# Should I Pay Discount Points To Lower The Interest Rate On My Mortgage?

Prospective borrowers are often offered the option of paying discount points on their mortgage in return for a lower mortgage interest rate. Discount points are paid at closing with the other closing costs for your mortgage. One way to look at discount points is as a bet. Your mortgage lender is betting that you will keep your mortgage for shorter than or equal to their break-even point and you are betting that you will keep the loan long enough to save money. Investing a little time to understand discount points and the break-even calculation can help you make the right decision with confidence and that can save you real money!

## How Much Do Discount Points Cost?

Each discount point is equal to one percent (1%) of the mortgage loan amount. For example, if your mortgage loan amount is \$250,000, one point would cost you \$2,500 in additional closing costs (\$250,000*.01).

## How Much Of A Decrease In Interest Rate Does One Discount Point Buy?

The size of the decrease in your mortgage interest rate is strongly influenced by conditions in the financial markets and and thus at any given time it should be relatively consistent between trustworthy mortgage lenders. Paying more discount points will result in a correspondingly lower interest rate. For example, if a discount point lowers your interest rate by 1/4 percent or .25%, two discount points could lower your rate a total of .5%. Use a mortgage calculator to determine the best combination of points and mortgage rates.

## Seller Paid Points

If you are buying a home, it may be possible for the seller to pay for your points. This may be in return for requiring a higher purchase price than they would otherwise accept. This can be evaluated in a similar way to the scenarios where you pay for the points. The question would be, does the decrease in interest rate justify the increase in the purchase price of the home. There may be tax implications so you may wish to consult a CPA in addition to your realtor and mortgage loan officer.

## Discount Point Break-Even Calculation

The following are factors you should consider when deciding whether or not you should pay discount points:

• How long your plan to keep the loan. For example, if you plan to either sell your home or refinance your mortgage within four years, then you should use four years when you use the mortgage point calculator.
• Your savings in total interest for the discounted loan will be used in your break-even calculation.
• Tax considerations can also influence the break-even calculation. Discount points paid for the purchase of a primary residence may be tax deductible in the year you pay them if you itemize deductions and other requirements are met. Discount points paid for refinancing your mortgage generally can only be deducted over the life of the new mortgage. Tax law is complex and subject to change so you may wish to consult a CPA about your specific tax situation.
• Alternative uses of the funds can also help you make the decision. You might consider putting the amount that would be used to pay discount points in a safe investment. Another alternative would be to reduce the amount of your loan directly. Either alternatives could reduce your expected monthly savings and increase the amount of time it would take to break-even.
• The amount of cash you have available.

## When Doesn't It Make Sense To Pay Discount Points?

It may not make sense to pay discount points, if you:

• do not have adequate cash reserves for an emergency fund or closing costs;
• you are buying a home and do not have adequate cash reserves to make a 20% down payment and avoid mortgage insurance;
• you are avoiding paying down your balances on high interest credit cards; or
• you do not expect to break-even on the discount points until shortly before or any time greater than or equal to the length of time you expect to keep the loan.

## How Long Does It Take To Break-Even On Discount Points?

The following example shows you how to calculate the break-even for paying two discount points for a 4.5% interest rate compared to not paying any discount points on a \$250,000 30 year mortgage at 5%. To simplify the discussion, it does not consider the impact of the potential tax deduction or the impact of investing the funds rather than paying discount points.

Loan Comparison
Loan Amount\$250,000
Loan Term30 years
Loan 1Loan 2
Annual Interest Rate5%4.5%
Discount Points02
Discount Points \$\$0\$5,000
Monthly Principal
and Interest Payment
\$1,342.06\$1,266.72

The cost of the discount points, \$5,000, divided by the monthly savings of \$75.34 shows that it will take approximately 66.4 months or 5.5 years to break-even. Thus, if the borrower plans to keep the loan more than 5 1/2 years it may make sense to pay points to buy down the mortgage rate.