balance was $85,616, and the closing costs of $3,108 were rolled into the new mortgage. We also cashed out $2,000, so our new loan amount was $91k. The $2,000 was the most that could be cashed out during the refinance; we chose to take the cash out because we could make that money work elsewhere (e.g., pay down a mortgage with a higher interest rate). Even with the higher loan amount, the interest rate is so much lower that we’ll save over $15k in interest.
An appraisal was required as part of the refinance, which is how we learned that the house that we purchased for for $110,500, is now appraised at $168,000!
So, we rent it for $1,200 and self manage but only have to pay a $559 mortgage now? HELLO cash flow!
This closing was done at our kitchen table in KY through a VA-based loan officer. Mr. ODA initiated this loan in November, and we closed in January. A notary came to our house to go through all the paperwork, but it was all wrong. I enjoyed the “we never make mistakes” type of response from the Title company, and I pointed out that their paperwork did not match the lender’s paperwork that we had sitting at the table. Since the closing was at 6 pm, it was after hours for everyone and we couldn’t get an answer quickly, so we sent the notary home. We spoke with the loan officer an hour or so later and pointed how how each closing document had different numbers on it, and she went to work fixing it.
Theoretically, every investment property we own could’ve benefited from a refinance. And we would have with the “zero closing cost” company over time without their own pandemic policies getting in the way. If the loan amount was less than $100k, they would make you pay the closing costs AND would arbitrarily add 0.375% to the advertised rate. BUT, they wouldn’t let you pull equity out as cash to get the loan back up to $100k. So, that crushed our dreams a bit.
With options limited to “traditional” lenders’ pricing structures, we had to evaluate our future goals for the property and where the loan balances and rates already stood. Not to mention, there’s the time and complexity that comes with refinancing while hoping rates continue to stay low.
The lender we normally use has closing costs around $3k. This means that with the extra principal proportion and smaller monthly payment resulting from a refi, we need to balance against $3k to determine how long it will take to break even. Properties with small balances and properties with decent rates (mid 4%) would take longer to break even. Since we pay down our mortgages relatively systematically to achieve greater portfolio cash flow, some of our 30 year loans won’t be around for 30 years. And what if we wanted to sell the property to ‘1031’ to a different one? Our portfolio also has 15 and 20 year loans with great rates that wouldn’t be beneficial for us to pay to lower that rate.
There are a lot of moving parts when deciding whether or not to refi, and its very rarely free, especially with rental properties. But if the numbers work, it should be a no-brainer to pull the trigger and make it happen. Your future self will thank you!