It seems like everywhere you turn there is some letting you know how amazing rates are now and how you MUST take advantage. At the same time you will hear story after story of people with decent to great credit not being able to get one of these amazing loans because of stricter standards. So how do you give yourself the best chance possible?
To start you are going to want to see if you qualify for a refi. Banks are currently wanting a credit score of at least 740 and 20% equity. These are not hard and fast guidelines but if your credit score could use some help, now is the time to work on it. If you don't have the 20% equity there are some programs out there but your loan must be held by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae.
Next you are going to want to get rid of any home equity loans or lines of credit. Otherwise you can be adding significant time to the loan process and/or some interest could be tagged on.
You will also want to know where to look by shopping around. Where one bank may reject you, another might see you as a perfect candidate. Lately the best rates seem to be coming from small local banks and credit unions.
If you have the option, it is a really good idea to pay a point up front. A point is 1% of your mortgage and paying one off up front can buy your loan down an eighth to a quarter of a percentage point off your rate. Some lenders will even take off a full half of a percentage point just to avoid serial refinancers. This could also help you lock in a rate. Before you really only need about a month so locking in your rate wasn't so difficult. Now it can take closer to two months and paying a point can get that rate locked in for 45 days.
The loan application process has gotten a lot harder and more complicated, but not only will it be easier if you know what you are getting into but also completely worth the effort to get these historical rates.http://money.cnn.com/2009/04/17/real_estate/low_rate_loan.moneymag/index.htm?postversion=2009041711
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