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Why There's No Way to Avoid Paperwork When Refinancing

So you’re ready to refinance your mortgage loan to one with a lower interest rate. This could be a good move. Depending on your new interest rate, you could save a good bit of money each month in mortgage payments. You might also think that because you’re refinancing with your current mortgage lender, the one you already send your home loan payment to each month, you won’t have to come up with the reams of paperwork usually involved in a mortgage refinance.

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On this latter point, you’d be wrong. Your mortgage lender will always require you to come up with certain documents to prove your income, job status and credit score. This holds true even if you’re refinancing with the mortgage lender who is servicing your existing loan.

So get ready to dig for that paperwork. When you’re refinancing, there’s usually no way around it.

Existing Lenders Need Papers to Approve a Refinance

Why There's No Way to Avoid Paperwork When Refinancing

You might think this makes little sense. After all, your mortgage lender verified your job status and income just five years ago when you took out your existing mortgage loan. But look at it from your mortgage lender’s perspective. Your lender’s job is to make sure you can make your mortgage payments each month, without defaulting on them.

When you apply for a refinance, your lender must verify that your financial situation hasn’t changed since you were first approved for a mortgage loan. Your lender doesn’t know if your spouse lost a job or that you no longer own a rental apartment that once provided steady income each month.

Related Article: 3 Smart Reasons to Refinance Your Mortgage

If your income has changed since you first applied for a mortgage loan, you might not be able to afford your new monthly payment, even if it’s smaller than the one you’re making now. So your lender, playing it safe, requires you to verify your employment status and income before approving you for a refinance, even if he or she has been receiving regular home loan payments from you for years.

Here’s the interesting part of all of this: Because your current lender will require you to provide as much paperwork as any other one would, you might as well shop around when you’re ready to refinance. You can choose any lender licensed to do business in your state. And you might find someone offering a lower interest rate than your existing lender.

The Documents You’ll Need to Refinance

Why There's No Way to Avoid Paperwork When Refinancing

If you are ready to refinance – whether with your current lender or a competitor – you’ll have to provide certain information to prove your income and job status.

You’ll likely have to submit pay stubs from at least the past month and your W-2 forms from the last two years. You’ll need to send copies of your most recent bank account statements and maybe even your tax returns from the last two years.

Your lender will also check your credit to determine whether you have a history of paying your bills on time. Again, you might find this strange. Haven’t you been sending in your monthly mortgage payments to this lender? What your lender doesn’t know is if you’ve been paying your car loan or student loan payments by their due dates. Your credit score will give lenders a more complete view of your financial habits.

Related Article: 3 Must-Do Moves to Prepare for a Mortgage Refinance

Bottom Line

Providing all this paperwork isn’t much fun. But it’s the only way mortgage lenders can make sure you can afford to refinance. This holds true even if you’ve already established a long-term relationship with your lender.

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Dan Rafter Dan Rafter has been writing about personal finance for more than 15 years. He is an expert in mortgages, refinances and credit issues. Dan's written for the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Phoenix Magazine, Consumers Digest, Business 2.0 Magazine, BusinessWeek online and dozens of trade magazines.
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