Her Financial Goal: Win at the Refinancing Game

DailyFinance editor Laura Goldstein - Credit: DailyFinance
DailyFinance editor Laura Goldstein - Credit: DailyFinance

Everyone has things they want to improve about their financial lives, even those of us who are paid to write and think about money on a daily basis. To that end, the editors at DailyFinance and other AOL sites shared their 2013 goals with personal finance expert Jean Chatzky. Today she offers some tips to help DailyFinance editor Laura Goldstein lower her monthly mortgage payments.

"I know I can lower my rate," says Laura, "but I'm already 15 years in, and the principal balance isn't very high, so I'm not sure it's worth it. Plus, I hate the idea of starting the clock all over again."

Here's what Jean had to say:

Step 1: Before you do anything, HSH.com mortgage expert Keith Gumbinger suggests asking yourself two questions. One: How far along are you in your mortgage already? And two: How long do you plan on remaining in the home? Those answers will not only dictate which product is most suitable, but can also determine if there's value in refinancing at all. If you're going to be in the house for fewer than five years, the fees you'll pay during the refinance process often aren't worth the lower rate. But if you're far along in your current mortgage, you can get a significantly better rate on a 10- or 15-year loan, which could save you money now and cut years off your repayment.

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Step 2: Go to your current lender and see what they can offer you. Some lenders offer a form of streamlined refinancing if you provide dated income documentation and get an appraisal on the property. "You won't necessarily get a rock bottom interest rate," Gumbinger cautions. "The market's at 3.5%, you're at 5%, they could offer 4%. [But] there can be tremendous value in doing that."

Step 3: If you don't like what your current mortgage-holder has to offer, shop around -- and beyond the other big banks, check out your local banks and credit unions. Gumbinger notes that doing this could make for a better overall experience: "They might give you some deals. And because they work in your local marketplace, they might give you better service and make for a smoother process."

Wednesday: An AOL Real Estate Editor Who Wants to Curb Her Online Shopping Habit.

Or, read the previous article in the series:His Financial Goals: Saving More and Paying Down Credit Card Debt