The borrower obtains a fixed payment mortgage with an interest rate that remains constant for the term of the loan. During the first 2-3 years of the loan, the mortgage payments are subsidized with funds that are collected at the time of closing and are placed in an escrow account held by the lender.

Should you pay "points" to get a better rate?

Do you plan on keeping your loan for a while? Then it may make sense to "buy" a lower interest rate by paying one or more "points."

Even if youre unsure of how long you plan to keep your mortgage before you move or refinance, paying points now for a lower rate may make sense. For example, do you have a high-paying job now but you think you might change careers in the next few years? Talk it over with a qualified Mortgage Planner. Its part of a Mortgage Planners job to help you find the right loan for your means and goals.

If you look at a comparison of 2 different loan programs, one with points and one without points, laid out by a mortgage professional, you will be able to see your total cost of the loan for each program. The most important factor here is the amount of time you plan to hold this property before refinancing or selling. This will help you make the decision rather quickly.

For borrowers with ample cash and low return on investment for their cash, paying additional points to buy down an interest rate may be a good idea. One should always consult with a loan officer to analyze the cost of the buy-down and the amount saved with the lower buy-down rate over the life of the loan. A knowledgeable loan officer can show a homeowner the number of years the homeowner needs to keep the loan in order to recoup the cost of the buy-down, and thereby allowing the homeowner to make an informed decision.

There are basically two types of buy-downs, a permanent buy-down and a temporary buy-down. A permanent buy-down entitles the homeowner to a lower interest rate for the life of the loan. A temporary buy-down gives the borrower a lower interest rate for the first two or three years of the loan term. A common temporary buy-down is the "2-1 Buy-Down", which gives the homeowner a discounted rate of 2% below his mortgage note rate in the first year of the loan, 1% below the qualified note rate in the second year, and the note rate for years 3 to 30. For example, consider a borrower qualifying for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage of $200,000 at 7% interest rate, with the option of a 2-1 Buy-Down that costs 2.25 points, without the buy-down, the borrower's monthly payment would be $1,330 for the life of the loan. With the 2-1 buy-down, at the cost of $4,500 (2.25 points = 2.25% of the loan amount), the borrower interest rate for the first year is 5% (2% below qualified note rate of 7%) and the monthly payment for the first year is $1,074, 6% (1% below note rate) and a monthly payment of $1,199 for the second year, and 7% (qualified rate) and monthly payments of $1,330 for the remainder of the loan term.

Another commom Temporary Buy-Down is the 3-2-1 Buy-Down, which works very much like the 2-1 Buy-Down, except in that it gives the borrower 3% below qualified rate in the first year, 2% below in the second year, 3% below in the third, and the normal note rate for the rest of the loan term.

Points are normally tax deductible whether you or the seller actually pay for them. Points on a refinance are not deductible in the same way. On a refinance you normally have to spread your deduction out over the amortization of your loan (check with your tax advisor).

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