Cash-Out Refi 101: How Cash-Out Refinancing Works

By Jody McMaster · July 25, 2023 · 10 minute read

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Cash-Out Refi 101: How Cash-Out Refinancing Works

If you’re cash poor and home equity rich, a cash-out refinance could be the ticket to funding home improvements, consolidating debt, or helping with any other need. With this type of refinancing, you take out a new mortgage for a larger amount than what you have left on your current mortgage and receive the excess amount as cash.

However, getting a mortgage with a cash-out isn’t always the best route to take when you need extra money. Read on for a closer look at this form of home refinancing, including how it works, how much cash you can get, its pros and cons, and alternatives to consider.

What Is a Cash-Out Refinance?

A cash-out refinance involves taking out a new mortgage loan that will allow you to pay off your old mortgage plus receive a lump sum of cash.

Like other types of refinancing, you end up with a new mortgage which may have different rates and a longer or shorter term, as well as a new payment amortization schedule (which shows your monthly payments for the life of the loan).

The cash amount you can get is based on your home equity, or how much your home is worth compared to how much you owe. You can use the cash you receive for virtually any purpose, such as home remodeling, consolidating high-interest debt, or other financial needs.

💡 Quick tip: Thinking of using a mortgage broker? That person will try to help you save money by finding the best loan offers you are eligible for. But if you deal directly with a mortgage lender, you won’t have to pay a mortgage broker’s commission, which is usually based on the mortgage amount.

How Does a Cash-Out Refinance Work?

Just like a traditional refinance, a cash-out refinance involves replacing your existing loan with a new one, ideally with a lower interest rate, shorter term, or both.

The difference is that with a cash-out refinance, you also withdraw a portion of your home’s equity in a lump sum. The lender adds that amount to the outstanding balance on your current mortgage to determine your new loan balance.

Refinancing with a cash-out typically requires a home appraisal, which will determine your home’s current market value. Often lenders will allow you to borrow up to 80% of your home’s value, including both the existing loan balance and the amount you want to take out in the form of cash.

However, there are exceptions. Cash-out refinance loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) may allow you to borrow as much as 85% of the value of your home, while those guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) may let you borrow up to 100% of your home’s value.

Cash-out refinances typically come with closing costs, which can be 2% to 6% of the loan amount. If you don’t finance these costs with the new loan, you’ll need to subtract these costs from the cash you end up with.

💡 Quick tip: Using the money you get from a cash-out refi for a home renovation can help rebuild the equity you’re taking out. Plus, you may be able to deduct the additional interest payments on your taxes.

Example of Cash-Out Refinancing

Let’s say your mortgage balance is $100,000 and your home is currently worth $300,000. This means you have $200,000 in home equity.

If you decide to get a cash-out refinance, the lender may give you 80% of the value of your home, which would be a total mortgage amount of $240,000 ($300,000 x 0.80).

From that $240,000 loan, you’ll have to pay off what you still owe on your home ($100,000), that leaves you with $140,000 (minus closing costs) you could potentially get as an get as cash. The actual amount you qualify for can vary depending on the lender, your creditworthiness, and other factors.

Common Uses of Cash-Out Refinancing

People use a cash-out refinance for a variety of purposes. These include:

•   A home improvement project (such as a kitchen remodel, a replacement HVAC system, or a new patio deck

•   Adding an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) to your property

•   Consolidating and paying off high-interest credit card debt

•   Buying a vacation home

•   Emergency expenses, such as an unexpected hospital stay or unplanned car repairs

•   Education expenses, such as college tuition

Qualifying for a Cash-Out Refinance

Here’s a look at some of the typical criteria to qualify for a cash-out refinance.

•  Credit score Lenders typically require a minimum score of 620 for a cash-out refinance.

•  DTI ratio Lenders will likely also consider your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio — which compares your monthly debt payments to monthly gross monthly income — to gauge whether you can take on additional debt. For a cash-out refinance, many lenders require a DTI no higher than 43%.

•  Sufficient equity You typically need to be able to maintain at least 20% percent equity after the cash-out refinance. This cushion also benefits you as a borrower — if the market changes and your home loses value, you don’t want to end up underwater on your mortgage.

•  Length of ownership You typically need to have owned your home for at least six months to get a cash-out refinance.

Tax Considerations

The money you get from your cash-out refinance is not considered taxable income. Also, If you use the funds you receive to buy, build, or substantially improve your home, you may be able to deduct the interest you pay on the cash portion from your income when you file your tax return every year (if you itemize deductions). If you use the funds from a cash-out refinance for other purposes, such as paying off high-interest credit card debt or covering the cost of college tuition, however, the interest paid on the cash-out portion of your new loan isn’t deductible. However, the existing mortgage balance is (up to certain limits). You’ll want to check with a tax professional for details on how a cash-out refi may impact your taxes.

Cash-Out Refi vs Home Equity Loan or HELOC

If you’re looking to access a lump sum of cash to consolidate debt or to cover a large expense, a cash-out refinance isn’t your only option. Here are some others you may want to consider.

Home Equity Line of Credit

A home equity line of credit (HELOC) is a revolving line of credit that works in a similar way to a credit card — you borrow what you need when you need it and only pay interest on what you borrow. Because a HELOC is secured by the equity you have in your home, however, it usually offers a higher credit limit and lower interest rate than a credit card.

HELOCs generally have a variable interest rate and an initial draw period, which can last as long as 10 years. During that time, you make interest-only payments. After the draw period ends, the credit line closes and payments with principal and interest begin. Keep in mind that HELOC payments are in addition to your current mortgage (if you have one), since the HELOC doesn’t replace your mortgage.

Home Equity Loan

A home equity loan allows you to borrow a lump sum of money at a fixed interest rate you then repay by making fixed payments over a set term, often five to 30 years. Interest rates tend to be higher than for a cash-out refinance.

As with a HELOC, taking out a home equity loan means you will be making two monthly home loan payments: one for your original mortgage and one for your new equity loan. A cash-out refinance, on the other hand, replaces your existing mortgage with a new one, resetting your mortgage term in the process.

Personal Loan

A personal loan provides you with a lump sum of money, which you can use for virtually any purpose. The loans typically come with a fixed interest rate and involve making fixed payments over a set term, typically one to five years. Unlike home equity loans, HELOCs, and cash-out refinances, these loans are typically unsecured, meaning you don’t use your home or any other asset as collateral for the loan. Personal loans usually come with higher interest rates than loans that are secured by collateral.

Pros of Cash-Out Refinancing

•  A lower mortgage interest rate With a cash-out refinance, you might be able to swap out a higher original interest rate for a lower one.

•  Lower borrowing costs A cash-out refinance can be less expensive than other types of financing, such as personal loans or credit cards.

•  May build credit If you use a cash-out refinance to pay off high-interest credit card debt, it could reduce your credit utilization (how much of your available credit you are using), a significant factor in your credit score.

•  Potential tax deduction If you use the funds for qualified home improvements, you may be able to deduct the interest on the loan when you file your taxes.

Cons of Cash-Out Refinancing

•  Higher cost than a standard refinance Because a cash-out refinance leads to less equity in your home (which poses added risk to a lender), the interest rate, fees, and closing costs are often higher than they are with a regular refinance.

•  Mortgage insurance If you take out more than 80% of your home’s equity, you will likely need to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI).

•  Longer debt repayment If you use a cash-out refinance to pay off high-interest debts, you may end up paying off those debts for a longer period of time, potentially decades. While this can lower your monthly payment, it can mean paying more in total interest than you would have originally.

•  Foreclosure risk If you borrow more than you can afford to pay back with a cash-out refinance, you risk losing your home to foreclosure.

Is a Cash-Out Refi Right for You?

If you need access to a lump sum of cash to make home improvements or for another expense, and have been thinking about refinancing your mortgage, a cash-out refinance might be a smart move. Due to the collateral involved in a cash-out refinance (your home), rates can be lower than other types of financing. And, unlike a home equity loan or HELOC, you’ll have one, rather than two payments to make.

Just keep in mind that, as with any type of refinance, a cash-out refi means getting a new loan with different rates and terms than your current mortgage, as well as a new payment schedule.

Turn your home equity into cash with a cash-out refi. Pay down high-interest debt, or increase your home’s value with a remodel. Get your rate in a matter of minutes, without affecting your credit score.*

Our Mortgage Loan Officers are ready to guide you through the cash-out refinance process step by step.


Are there limitations on what the cash in a cash-out refinance can be used for?

No, you can use the cash from a cash-out refinance for anything you like. Ideally, you’ll want to use it for a project that will ultimately improve your financial situation, such as improvements to your home.

How much can you cash out with a cash-out refinance?

Often lenders will allow you to borrow up to 80% of your home’s value, including both the existing loan balance and the amount you want to take out in the form of cash. However, exactly how much you can cash out will depend on your income and credit history. Also, you typically need to be able to maintain at least 20% percent equity in your home after the cash-out refinance.

Does a borrower’s credit score affect how much they can cash out?

Yes. Lenders will typically look at your credit score, as well as other factors, to determine how large a loan they will offer you for cash-out refinance, and at what interest rate. Generally, you need a minimum score of 620 for a cash-out refinance.

Does a cash-out refi hurt your credit?

A cash-out refinance can affect your credit score in several ways, though most of them are minor.

For one, applying for the loan will trigger a hard pull, which can result in a slight, temporary, drop in your credit score. Replacing your old mortgage with a new mortgage will also lower the average age of your credit accounts, which could potentially have a small, negative impact on your score.

However, if you use a cash-out refinance to pay off debt, you might see a boost to your credit score if your credit utilization ratio drops. Credit utilization, or how much you’re borrowing compared to what’s available to you, is a critical factor in your score.

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