Understanding the USDA Streamlined Assist Refinance

The USDA streamlined assist refinance program is a way for homeowners with USDA loans to save money on their monthly mortgage payments.

Kate WoodSeptember 10, 2020
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Understanding the USDA Streamlined Assist Refinance

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The USDA streamlined assist refinance program lets eligible homeowners refinance their existing USDA loans without undergoing a credit check or having their debt-to-income and loan-to-value ratios calculated.

The program is available to homeowners with USDA guaranteed loans, which are backed by the United States Department of Agriculture but provided by approved lenders, and USDA direct loans, which are issued by the USDA's Rural Development Guaranteed Housing Loan Program.

Here's what you need to know if you have a USDA loan that you're looking to refinance.

» MORE: The basics of USDA loans

Does USDA have a streamlined refinance?

Yes! The USDA streamlined assist refinance is similar to other government agencies' refinance programs, like the Federal Housing Administration's FHA streamline refinance and the VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan, or VA IRRRL, offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. These all allow homeowners who already have a government home loan to complete a fixed-rate, rate-and-term refinance with less hassle than a typical refinance.

With a USDA streamlined assist refinance, your existing loan can be a USDA direct loan or a guaranteed loan. The USDA's regular streamline refinance is not available to direct loan borrowers, though its standard (not streamlined) rate-and-term refinance is. The USDA does not offer cash-out refinances.

What are the benefits of a USDA streamlined assist refinance?

A streamline assist refinance has fewer hoops to jump through than a regular rate-and-term USDA refinance. With a USDA streamlined assist refinance:

  • No new appraisal is required unless you have a USDA direct loan and received a subsidy.

  • You don't need a credit check, and the lender doesn't have to calculate your debt-to-income ratio, or DTI.

  • No home inspection is needed.

Aside from requiring less paperwork, the USDA streamlined assist refinance boasts the same primary benefit of most non-cash-out refinances — lowering your monthly USDA loan payment. In order to complete a USDA streamline assist refinance, there needs to be a "tangible benefit," which the USDA defines as a monthly payment reduction of at least $50.

USDA streamlined assist guidelines

To qualify for the streamlined assist program, you'll need to meet the following USDA requirements:

  • Have paid your current USDA mortgage on time for at least 12 months prior to refinancing.

  • Be within the USDA's single-family housing income limits, which vary by location and the size of your household.

  • Be one of the original borrowers. You can add a new borrower to your loan, but you can't typically remove any of the existing borrowers. (For example, if you were divorcing and needed to remove one partner from the mortgage, you couldn't do it with a streamline assist refinance.)

  • Choose a new loan term of 30 years or less.

  • Get a new loan rate that’s fixed and lower than your existing rate.

Also, if you live in an area that's become more developed and is no longer deemed "rural" by current USDA eligibility guidelines, you can still refinance your USDA loan with the streamlined assist program.

How much does a USDA streamlined assist refinance cost?

Because refinancing replaces your existing mortgage with a new one, you will still pay some closing costs, including a new USDA guarantee fee and annual fee. It may be possible to roll these USDA fees into the total amount of the new loan, but other closing costs will likely have to be paid upfront.

Ready to get started? Begin by finding a USDA-approved lender. You don't have to refinance through your current lender; in general, it's a good move to get quotes from at least three lenders so that you can compare your monthly and total costs, and find the best deal.

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