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Some mortgage companies offer loans with points. In a nutshell, paying points means paying down the interest rate. One point is equal to 1 percent of the mortgage amount. On a $200,000 mortgage, one point is $2,000. The percentage the interest rate lowers depends on the mortgage company and the market. For example, one point might be equal to a quarter of a percent interest. A loan with 4 percent interest and two points might go down to 3.5 percent interest.
Pros and Cons of Points
If you do pay points, you could get a tax break. Since tax laws are constantly changing, make sure you can claim points if part of your decision is based on the tax break. Other considerations include:
If your mortgage is $200,000 and you put $40,000 down, thus cutting the amount you finance to $160,000, and do not buy points, the total interest you will pay over the length of the loan will be about $115,000.
Using the same scenario, you instead put $36,000 down and buy two points. This drops your interest rate to 3.5 percent from 4 percent. You will save about $16,700 over the life of the mortgage. And, you would have to stay in your house without refinancing for 49 months to break even on your savings. In this case, your $4,000 ends up saving you a net of $13,500 on interest (savings minus the $4,000 it cost you to save).
Before you agree to points or a larger down payment, discuss the scenarios with your accountant or tax attorney to determine which method is best for your situation. If you have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI), buying points could end up costing you.