Short Refinance

What Is a Short Refinance?

Short refinance is a financial term that refers to the refinancing of a mortgage by a lender for a borrower currently in default on their mortgage payments. Lenders short refinance a mortgage in order to help a borrower avoid foreclosure.

Typically, the new loan amount is less than the existing outstanding loan amount, and the lender sometimes forgives the difference. Although the payment on the new loan will be lower, a lender sometimes chooses a short refinance because it is more cost-effective than foreclosure proceedings.

Key Takeaways

  • A lender may prefer to offer a short refinance to a borrower instead of going through a lengthy, expensive foreclosure.
  • A short refinance can ding a borrower’s credit—but so can late or missed mortgage payments.
  • Lenders may consider a forbearance agreement or a deed in lieu of foreclosure, as both may be more cost-effective.

How a Short Refinance Works

When a borrower cannot pay their mortgage, the lender may be forced to foreclose on the home. A mortgage, one of the most common debt instruments, is a loan—secured by the collateral of specified real estate property—that the borrower is obliged to pay back with a predetermined set of payments. Mortgages are used by individuals and businesses to make large real estate purchases without paying the entire value of the purchase up front. Over a period of many years, the borrower repays the loan, plus interest, until eventually, they own the property free and clear.

If a borrower cannot make payments on their mortgage, the loan goes into default. Once that happens, the bank has a few options. Foreclosure is the most widely known (and feared) of the lender’s options, as it means the lender takes control of the property, evicts the homeowner, and sells the home. Foreclosure, however, is a long and expensive legal process that a lender might want to avoid because it may not receive any payments for up to a year after beginning the foreclosure process and it will also lose out on fees associated with the procedure.

A short refinance is a solution some lenders may offer a borrower who is at risk of foreclosure. A borrower may also ask for a short refinance. There are advantages for the borrower: A short refinance allows them to keep the home and reduces the amount owed on the property. Unfortunately, there is also a downside because the borrower’s credit score is likely to drop because they’re not paying the full amount of the original mortgage.

Mortgage lending discrimination is illegal. If you think you've been discriminated against based on race, religion, sex, marital status, use of public assistance, national origin, disability, or age, there are steps you can take. One such step is to file a report to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Short Refinance vs. Other Foreclosure Options

A short refinance is just one of several alternatives to foreclosure that might be more cost-effective for the lender. Another potential solution is to enter into a forbearance agreement, a temporary postponement of mortgage payments. The terms of a forbearance agreement are negotiated between the borrower and the lender.

A lender could also opt for a deed in lieu of foreclosure, which requires the borrower to deed the collateral property back to the lender—in essence, giving up the property—in exchange for release from the obligation of paying the mortgage.

Example of a Short Refinance

Let’s say that the market value of your home dropped from $200,000 to $150,000, and you still owe $180,000 on the property. In a short refinance, the lender would allow you to take out a new loan for $150,000, and you wouldn’t have to pay back the $30,000 difference. Not only would you have a lower principal, but also, in all likelihood, your monthly payments would be lower, which could help you better afford them.

Compare Mortgage Lenders
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.