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How Long Does It Take to Refinance a House?

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Refinancing a home is very similar to getting a mortgage, but you might be wondering how long the process might take. If you have time-sensitive goals, knowing average refinance timeline for each stage could help you with planning.

How long does it take to refinance a house?

According to a recent report by Ellie Mae, the time to close on a home refinance has decreased significantly over the last few months.

As of February 2018, the average time to close on a home refinance loan was 37 days, down from 50 days in October 2016. Granted, closing times vary by loan type (i.e. FHA, conventional VA, etc.) but the average is coming down across all home refinance loans, Ellie Mae found.

Jason Lerner, area development manager and mortgage broker at George Mason Mortgage, LLC, said that refinancing could be even faster if there are no delays or complications.

There are many variables that come into play that could affect the timeline for your home refinance.

One variable in the timeline will be how responsive you, as the loan applicant, are with providing and verifying information as requested by the lender. The other variable is how responsive your lender is and whether or not there are issues or complications with your application.

The good news is that you can control your level of responsiveness and communication to help the process go as smoothly as possible while minimizing delays. However, you cannot control how the bank handles their internal processes.

That’s why it’s a good idea to review lenders who have a good track record of proving the best home refinance rates and customer service. Often, the best place to start is with your current lender, especially if you are a fan of their customer service, but always compare their offer with other lenders as well to be sure you’re getting the best deal.

The mortgage refinance process — from start to finish

It’s good to know about all the steps of the refinance process. This way, you can anticipate what’s needed and be prepared for the closing table that much quicker.

Here are the steps involved in most home refinance loans, along with how long you can expect them to take (barring delays, problems or issues). Some of these stages can overlap or occur simultaneously.

Figure out why you want to refinance

Preparing to refinance your home loan comes down to knowing your objective so you can narrow down a loan type, amount and potential repayment schedule. This is an important step.

Without being clear on exactly why you are refinancing your home, you could end up choosing a loan that doesn’t suit your needs, or even end up overextending yourself financially, which could put your home in jeopardy.

Refinancing your home just because you can is not a good idea. Create a list of financial goals, amount of money it will take to reach them along with a budget that includes your refinance scenario.

Common goals for refinancing a home could include:

  • Having a lower monthly payment
  • Consolidation of other debt
  • Get a lower interest rate
  • Pay off the loan quicker (with a shorter term, lower rate or both)

Home refinance costs (more below) should also be considered in this equation. Though the equity in your home is yours, accessing it still costs money. If possible, fare on the conservative side when it comes to determining the loan amount and type for your home refinance.

Choose the right refi loan

Now that you have an idea of what you’ll use your loan for and what you can afford, it’s time to determine the best type of home refinance loan.

There are many options when it comes to refinancing your home. You should become familiar with each so you can choose the best one for your needs.

Here are some loan types you could research:

  • 30-year fixed: A fixed interest rate loan amortized over 360 months
  • 15-year fixed: A fixed interest rate loan amortized over 180 months
  • Adjustable rate mortgage (varying types and terms): Interest rate resets periodically
  • Interest only: Borrowers pay interest on the loan, then principal
  • Payment option: Adjustable rate mortgage with multiple payment options
  • Balloon: Lower payments during loan term with a large payment at the end of the term

Next, you’ll want to explore different options offered under FHA, VA, USDA or conventional home refinance loans. There are ups and downs for each kind of mortgage, but ultimately, you need to choose the product that will help you meet your financial goals.

Compare offers from lenders

Now that you have a sense of the best type of home refinance loan, it’s time to research lenders who can offer you the best home refinance deal possible. Shopping for the best refinance rates can save you thousands of dollars, so don’t skip this step!

The terms offered will be based on a few things like how much your home is appraised for, the maximum loan-to-value a lender will offer, current market interest rates and your personal credit profile.

If you are especially concerned with how long it will take to refinance your home, you can make this a part of your research. Dan Green, former mortgage loan officer and owner of mortgage-literacy website Growella said, “Homeowners — especially homeowners working on a deadline — should ask about time-to-close as part of the lender comparison process.”

Understand the fees and additional costs

As mentioned before, financing your home is no small feat and it does come with a price tag. You should know upfront about the fees and costs related to a home refinance, as it should help you determine whether or not this is a move you actually want to make.

Think about how much you paid to close on your original mortgage loan to anticipate your closing costs this time around.

You can use a home refinance calculator so you can see the impact of refinancing your home when it comes to interest, monthly payments, tax deductions, total mortgage cost, etc.

Here are some home refinance costs you should know about:

  • Mortgage application fee
  • Home appraisal
  • Loan origination fee
  • Document preparation fee
  • Title search fee
  • Recording fee
  • Flood certification fee
  • Inspection fee
  • Attorney fee
  • Survey fee

Costs could vary by state and lender, so compare these fees on your Loan Estimate (see below) as you look at multiples lenders.

Submit your refi application to various lenders

Most lenders will allow you to apply for your home refinance online. To streamline your application process and get the best rates, you can apply to several lenders at once. This way, you can explore the best rates available while having lenders compete for your business.

If all of your refinance applications are made within a 30-day time period, the inquiries will not affect your score while you are shopping for rates.

Be prepared to provide demographic information about yourself and co-borrower, along with information about your property, original loan and more. Your lender will also eventually ask for additional proof to support the information you provide in the application. This would be a good time to start gathering this documentation up.

Get a loan estimate

Once the lender has processed your application and verified your information, they will provide what is called a Loan Estimate (LE.) By law, they must submit this loan estimate to you within three business days of receiving your completed loan application.

The Loan Estimate form is a standardized template that clearly outlines the home refinance terms the bank expects to offer you, should you decide to go forward. The bank has not yet approved (or denied) your refinance loan at this point, and they may ask you to sign the LE as a record of receipt on your end.

Again, you’ll want to use this Loan Estimate to compare multiple offers from various lenders.

Lock in your rate

Prevailing rates for mortgages can change from day to day and even from hour to hour, so it’s a good safety measure to lock in your rate. A rate lock means your lender will “lock” in your interest rate until closing.

Some lenders may lock your rate as part of issuing the Loan Estimate, but this is not always the case. You can check the top of your Loan Estimate document on the first page to find out if your interest rate is locked, along with when this rate will expire.

Submit required documents for loan processing

Among the supporting documentation you’ll be asked to provide may include:

  • Pay stubs
  • Tax returns, W-2s and/or 1099s
  • Credit report
  • Bank statements
  • Proof of any supplemental income

Note: It’s a good idea to check your credit report regularly in case there’s inaccurate information that needs to be addressed. You don’t want anything to prevent (or delay) the bank from processing your application or extending a refinance loan to you.

Once this information is provided, the processor will go on to order your credit report, home appraisal and payoff amount from current lender.

Appraisal

This is where an appraiser will come to your home and determine its value. They will be dispatched by the bank and come view the property, look up comparable properties nearby and furnish a report with their findings. The amount you’ll be able to refinance will be based on this appraisal report.

Underwriting

At this stage, the lender is putting all the pieces together — the appraised value of your home, your personal financial situation along with your predicted ability to repay the loan on time and as agreed. This risk analysis can take time and may require additional information.

You should be ready to provide additional information to your loan processor, if needed. Also, your employer could be contacted to verify your salary and employment status during the underwriting phase.

Commitment letter

This letter states that the bank agrees to lend you money, but there could be additional requirements, such as providing more information or clarifying information you’ve already provided. The bank can rescind this offer if there is an significant change in your personal financial situation as well.
However, once you meet the conditions set forth in the commitment letter, the underwriting department will issue a “clear to close.” Your loan officer will let you know via email or phone call that the bank will soon communicate the next steps for your closing date.

Closing disclosures

At least three days prior to closing, you’ll be issued a Closing Disclosure. It will outline the final terms of your refinance loan.

This three-day timeline is designed to give you enough time to compare rates and ask your lender questions about your loan. For example, if your closing disclosure varies greatly from your Loan Estimate, this is time to get clarification as to why.

You can also ask to review your closing documents before you get to the closing table. Your lender should be able to provide an electronic version so you are aware of what you would be signing at closing. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) offers examples of closing forms along with instructions on how to interpret the information.

If you need help staying organized throughout this process, you can use a closing checklist to help you keep track of each stage of the closing process.

Closing

At this stage, you will sign all the required documentation to complete your home refinance. You should bring your Closing Disclosure with you to make sure your the terms you were quoted are on par with this document.

Sometimes your loan closing will be at an office with a closing agent (from a title company) that facilitates the entire process. According to Rafael Reyes, producing branch manager at loanDepot, “Most often, the lender will send either a representative from the title company or a lawyer to your home for the closing.”

He added, “The borrower doesn’t need a lawyer on their side for the closing, but they could hire legal representation at their discretion.”

At closing, you’ll sign your promissory note, mortgage, initial escrow disclosure and “right to cancel” form. You should bring proper identification because there may be a notary present who requires a valid ID to notarize your signature.

How you can speed things up

If you’re refinancing your home with the idea of saving money, you probably want to start saving sooner than later. You can start capturing those savings as soon as your refinance is complete and funds are disbursed.

To speed up the refinance process, you’ll want to stay on top of all the documentation requested by your lender. Even better — collect everything before you begin the loan application process so everything is ready, even at a moment’s notice.

You will also need to be responsive when it comes to requests for information. Though there are a number of variables that can influence the refinance timeline, your responsiveness and preparedness will help move things along much faster.

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Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Aja McClanahan
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Aja McClanahan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Aja here

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Mortgage

Should You Save for Retirement or Pay Down Your Mortgage?

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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On the list of financial priorities, which comes first — paying off your mortgage or saving for retirement? The answer isn’t simple. On one hand, owning a home with no mortgage attached to it provides long term security knowing you’ll have a place to live with no monthly payment except property taxes and insurance. However, you’ll also need income to live on if you plan to retire, and how much you save now will have a big impact on your quality of retirement life.

We’ll discuss the pros and cons of whether you should save for retirement or pay down your mortgage, or maybe a combination of both.

Pros of paying down your mortgage vs. saving for retirement

The faster you pay your mortgage off, the sooner you own the home outright. However, there are other benefits you’ll realize if you take extra measures to pay your loan balance off faster.

You could save thousands in long-term interest charges

Most homeowners take out a 30-year mortgage to keep their monthly payments as low as possible. The price for that affordable payment is a big bill for interest charged over the 360 payments you’ll make if you’re in your “forever” home.

For example, a 30-year fixed $200,000 loan at 4.375% comes with a lifetime interest charge of $159,485.39. That’s if you never pay a penny more than your fixed mortgage payment for that 30-year period. Using additional funds to pay down your mortgage faster can significantly reduce this.

Even one extra payment a year results in $27,216.79 in interest savings on the loan we mentioned above. An added bonus is that you’ll be able to throw your mortgage-free party four years and five months sooner.

You’ll build equity much faster

Thanks to a beautiful thing called amortization, lenders make sure the majority of your monthly mortgage payment goes toward interest rather than principal in the beginning of your loan term. Because of that, it’s difficult to make a real dent in your loan principal for many years. You can, however, counteract this by making additional payments on your mortgage and telling the lender to specifically put those payments toward your principal balance instead of interest.

Not only do you pay less interest over the long haul with this strategy, but you build the amount of equity you have in your home much faster. And to homeowners, equity is gold — you’re closer to owning your home outright, and equity can also be a resource if you need funds for a home improvement project or another big expense.

You can access that equity as your financial needs change by doing a cash-out refinance or by taking out a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HEL or HELOC).

You won’t lose your home if values drop

When you contribute extra money into a retirement account, there is always the risk that you’ll lose some or all of the money you invested. When you contribute money to paying off your mortgage, even if the values drop, you still have the security of a place to live, and are increasing the equity in the home, no matter how much it’s ultimately worth.

Making extra payments ensures you’ll eventually have a debt-free asset that provides shelter to you and your family, regardless of what happens to the housing market in your neighborhood.

Cons of paying down your mortgage vs. saving for retirement

There are some cases where paying down your mortgage faster might actually hurt you financially. Before adding extra principal to your mortgage payments, you’ll want to make sure you aren’t doing damage to your financial outlook with an extra contribution toward your mortgage payoff.

You might end up paying more in taxes

The higher interest payments you make during the early years of your mortgage can act as a tax benefit, so paying the balance down faster could actually result in you owning more in federal taxes. If you are in a higher tax bracket in the early (first 10 years) of your mortgage repayment schedule, it may make sense to focus extra funds on retirement savings, and let your mortgage interest deduction work for you. Of course, everyone’s tax situation is different, so you’ll have to decide (with help from an accountant ideally) if it makes sense to itemize your taxes in order to claim mortgage interest payments as a deduction.

You won’t get to enjoy the return on your paydown dollars until you sell

The only real benchmark for figuring out the value of paying down your mortgage is to look at how much equity you’re gaining over time. However, the equity doesn’t become a tangible profit until you actually sell your home. And the costs of a sale can take a big bite out of your equity because sellers usually pay the real estate agent fees.

Home equity is harder to access

The only way to access the equity you’ve built up is to borrow against it, or sell your home. Borrowing against equity often requires proof of income, assets and credit to confirm you meet the approval requirements for each equity loan option. If you fall on hard financial times due to a job loss, or are unable to pay your bills and your credit scores drop substantially, you may not be able to access your equity.

Pros of saving for retirement vs. paying down your mortgage

Depending on your financial situation and savings habits, it may be better to add extra funds monthly to your retirement account than to pay down your mortgage. Here are a few reasons why.

You may earn a higher return on dollars invested in retirement funds

The growth rate for a stock portfolio has consistently returned more than housing price returns. The average return in the benchmark S&P stock fund is 6.595% for funds invested from the beginning of 1900 to present, while home values have increased just 0.1% per year after accounting for inflation during that same time period.

Assuming your portfolio at least earns 7%, if you consistently invest your money into a balanced investment portfolio, you can expect to double your money every 10 years. There aren’t many housing markets that can promise that kind of growth.

Retirement funds are generally easier to access than home equity

Retirement funds often give you a variety of options for each access, with no income or credit verification requirements, and only sufficient proof of enough funds in your account to pay it back over time. For example, a 401k loan through the company you work for will just require you to have enough vested to support the loan request, and sufficient funds left over to pay it off over a reasonable time.

Just be cautious about making a 401k withdrawal, which is treated totally differently than a loan. You aren’t expected to pay it back like you would a 401k loan, but you could get hit with taxes and penalties.

Cons of saving for retirement vs. paying down your mortgage

You’ll need to weather the ups and downs of the market

Most people who have invested money in the stock market or tracked the performance of their 401k over decades have stories about periods when the value of those investments dropped substantially. While the 7% return on investment is a reliable long term indicator how much your retirement fund might earn, the path to that return is hardly linear.

For example, if you were considering retirement between 1999 and 2002, you may have had to delay those plans when the S & P plummeted over 23% in value in 2002. If you look at each 10-year period since the 1930s, every decade has been characterized by periods of ups and downs.

Calculating the benefit of paying down your mortgage vs. saving for retirement

If you’re torn as to what to do with that extra cash or windfall, let’s look at an example of someone who has an extra $200 to put into either their nest egg or their mortgage each month for the next 30 years.

For this scenario, we’re going to assume their retirement account earns an average 7% rate of return and that their mortgage loan balance is $200,000.

Here’s how much they’d save:

Savings From Paying $200 per Month Down on Your Mortgage
Years PaidMortgage Interest SavingsExtra Equity in HomeTotal Interest Savings and Equity Built Up
10 years$6,040$30,039$36,079
20 years$28,529$76,529$105,058
22 years 6 months$50,745$200,000$250,745

One thing you may notice about the mortgage savings chart — it includes how much extra equity you’re building. Often only the mortgage interest savings is cited when people look at how much you save with extra payments, but that ignores the fact that you’re building equity in your home much faster as well. So not only do you save over $50,000 in interest with your extra contribution, you replenish $150,000 of equity that was used up by your mortgage balance.

As you can see, adding that extra $200 to their mortgage principal each month saved them about $200,000 in the long haul — but the real savings don’t stop there.

By adding an extra $200 to their mortgage payment each month, this borrower turned their 30-year loan into a 22-and-a-half year loan and became mortgage debt-free seven years faster.

That means, in addition to saving $50,000 in interest savings and gaining $200,000 of equity, they also no longer have a mortgage payment. That frees up $998.57 per month that they can now use as discretionary income. That’s an extra $89,871 they could potentially save over that 7.5 year period.

When you add that to the $250,745.41 they saved on mortgage interest and earned in home equity, they’re looking at a total savings of $340,616.

That gives the mortgage paydown a $54,000 net positive edge over saving that extra $200 for retirement, as you can see in the table below.

Savings From Contributing $200 per Month to a Retirement Fund
Years PaidRetirement Balance
10 years$34,404
20 years$102,081
30 years$235,212

The one caveat for this retirement calculation is we assumed the saver was starting at a $0 investment balance. If they already had a healthy balance in their nest egg, they might actually come out in better shape than paying down their mortgage.

There are clearly benefits to each option, and you should consider running your own calculations with your real numbers to get the best answer for yourself.

Paying down your mortgage and saving for retirement at the same time

There’s a fair case to be made for both paying down your mortgage and saving more for retirement, but why choose? If you’re somewhat on track with your retirement savings goals, and like the idea of having your mortgage paid off quicker, you could allocate a certain amount to each.

Pick a number you feel comfortable paying to your principal every month, and then to your 401k, and put it on autopilot for a year. Any time your income increases, or you get bonuses, divide up the amount between principal pay down and retirement additions.

Let’s look at what happens if you evenly divide up your $200 per month between investing your retirement and paying down your mortgage. We’ll use the same $200,000 loan at 4.375% referenced above, and look at the lifetime results.

Savings From Paying $100 Down on Your Mortgage Until Paid Off
Years PaidInterest SavingsExtra Home EquityTotal Interest Savings and Equity Built Up
10 years$3,020$15,020$18,040
20 years$14,265$38,265$52,350
25 years$30,534$200,000$230,534
Savings From Contributing $100 to a Retirement Fund for 30 Years
Years PaidRetirement Balance
10 years$17,202
20 years$51,401
30 years$117,607

Balancing the $100 investment in both strategies still yields a six-figure retirement balance after 30 decades, a debt-free house after 26 years, and shaves off $30,000 in mortgage interest expense. If you don’t like putting all your eggs into one financial basket, this may balance the risks and rewards of each option.

Final thoughts

Looking at the short term and the long term may provide you with the best framework for making a good decision about how to spend dollars on retirement versus extra mortgage payments. Be wary of any financial professional that tells you one path is absolutely better than another.

Having a stable source of affordable shelter is equally as important as having enough income to live when you retire, so a balanced approach to paying down your mortgage and savings for retirement may help you accomplish both goals.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Denny Ceizyk
Denny Ceizyk |

Denny Ceizyk is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Denny here

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Life Events, Mortgage

What Is Mortgage Amortization?

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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One of the biggest advantages of homeownership versus renting is each mortgage payment gradually pays off your mortgage and builds equity in your home. The difference between your home’s value and the balance of your loan is home equity, and your equity grows with each payment because of mortgage amortization.

Understanding mortgage amortization can help you set financial goals to pay off your home faster or evaluate whether you should refinance.

What is mortgage amortization?

Mortgage amortization is the process of paying off your loan balance in equal installments over a set period. The interest you pay is based on the balance of your loan (your principal). When you begin your payment schedule, you pay much more interest than principal.

As time goes on, you eventually pay more principal than interest — until your loan is paid off.

How mortgage amortization works

Understanding mortgage amortization starts with how monthly mortgage payments are applied each month to the principal and interest owed on your mortgage. There are two calculations that occur every month.

The first involves how much interest you’ll need to pay. This is based on the amount you borrowed when you took out your loan. It is adjusted each month as your balance drops from the payments you make.

The second calculation is how much principal you are paying. It is based on the interest rate you locked in and agreed to repay over a set period (the most popular being 30 years).

If you’re a math whiz, here’s how the formula looks before you start inputting numbers.

Fortunately, mortgage calculators do all the heavy mathematical lifting for you. The graphic below shows the difference between the first year and 15th year of principal and interest payments on a 30-year fixed loan of $200,000 at a rate of 4.375%.

For the first year, the amount of interest that is paid is more than double the principal, slowly dropping as the principal balance drops. However, by the 15th year, principal payments outpace interest, and you start building equity at a much more rapid pace.

How understanding mortgage amortization can help financially

An important aspect of mortgage amortization is that you can change the total amount of interest you pay — or how fast you pay down the balance — by making extra payments over the life of the loan or refinancing to a lower rate or term. You aren’t obligated to follow the 30-year schedule laid out in your amortization schedule.

Here are some financial objectives, using LendingTree mortgage calculators, that you can accomplish with mortgage amortization. (Note that MagnifyMoney is owned by LendingTree.)

Lower rate can save thousands in interest

If mortgage rates have dropped since you purchased your home, you might consider refinancing. Some financial advisors may recommend refinancing only if you can save 1% on your rate. However, this may not be good advice if you plan on staying in your home for a long time. The example below shows the monthly savings from 5% to 4.5% on a $200,000, 30-year fixed loan, assuming you closed on your current loan in January 2019.

Assuming you took out the mortgage in January 2019 at 5%, refinancing to a rate of 4.5% only saves $69 a month. However, over 30 years, the total savings is $68,364 in interest. If you’re living in your forever home, that half-percent savings adds up significantly.

Extra payment can help build equity, pay off loan faster

The amount of interest you pay every month on a loan is a direct result of your loan balance. If you reduce your loan balance with even one extra lump-sum payment in a given month, you’ll reduce the long-term interest. The graphic below shows how much you’d save by paying an extra $50 a month on a $200,000 30-year fixed loan with an interest rate of 4.375%.

Amortization schedule tells when PMI will drop off

If you weren’t able to make a 20% down payment when you purchased your home, you may be paying mortgage insurance. Mortgage insurance protects a lender against losses if you default, and private mortgage insurance (PMI) is the most common type.

PMI automatically drops off once your total loan divided by your property’s value (also known as your loan-to-value ratio, or LTV) reaches 78%. You can multiply the price you paid for your home by 0.78 to determine where your loan balance would need to be for PMI to be canceled.

Find the balance on your amortization schedule and you’ll know when your monthly payment will drop as a result of the PMI cancellation.

Pinpoint when adjustable-rate-mortgage payment will rise

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) are a great tool to save money for a set period as long as you have a strategy to refinance or sell the home before the initial fixed period ends. However, sometimes life happens and you end up staying in a home longer than expected.

Knowing when and how much your payments could potentially increase, as well as how much extra interest you’ll be paying if the rate does increase, can help you weigh whether you really want to take a risk on an ARM loan.

The bottom line

Mortgage amortization may be a topic that you don’t talk about much before you get a mortgage, but it’s certainly worth exploring more once you become a homeowner.

The benefits of understanding how extra payments or a lower rate can save you money — both in the short term and over the life of your loan — will help you take advantage of opportunities to pay off your loan faster, save on interest charges and build equity in your home.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Denny Ceizyk
Denny Ceizyk |

Denny Ceizyk is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Denny here

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