Mortgage Points  To Pay or Not to Pay?
By Steve Gillman  2008
Mortgage points. Should you pay or not? There are many home
loans out there that have no points, so you do have the option,
but as you probably know, you'll pay higher interest on such
loans. How do you determine which way to go?
To begin with, let's look at what a point is. Essentially
it is a loan fee, another way for the lender to make money on
a loan. These are sometimes also called discount points, because
you pay them to get a discounted interest rate. Another way it
is expressed is that you "buy down" the interest rate
by paying points. But the simplest definition is that a point
is one percent of the loan value. Thus, for example, two points
on a $300,000 loan would be two percent, or $6,000.
Pay the Points or Not?
Whether you should pay the points or not depends on your job,
or rather on your job, your interests and all the things that
predict where you'll be in the future. You see, the points are
paid up front, while your savings from the lower interest rate
are spread out into the future. You'll get more benefit if you
own your home longer, or don't refinance for more years.
Let's look at an example. If you were to borrow $250,000,
without points, at 6% on a 30year mortgage, your payment would
be $1,499 per month. On the other hand, if you paid two points,
or $5,000, to get the interest rate down to 5.5%, your payment
on the $255,000 (points are often added on to the loan), would
be $1,448 per month. That's a savings of $51 per month.
Is that worth it? The simple calculation is that it will take
almost eight years to save the $5,000 you paid in points, so
if you'll be keeping the mortgage loan for longer than that it
might be worth it. Of course, it is more complicated than that
if you want it to be. $5,000 now is worth more than $5,000 spread
out over eight years after all. If you invested $5,000, for example,
and used it each month to pay the extra $51, it would certainly
last more than eight years.
You should probably avoid the complex computations though.
A rough guide is enough given how unpredictable life is in any
case. Just do the quick figuring and ask if you are likely to
keep the loan for eight years  or whatever length of time it
takes to repay the cost of the points in your case. Think not
only about whether you'll be moving, but also whether it is likely
that you'll be refinancing within that time frame. If either
is likely, skip the points.
Mortgage Points  A Special Case
There is one circumstance when you should pay the mortgage
points without regard to how long you'll keep the loan. This
is when your offer on a home has a clause that makes the seller
pay closing costs, and those costs include loan points. You have
to get some estimates and do a little math for this, but it is
worth it.
For example, suppose the offer states, "seller to pay
up to $5,000 of buyers closing costs, including mortgage points."
What you need first, is to determine what nonloan costs the
seller will be paying. Suppose these add up to $2,000. If you
were borrowing $200,000, then you would want to "buy down"
the interest rate  but only by as much as 1.5 points will get
you. The $3,000 these mortgage points would cost would be paid
by the seller at closing, along with the other costs. If you
didn't pay points, you would be giving the seller a $3,000 break.

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