To Cash-Out Refinance And Make It Rain…. Or Not

Rainy Day

Rainy Day At Peterhof Palace, St. Petersburg

Lots of cash buys you lots of alcohol, access, and action – Triple AAA if you will. What more does anybody want?

Let’s say you’re on a hot date and roll up in the Corolla to your favorite five star restaurant, Olive Garden. You slip the valet a $5 for the $4 valet fee and tell him to “keep the change” so he can keep it up front.

The hostess greets you coldly and says there’s no table. You pull out another crisp $5 dollar bill and she changes her mind and seats you right away. Normally you just order water, but tonight you get a little crazy with $3 Bud Lights! And afterward, since you two are all tipsy now, it’s Nintendo Wii action all night long!

Now that’s Triple AAA.


Triple AAA is tempting me right now as I consider doing a cash-out refinance for one of the rental properties at 3.375% from 4% (thank you Ben Bernanke). If you’re in a oppressively high federal income tax bracket, you might consider doing a cash-out refinance to lower your income tax bill.

Since I’m pretty sure I’ll be in a lower income tax bracket during retirement (as will you most likely), I figured why not extract cash out of a rental property and increase my interest expense to shield my rental income. With 5-year rental property money at only 3.375%, it would be foolish not to at least consider the option.

The rental market is hotter than the 49ers and I was able to increase my asking rent price by 12% last month from a year ago. My realtor friends implored me to raise the rent by another couple hundred bucks, but I didn’t have the heart since I had already put the price out there on Craigslist, and I found a potentially ideal tenant.

By refinancing, the cash flow for the rental property increased by another 23% for a total increase of 35%. Yet, despite this increased cash-flow, I thought long and hard whether increasing my debt to then negate my cash flow increase was the right financial decision in this low interest rate environment.  Doing a cash-out refinance is definitely something to consider if you have a hefty amount of equity in your property.


* What are you going to do with the money?  If you have no good plans for the money that will return at least the cost of your mortgage, then you probably shouldn’t cash-out. CD and savings rates are still much lower than your mortgage rates, so you will be losing money every month you don’t put it to good use. Nothing is a guaranteed return, so think long and hard before plopping that cash down on something that sounds so good.

* What’s your outlook on the property market?  If you think the markets are going to tank 90%, then by all means cash out! You don’t want to see your equity disappear. If you can legally cash out and have free cash in your bank account, then please do so before it disappears.  In the event of a market crash, it is then up to you to decide whether you should pay your mortgage or not.  You should if you live in a recourse state, and maybe not if you live in a non-recourse state.  Just don’t brag about it and try and profiteer if you do welch on your debt!

* How disciplined are you? Some people go crazy irresponsible when they have a sudden influx of cash. If you are making say $100,000 a year with $50,000 in savings, could you handle an extra $200,000 in the bank after a cash-out refinance?  Would you not be tempted to go on some fancy vacation or buy a car you’ve always wanted?  If so, then you shouldn’t do a cash-out refi since you wouldn’t have spent that money if you didn’t get the injection.  I have a weakness for nice vacations and cars, even though I haven’t bought one in 4 years and drive a beater.

* How much money are you making? If you already have a high amount of cash-flow or have a a healthy year-end bonus every year and don’t plan to get fired, then perhaps you really shouldn’t do a cash-out refinance. For example, let’s say you want to cash-out $100,000, but you can save $100,000 every year.  If this is the case, why bother?

* Understand the rate differential. My banker said I could do a cash-out refinance if I wanted to, but then said my mortgage would have to be re-underwritten, and the rate would go up. Funny how they didn’t tell me this before my appraisal. I was thinking to myself if I borrow more money, I could get a lower rate!  Silly me. It’s quite the opposite. This higher rate was the straw that broke the camels back as he tried a little bait and switch. I’m a rate seeker.

* How desperate are you for cash? Interest rates are incredibly low, making living off dividend or CD interest income incredible hard for retirees. Your house is likely your largest asset, which isn’t doing you much good except for providing you a hopefully rent-free place to live. If you are at the point where you have to sell precious belongings, priceless memorabilia, and liquidating your grandchildren’s education funds, then doing a cash-out refinance is a much better option.


Cash-out refinancing is just accounting. You either have cash in the bank or equity in the house. I would actually much rather have cash in hand to do what I want (invest, spend, remodel, travel) than have it stuck in a house which might burn down. Housing will continue to get better over the next 5-10 years. Just make sure that if you do a cash-out refinance that you spend it wisely, preferably on living a better life and investing for more security.


* Shop Around For A Mortgage: LendingTree Mortgage offers some of the lowest refinance rates today because they have a huge network of lenders to pull from. If you’re looking to buy a new home, get a HELOC, or refinance your existing mortgage, consider using LendingTree to get multiple offer comparisons in a matter of minutes. The Fed is signaling interest rate hikes by 2016 due to inflationary pressures now. When banks compete, you win.

* Manage Your Money In One Place: Sign up for Personal Capital, the web’s #1 free wealth management tool to get a better handle on your finances. You can use Personal Capital to help monitor illegal use of your credit cards and other accounts with their tracking software. In addition to better money oversight, run your investments through their award-winning Investment Checkup tool to see exactly how much you are paying in fees. I was paying $1,700 a year in fees I had no idea I was paying.

After you link all your accounts, use their Retirement Planning Calculator that pulls your real data to give you as pure an estimation of your financial future as possible using Monte Carlo simulation algorithms. I’ve been using Personal Capital since 2012 and have seen my net worth skyrocket during this time thanks to better money management.

Updated for 2015




Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship. Sam focuses on helping readers build more income in real estate, investing, entrepreneurship, and alternative investments in order to achieve financial independence sooner, rather than later.

You can sign up to receive his articles via email or by RSS. Sam also sends out a private quarterly newsletter with information on where he's investing his money and more sensitive information.

Subscribe To Private Newsletter


  1. says

    Coming down to the South Bay with that cash-out money? Think houses are discounted on Black Friday? New LNKD millionaires need to rent somewhere…

    Or go grab today’s house on Burbed… it’s in Pacific Heights and is a steal at $8M. Don’t worry, home prices only go up!

  2. Money Beagle says

    I just did a re-finance. The bank had estimated closing costs and they ended up coming in lower than estimated. They wrote the loan for the original estimate saying that they’d just give me the cash out. I refused and it delayed the closing by a few hours because they had to re-write all the paperwork. It was less than $1,000 but I still felt no reason to take that, especially when I’d made it clear up front that I didn’t want cash.

  3. says

    Hey Sam, I agree with your point about “where will you put the money to make a greater return” and make up for the risk your are taking to “cash” out.

    I think I would’ve done what you did, walk away.

    You do sound like the last of the big time spenders on a date…..Those valets must luv to see you coming. vroom vroom!

  4. The Genius says

    I like the idea of having the optionality of cash, rather than have it tied up in the property market. If the property market is indeed recovering, then it’s better to take OUT the equity in the form of cash, thereby increase your return on cash (less cash) and use the cash for something else.

    But, if they are going to charge you a higher interest rate, it becomes tougher. It also sounds like a PITA.

    • says

      That definitely makes sense since the money sitting in property is underutilized money. Just take new debt to increase return on equity is easy. Figuring out how to beat the cost of debt hurdle is hard.

  5. Joe says

    If my rental has high interest rate + equity, then I would definitely do a cash out refinancing. Assuming I can get lower rate. My rate is pretty low though and the equity isn’t that high. :(
    I’m also not sure if I can do better than 4% in this market.

  6. JT says

    Doesn’t make sense to me to borrow money through a 5-year ARM for rental real estate. That implies that you’ll either be selling the property within five years, or have confidence that you can increase rent to keep pace with (potentially) rising rates. That’s a bad deal all the way around.

    Plus, the short-end of the yield curve still isn’t all that attractive from a borrowing standpoint. Might as well borrow where the subsidies are–Bengenie is working far more magic on the long-end of the curve than the short-end. I’d borrow all day on the long-end of the curve at less than 5%, but we have very different retirement horizons, so it’s not really applicable.

    • says

      You sure about that? I can borrow Libor + at 1.5% now which I’m tempted to do. Dont think inflation is as fast as my 10% rental increase this year, which is on the low end.

      Why would you borrow at the long end and pay 4%? You think rates and inflation are going to jack higher soon?

      • says

        That LIBOR quote must have a floor in place, because doing the math with the above 3.75% doesn’t make sense?

        I’d borrow on the long end because I think it presents more value. Sure, I’d pay a higher rate now, but I’d much prefer to lock it in fixed for 30 years at 4% than pay nearly that much with only 5 years of utility. Rates are certain to go higher; they’re depressed right now because of Europe. If Europe settles, rates rise, especially on the short-end of the curve. Might as well go for the long-end, and let Bengenie subsidize me.

        • says

          JT, the 5 yr rate is based on the long bond yield. The LIBOR + margin is for one month floating. Different rates.

          Rates have been going down for 30 years JT. Please look at the historical charts.

          Let me know when you jump into the property market.

        • says

          So you’re talking about two different credit options between the article and your comments. Okay, then.

          I know rates have been falling for 30 years; I just don’t know why you think that trend will continue.

          • says

            That’s why there’s a market. I’ve been right for the past 10 years borrowing on the short end and I’m confident rates arent going higher for the next 3 years.

            Want to make some bets and predictions on the Fed funds or 10 yr yield?

  7. krantcents says

    Many years ago, I refinanced specifically to take cash to buy another property. I used my equity to build a larger portfolio. Was it wise? Yes! Should everyone do it? No, because of some of the pitfalls you mentioned. Not everyone is disciplined or has a plan. The key word is plan. I planned my expansion and had the discipline to not only do some of these things, but monitor the progress and results. I set up reserves to take care of surprises and I had a history to reflect on to know my risks. Bottom line it worked for me!

  8. AL says

    This is a slightly unrelated question. I assume you are in CA and this is a non-owner occupied rental property, right? Do you have earthquake insurance? If not, are you concerned about having a recourse mortgage as opposed to a non-recourse mortgage? If there’s an earthquake that flattens your building, you’re still on the hook for the mortgage, unlike a homeowner who can just walk away.

    • says

      There’s earthquake insurance. This property has been refinanced multiple times since rates have gone down steadily for 10 years. It was at 5.75% in the beginning!

      I don’t care about recourse since it’s way in the money and the cash flow is very strong. I plan to either hold forever or sell at a profit.

  9. says

    Personally, I don’t mind having equity in real estate. And you need to consider how much return you could actually garner on the cash out!!! I also try (although not always successfully) to keep things simple.

    • says

      Yes, the older I get, the more I want to simplify. It’s what makes me not want to expand the real estate portfolio too much, and focus on the simplicity of being online.

      How is SF treating you Barb?

  10. says

    Hilarious intro Sam! I haven’t done one myself but I have heard of them a little. I’d trust myself not to burn through the money shopping but I’m sure I’d be quite tempted to use it for travel and that can add up quick. I don’t think I’d want to do one mainly because the idea of having more outstanding debt just doesn’t feel right and I’m not in a situation where I need a lot of cash right now.

  11. bonnie says

    I am in this situation and just read your post for the first time. Please give me advice. I am in 33% income tax bracket, in Florida no state income tax. We have just under $50k mortgage left on an investment property we just put about $50k in cash flowing a complete reno on it so now it’s value is about $200k. So there is $150k equity sitting there. We were going to sell it, already sat down with realtor…But….should we instead rent it out for $1200/month and break even monthly so I don’t pay income tax on rental income, and do a cash out refi to get that equity in cash?? If I sell, I either have to do 1031 exchange and never touch any cash or I have to pay capital gains tax, ugh. My intent with the cash?…sit around and breathe for a minute and then invest it in something else.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *