To Refi Your Mortgage, Write a Check

About a third of all the people who refinanced their home loans in the last months of 2009 lowered their principal balance, typically by writing a check to their bank for tens of thousands of dollars.

It used to be that many people refinanced to squeeze money out of their homes. Higher home values, lower interest rates, or both allowed borrowers to increase the size of their original home loans and get their hands on thousands of dollars in cash.

Now, people seem more interested in lowering their debt than treating their house like an ATM. No wonder refinancings are down.