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It's definitely time to refinance the mortgage. But do you have to refinance with the company that currently holds the mortgage? Actually, you're under no obligation to go back with the same company and you may very well find a better deal with another company. Shopping for a refinancing opportunity is very similar to shopping for a lender for that original loan. Here are some tips to keep you on the right track.

Shop. Try to give yourself plenty of time for the comparison process. If you know there's a balloon payment or some other reason that will prompt refinancing, keep that date in mind and start shopping for a new mortgage early. If time is limited, set aside everything else you possibly can and put this on your priority list. After all, this could be a difference of thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.

Look for companies that specialize in your circumstances. While one lender may have offered the best rates you could find on your original mortgage because you had a poor credit score, they're rates for your new higher score may not be as competitive. If you are refinancing a mortgage on a mobile home, look for lenders who advertise mobile home financing. You'll usually do better finding companies that are accustomed to doing business with people in your situation, no matter what that situation is.

Don't over look your neighborhood lender. A banker or mortgage company in your area may be more willing to offer a good rate on mortgages simply because they're familiar with this property. What's really a good deal in your local real estate market may not seem like a good deal at all to a lender who isn't familiar with the area.

Be sure you're comparing like mortgages. You'll find that some companies offer discounts in certain areas but seek to make that money up in other ways. One company might promise no closing costs but have a higher interest rate, or may offer lower rates but require a balloon payment at which time you have to refinance again.

Write it all down. When you've talked to your fifth lender, you may have trouble remembering who was offering what. You'll be left to repeat the process or go on your memory neither a particularly attractive proposition. Make yourself a list of features of each company for better comparison.