Downsides to mortgage refinancing?

It depends on what your objective is.

If your objective is to eventually own your home with no mortgage then what you are doing makes no sense:

  • You are adding $12,000 to your debt, presumably because there are “points” (fees paid to get a lower interest rate) on the loan and you are adding these fees to the amount being borrowed.

  • You had 27.5 years left to pay, and with this refinance you are adding 2.5 years to your payoff date, and inexplicably not considering the possibility that you can pay extra principal on the new 30 year mortgage to cause the new mortgage to be paid off in 27.5 years.

If your objective is to increase your cash flow then what you are doing is fine. It isn’t what I would do. When I stop working and retire I don’t want a mortgage payment so that I have the flexibility to live rent free.

Whenever I have done refinances I have these rules:

  • Never pay points or fees. That includes the cost of the appraisal. If a bank insists on fees, keep shopping. My rationale is that this likely won’t be the last refinance. In the 1990s rates dropped rapidly for a time relative to the 1980s, and I was a serial refinancer. Paying thousands of dollars in fees each time would have made no sense because that would be money down the drain after I refinanced again later. What matters is the lower interest rate.

  • Never increase the debt

  • Always compared mortgage payment of the refinance with my current by amortizing the new loan over the number of months between today and my deadline for paying it off. My deadline was set from 30 years from when I bought my original house. If I stick to the first two rules then the mortgage payment will always be lower even with the extra principal paid each month.

You asked,

Is there a downside to doing the refinance?

Ultimately that can't be answered by us, because different people will have different criteria for what counts as a "downside." Or, another way to look at this, people will have different motivations for deciding about the specific scenario you've presented:

  • If you have cash flow problems and are after a way to reduce your fixed monthly expenses, even at the cost of a "worse" long term situation, the refi makes sense, because it drops your payment by $210 a month.
  • If you want free cash every month in order to invest in a specific investment you feel strongly about for some reason, same as above.
  • If you're right on the brink of crossing some income tax related threshold, having the slight difference in interest paid on a mortgage (which can be tax deductible) might be important.
  • If your ultimate goal is to get out of your house in the near future, the refi probably doesn't make sense, because (it sounds like) you're rolling some closing costs into the principal, so your DTI will get worse in the near term (you'll have less cash out of the house for a given sale price)

Ultimately, many people don't refinance just because of a specific difference in the long term cost of the mortgage (you won't "see" the difference you're talking about for many years). Few people stay in their house for 30+ years. Many people, thus, make refinancing decisions based on monthly cost, or a desired difference in equity after a certain point in time (because they're planning on selling). Or, they refinance because it's an opportunity to get some equity out of the house as cash, so they can do a home improvement project. All of those factors may (or may not) influence what counts as a "downside" for you, personally.

This becomes a business decision and the way I figure it out is the break even point on the cost savings on the rate, and the cost to refinance. In this case, you are reducing your rate by .5% on a 500K house, so the savings on the finance charge is about $208/month. You are saying that it will cost you about 12K to refi. So the break even point is around 58 months.

Because of that, I would tend to recommend a pass on that deal. Either the interest rate needs to be lower, or the cost of the loan less, 12K does sound like a lot for a refi. The rate is very good, but I suspect that you are paying points to buy down the rate.