We bought our house in the fall of 2008, right around the same time that the real estate bubble was bursting. We got a good price, but at the time, our interest rate was a "jumbo" loan, meaning that we were paying a much higher percentage than the prevailing rates for a 30-year mortgage.
We also only put down 10%, which meant that we needed mortgage insurance--basically paying money every month for nothing.
About a year after we bought the house, we re-financed to get a lower rate. The threshold for a jumbo loan went up, so we cut our monthly payment by a lot. But the real estate market hadn't rebounded, yet, so we still didn't have 80% equity in the house.
Over the next couple of years we watched the jumbo threshold go up and down, and we watched the comps in our neighborhood go down, and hover, and then slowly go up.
And then, last summer, people started buying houses again in our neighborhood. Houses that were much smaller, and needed a lot of renovation started selling for waaaay more than we paid for our place. Then, when the place across the street from us sold at a record high price for our block, with competing bids, we thought we should take a stab at a re-fi.
We called our bank, and got the process started, but our bank (Chase) was supremely unhelpful. It took months, literally, to get through the process, we had to have multiple visits from the appraiser for reasons that weren't clear to us. Yeah, that old stove in the attic might need to be taken out, but it was there both other times Chase gave us a mortgage, so why is that in the way of our re-fi, this time? No good answer. He'll have to come back. Pfft.
And then, of course, we were on our way to Africa, and even though we were told that we'd been cleared to close, no one could tell us when we would actually do the closing. We mentioned that we were leaving the country, but it wasn't until we were actually in Africa that they called to set it up. So, we had to wait until we got back.
The really stupid and annoying thing about the delay, was that it cost us money. We had an appraisal in hand that said we had 20% equity in the house, and yet, because we hadn't closed on the re-fi, we payed a month (or maybe two) extra in mortgage insurance payments.
At any rate, it's done, now. So I can cross this off of my list. I'm also going to count it as a 'saving money' thing. Because it saves money, that's why!