Friday, June 11, 2010

Can I Refinance a Second Home?

Refinancing a second home with Fannie or Freddie Mac doesn’t cost any more than refinancing a comparable primary home. There are no risk-based pricing adjustments for second homes. While financing an investment property at 80% of its value can add 3.75 points to your fees, that’s not the case with a second home that meets eligibility requirements.
You Need Equity to Refinance a Second Home
You might have been able to purchase your second home with only 10% down, but you won’t be able to refinance it with only 10% home equity. That’s because for loans of more than 80% of your vacation home’s value, you’ll need mortgage insurance, and that can be hard to get.
You’ll Need Income to Refinance Your Second Home
Lenders prefer that your first mortgage (principal, interest, taxes, insurance, and homeowners’ dues) doesn’t exceed 31% of your gross monthly income. But your second home had better cost a lot less than that. Your second home payment is counted in with all of your other debts, like car loans and credit cards. Those payments, plus the loan on your primary residence, make up your total debt-to-income ratio. The lender on your primary residence isn’t so worried about those, because if your income decreases, you’ll likely use the first 31% of your income to keep up with your mortgage even if you have to miss payments to the other guys.
However, the lender on your second home IS one of those other guys. So while a first mortgage lender is often okay with you having a debt-to-income ratio of 45%, the second mortgage lender won’t want to see it over 40%, and that’s if you’re otherwise very well qualified.
Second Home vs Investor Property
Financing a second home is cheaper and easier than financing a rental. But what if you have been renting out your vacation home? Can you still refinance it as a second home? That depends. If your rental activity shows up on your tax returns and your lender requests them to verify your income, no way. Ditto if the appraiser the lender sends is met by a rental agent. Here are Fannie Mae’s official second home requirements:
  • Must be located a reasonable distance away from the borrower’s principal residence. You can’t vacation in your home town.
  • Must be occupied by the borrower for some portion of the year–ski cabin, beach house, whatever.
  • Must be a one-unit dwelling (no duplexes, etc.).
  • Must be suitable for year-round occupancy–tree houses and igloos don’t cut it.
  • Must not be rental property, a timeshare arrangement, or controlled by anyone but you.
So, if you qualify, you should be able to get the best mortgage rates available and save money–and that means more barbecues, more cold drinks, more marshmallows around the fire, more hikes, more sailing, more of whatever you love most at your vacation hide-away.


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