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Should You Refinance to 15 Years?

If you’re thinking of refinancing your mortgage, you’ll pay origination fees and closing costs, but it may be worth it to you to get a better interest rate and better terms. Refinancing to a 15-year loan may mean you pay a little more for your refinanced mortgage, but the amortization schedule (how much goes toward interest and how much goes to reducing your principal) is definitely more favorable than a 30-year. 

According to Bankrate.com, the average closing costs for a mortgage refinance are about $5,000. Costs will vary according to the size of your loan and the state and county where you live. But you can expect to pay anywhere from 2% to five percent of the borrowed amount. Closing costs can be rolled into the financing, so you don’t have out-of-pocket expenses, but that will add to the principal that needs to be repaid. For a $200,000 refinance, your closing costs range between $4,000 and $10,000, but you’d save much more than that in interest. 

Could you simply make higher payments on your current loan? Yes, any amount you add onto your mortgage payment will reduce principal immediately but it won’t impact your interest rate until you refinance or pay the mortgage off.

TheSimpleDollar.com says it could be easier or cheaper to refinance to a 15-year mortgage. You’ll get a better interest rate because shorter terms lower risks for the lender and you could change the type of loan based on fixed, adjustable or hybrid rates. 

Compare Interest Rates and APRs

When you apply for a mortgage, you may not pay the advertised rate. The best rates are for those homebuyers with the best credit scores. However, lenders are competitive, so you’d be wise to apply to several lenders at once. You’ll receive a loan estimate that you can compare side-by-side. 

First, compare the interest rates. According to Nerdwallet.com, there are many factors that affect interest rates, from the economy to inflation, to the Federal Reserve’s overnight borrowing rates to banks. You can’t do much about that, but you can influence the factors that lenders look for. 

If you have a credit score of 740 or higher, the risk of default is low enough that you will receive the lender’s best rate. A credit score of 620 or lower will give you fewer loan options and the highest rates. Lenders also look for the loan-to-value – code for how much money you’ll put down as a down payment. The more you put down the better the ratio. 

The true rate you’ll pay is the annual percentage rate (APR). The APR is your mortgage interest rate plus other costs that have been rolled into the loan, such as points, fees, and other charges. You’ll be able to find that number under the “comparisons” section of your loan estimates. 

Make sure that you’re comparing loans that the APR is consistent. For example, if the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate is 3.030%, then the APR is 3.250%. 

Plant Winter Garden Vegetables

According to some experts, the term winter garden is a misnomer. Winter garden plants mature and are ready to eat when the winter months come around. They’re able to tolerate chilly rains and big temperature drops. With the right timing and care, you can cultivate your own winter vegetable garden that will provide delicious produce during cold winter months.

Planting should begin mid to late summer or early fall, but if you’re late to the party, you can build a cold frame that covers your crops, protecting them against seasonal winds and frost damage while they bask in the sun to grow, and reuse the frames for seed propagation in spring and summer. Frames can be made from various materials like wood, cement block, fiberglass and more so long as they include a transparent face. They’re also hot beds available that heat your plants from underneath by electric or steam-heated elements. A more natural alternative is fresh manure; it absorbs and retains the heat from the sun for a long time.

For the best garden, first, you must figure out what you want to plant, how much time the plants need to grow, and how much space is available. If any of your summer plants have wilted, you should remove them now to make room for new plants.

Create the right amount of space for your winter garden by diagramming your existing plot(s) on graph paper. Savvygardener.com provides further schematics and ideas on this subject. Make sure you note which current plants are at or near ready for harvest, how much space they occupy and where you plan to plant the winter’s harvest. Keeping this level of organization will pay off as you move from season to season and harvest to harvest.

Some plants like beets, carrots, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower take 90 days to mature. Others like leeks, turnips, collards and perennial herbs take 60 days to mature. Chives, bunching onions, broccoli and spinach need only 30 days to mature. For a more complete list of ideas, visit Suburbanhomesteading.com.

Another website, Seedsnow.com lets you know the lowest temperatures that your crops can withstand. For example, carrots can withstand temps as low as 15°F while cauliflower can tolerate as low as 10°F. Kale and parsnips can live in zero-degree weather. Green onions can live through sleet and snow. But celery can only survive light frosts. For more extensive research, Garden.org offers information about The USDA Hardiness Zone Map which divides “North America into 11 separate planting zones.”  Each growing zone is 10°F warmer (or colder) in an average winter than the adjacent zone so make sure the crops you want are appropriate for your zone.

Visit a local garden center to learn more as there may be changes in weather patterns that may impact your yield. It’s never too late to start planting.