Do I Need a Real Estate Agent to Refinance a Home?

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|13 min read

Refinancing a home can feel like jumping into the deep end without knowing how to swim. It’s enough to make any homeowner hyperventilate between the confusing acronyms, huge stacks of paperwork, and deciding when to lock in rates.

You may find yourself wondering—do I need to hire a real estate agent to guide me through this process? Can’t I just try to paddle through my refinance alone?

It’s a fair question. Your agent was crucial when purchasing your home, but refinancing seems primarily financial. Do you really need to pay an agent’s commission for a process that involves more numbers than neighborhoods?

The answer is… maybe. It depends on your unique situation. An agent isn’t mandatory but can provide invaluable guidance and expertise during the refinance process.

Refinancing is complex. Even experienced homeowners benefit from having a true expert in their corner. But you need to weigh the costs against the potential advantages.

Understanding Home Refinancing

Refinancing a mortgage is a major financial move that lets homeowners reshape their financial situations and monthly payments.

Refinancing a home mortgage means taking out a new loan to pay off your existing home loan. You are replacing your current mortgage with a completely new one.

The ultimate goal of refinancing is to end up with better mortgage terms that align with your financial situation. That means you could end up with a new lender, having a higher or lower loan amount, or having a lower interest rate. There are plenty of reasons why property owners refinance their loans.

Why Do Owners Refinance?

Refinancing allows homeowners and investors to reshape their financing completely. Think of it like starting a loan entirely fresh under current market circumstances. With a lot of effort and then a few signatures, motivated owners slash interest rates, free up cash flow, and unlock trapped home equity.

Refinancing appeals to those seeking to:

  • Lower monthly mortgage payments
    For many, the top reason to refinance is to reduce their monthly payment. By swapping their existing higher interest rate for a new lower rate, they can generate instant monthly savings. Even just a reduction of half a percentage can lead to hundreds of dollars of savings each month. This frees up cash flow for other priorities.
  • Take Cash-Out
    Refinancing also allows homeowners to convert their equity into usable funds. If their home value has increased or they have paid down their current loan, they can tap into this new equity through a cash-out refinance. This capital can fund home improvements, investments, debt payoffs, and more.
  • Lower Interest Rates
    With interest rates fluctuating, refinancing lets homeowners lock in lower rates. This reduces the amount they pay in interest over the life of the loan. It can either free up cash flow or help them pay down their loan faster.
  • Consolidate Debt
    Rolling high-interest credit card balances or other debts into a new mortgage at a lower rate saves huge amounts of money in the long term. Refinancing can enable debt consolidation, helping owners get on top of their finances.
  • Rate Lock: When They Previously Had a Variable Loan
    Homeowners with adjustable-rate mortgages may refinance to access fixed rates to lock in low rates and gain stability in payments.
  • Renovation
    Refinancing generates capital for major home remodels, construction, and repairs

The Role of a Real Estate Agent in Home Buying vs. Refinancing

Real estate agents are best known for guiding clients through home purchases and sales. But can they also provide value during a mortgage refinance? Sometimes, their traditional role differs from when they assist with a refinance.

Agents lean heavily on their neighborhood and property expertise when buying or selling. They advise on home values, comparable sales, and market conditions to position buyers and sellers for success.

During refinancing, financial knowledge becomes more vital than physical property skills. Agents shift into explaining loan types, rates, fees, lender relationships, and the implications of different terms. However, they can provide the most value by providing fresh and relevant comparable properties to a real estate appraiser. This can help increase the appraisal value and allow the borrower to access their desired funds.

Real Estate Agent vs. Mortgage Broker

Real estate agents and mortgage brokers serve homebuyers and homeowners, but their roles are distinct, primarily in that a mortgage broker takes the lead during the financing process.

Real estate agents and mortgage brokers are both valuable when homebuying but play very different roles in their:

  • Expertise
    Real estate agents advise on homes, neighborhoods, and markets. Mortgage brokers focus strictly on financing options and loans.
  • Clientele
    Agents assist both buyers and sellers. Brokers work only with homebuyers or owners as borrowers.
  • Timing
    Agents help throughout the entire home purchase process. Brokers provide pre-approval at the start of the process but are most involved after a buyer is under contract.
  • Payment
    Agents are paid commission from the home sale. Brokers receive compensation from the lender when securing mortgage loans.

Real estate agents take a broad, relationship-focused view, while mortgage brokers provide specialized financing expertise to borrowers. The two roles complement each other in streamlining the purchasing process.

When an Agent’s Insight Could be Beneficial

Refinancing a mortgage without the help of an agent is certainly possible and most common. However, there are certain situations where their unique expertise offers high value.

When the Property is Complex

If refinancing specialty properties like multi-units, mixed-use, new construction, or unconventional homes, an agent’s experience can be helpful. They know the intricacies of financing non-standard properties and can help you collate the necessary documentation.

Riding Market Shifts

Agents have their fingers on the pulse and are typically the first to identify when real estate markets rapidly shift. Their insights ensure refinancing decisions maximize value within fluctuating conditions.                                                             

Adding Value

Sometimes, for a home to reach the desired appraised value, it just takes a few strategic renovations. Real estate agents can help advise on the best home updates that help homeowners achieve their desired appraisal results.

Do Real Estate Agents Get Kickbacks?

If you choose to engage a real estate agent when refinancing a home, rest assured, knowing that agents are prohibited from getting kickbacks from mortgage brokers. The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), is a strict law that governs how agents can work with loan brokers and mortgage lenders. RESPA prevents mortgage brokers or lenders from giving agents kickbacks.

Refinancing an Existing Mortgage with the Current Lender

Homeowners can refinance their mortgage with their current lender. This option is often easier, potentially offering lower fees and a quicker closing process. However, it’s crucial to understand the new loan’s terms fully. While there are benefits, there are also downsides, such as missing out on better offers, limited negotiating power, and resubmitting documentation.

Closing costs, which range from 2% to 6% of the loan amount, are also part of refinancing. These could be lower if you stick with your current lender, but it’s not a guarantee.

Mortgage refinancing isn’t just about the mortgage lender; it’s about securing the most favorable terms and pricing. Shopping around to compare offers from different lenders is a wise step to ensure you make the best financial decision.

Benefits of Refinancing a Mortgage Loan Without an Agent

Financial Savings

Without agent commissions, you stand to have considerable savings. While most agents won’t (and shouldn’t) their typical commission amount, the work they put into your refinance doesn’t come free.  That means you have more savings, making the refinance a more affordable option.

Complete Control of Communication

You determine the refinancing timeline and terms without relying on an agent being the middleman. That means you have direct communication with the lender or mortgage broker without including a third party.

Education

Understanding real estate financing is a fantastic life skill both for homeowners and real estate investors. If you’re not fully involved, it makes it hard to learn about lending dynamics. Consider the refinance process a learning experience in:

  • Financial Literacy
    Handling the process yourself is a good learning experience and increases your understanding of financial products.
  • Market Knowledge
    Directly engaging with lenders gives you a better sense of the market, which can be useful for future financial decisions.

Drawbacks of Refinancing without an Agent’s Guidance

Refinances are often a complex process requiring you to do a lot of legwork, including preparing your property for inspection and collecting the required supporting documentation. Agents often bring expertise to the table that you may not have. Without expert guidance, you may be more prone to mistakes, resulting in you missing out on better rates, overlooking fees, or misinterpreting loan terms.

Attempting to refinance without the help of a real estate agent can have some possible downsides for homeowners. Consider that:

  • Agents bring a depth of understanding of market conditions, negotiation tactics, lending guidelines, and the appraisal process that homeowners likely lack.
  • It becomes easier to overlook better rates, fail to optimize fees or misinterpret complex mortgage terms without a real estate professional as your representative.
  • Coordinating the process and researching loans requires diligent work. Lenders may not proactively hold your hand through each step.
  • Agents have connections with and insights into an array of lenders and brokers that their clients can leverage.
  • Agents have the leverage and persuasion skills when negotiations are at a stalemate. On your own, you may find yourself stuck.

Refinancing solo pays off in terms of reduced fees but also comes with heightened frustrations and risks. Working with an agent reduces the likelihood of wasted time, unexpected costs, and critical mistakes.

Find a Real Estate Agent with FastExpert

As you weigh the pros and cons of working with a real estate agent for your refinance, remember that it ultimately comes down to your situation and priorities.

If you want to maximize convenience and minimize hassle, having an expert guide you through the process can be hugely beneficial. But if cost and self-education are your primary concerns, it might be best to work directly with a mortgage broker or lender.  

There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Consider your needs, skills, and objectives when deciding if an agent’s assistance is warranted for your mortgage refinance.

One thing is clear – refinancing is a major financial move. Having trusted guidance from start to finish ensures you make the best decision for your home and financial future.

If working with a real estate agent on your refinance seems like the best option for you, FastExpert can help. FastExpert has thousands of verified reviews on real estate professionals. Find a top local real estate agent with FastExpert and get started on your home refinance.

Kelsey Heath

Kelsey Heath is a real estate content specialist with an extensive background in residential, industrial, and commercial property. She has been involved in the industry for a decade as a professional and personal investor, gaining a deep understanding of the market and trends. With a passion for written communication, Kelsey loves helping people understand the sometimes-complicated concepts behind real estate and is now a sought-out guest and ghostwriter.

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