Refinance Now, If You Can

The national statistics on refinancing reflect Eggers' experience. According to MBA data, refinancing applications earlier this month were down to their lowest level since late August 2009.

MBA's Fratantoni attributes the decline to the recent rise in mortgage rates.

"Those tend to track each other pretty closely," he said.

"When rates move, either people jump off the fence and get the deal done before rates go higher or they say, 'Forget it, I guess I missed the boat,'" said Bankrate.com's McBride. Lately, he said, the "missed the boat" mindset seems to have been more prevalent.

Obstacles to Refinancing

Brokers like Evan Kalin say many homeowners would like to refinance and simply can't, due either to a job loss, bad credit or being underwater on their mortgages -- owing more on their homes than they're worth.

Kalin, the president of Home Capital Mortgage Corp. in the Bronx, N.Y., said that for every 10 homeowners who come to him for refinancing, eight end up being rejected by banks.

"The people that really need to refinance are the people that really can't get them," he said.

Government Help for Refinancing

Those who are underwater may find help through the government's Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP), which offers refinancing for loans guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, including some underwater mortgages.

Homeowners may qualify for the program if what they owe does not exceed 125 percent of the market value of their homes.

But HARP is no cure-all: Homeowners must be current on their mortgage payments and must have a "reasonable ability to pay the new mortgage payments" -- in other words, have a job.

The "ability to pay" requirement is also a sticking point for banks considering refi applications, and that could prove a problem for Hibbard.

Though he is a full-time pastor, he said he's worried he'll have trouble refinancing because his income isn't exactly stable -- like his surrounding community, Hibbard's church has fallen on tough times and Hibbard himself might face a salary cut.

He'll check out his refinancing prospects anyway, he said.

Right now, he said, "any option is worth looking at."

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