Ready for a refinance?

HOUSTON But it turns out refinancing may be getting easier at a time when rates are at historic lows.

For a long time, homeowners have missed out on falling interest rates because lending requirements had become very tough. But now that's beginning to change and it could save you a lot of money.

The mortgage meltdown has made getting a home loan or even refinancing a difficult process. But now, lenders say that is starting to change and homeowners may be able to save money by refinancing to a lower interest rate.

"Everyone assumes it is going to be very difficult," said Steven Kaufman with Zues Mortgage. "You now have customers, homeowners who are surprised how easy it is, how short it takes and how little paper work really is required."

Kaufman says there are still requirements homeowners have to meet. Lenders say a 680 credit score is needed, your credit card debt cannot be more than 50 percent of your available limit and your total debt needs to be 45 percent less than your income.

Stacy London with Houston Capital Mortgage says the refinance opportunities are better in Houston than most markets.

"Interest rates are a lot lower," she said. "Credit score has become king, so the better the credit score, the better the refinance process, the easier it is and thirdly, Houston has had very stable property values."

The rate on a 30-year mortgage is 3.9 percent, on a 15-year loan, it's 3.75 percent and on a 10-year note, it's 3.25 percent.

Lenders say the potential is there for big savings.

"I can tell you for Texas and our customers are saving an average of $314 somewhere in there a month," said Kaufman.

Experts we spoke with say as long as homeowners are planning to stay in your home at least a year, refinancing can lower your monthly payments.

"On a $100,000 loan, if you could knock one percent off, you would save yourself at least $100 and then you eat at that pay back really quickly," London said.

It does cost money to refinance, about $3,000 in closing costs, and we are told if you have missed loan payments in the past, you probably can't get refinanced. However, if you see that financial trouble could be coming, refinancing before it hits can help.

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