Along with a cornucopia of other choices to make when taking out a mortgage, borrowers are faced with the decision whether or not to pay points, which can go towards either the fee paid to the bank or loan officer who originated the loan or towards buying down the interest rate. The latter, referred to as discount points, are optional and differ from the former in that paying the loan origination fee is unavoidable and the borrower will end up paying it one way or the other.
Discount points, where one point is equal to 1% of the total loan amount, allow borrowers to secure lower interests. They play a prominent role in how a lender’s products are marketed—institutions that advertise the oft-talked about rock-bottom rates usually require borrowers to pay points in order to actually get those kinds of rates.
The most pressing question about points is, of course, if they actually make financial sense. A borrower who takes out a $100,000 loan and pays two points to buy down the rate from 3.5% to 2.99% may sound as though they’ve secured a much better deal, but will end up saving less than $30 a month on payments. Whether or not paying $2000 upfront for that privilege is worth it is an individual decision, of course, but there are times when taking out a mortgage with points isn’t the best financial decision. For some borrowers, that $2000 might be better spent on more immediate needs, such as closing costs or home improvement.
On the other hand, borrowers who plan to stay in their homes for the long term can end up saving tens of thousands of dollars over time by paying points, and there’s certainly something to be said about taking advantage of the extremely low rates currently available. Like any other factor in a mortgage, this is an area where it depends on the individual case, and borrowers would do well to weigh the pros and cons of points for their personal situation.
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