Understanding Mortgage Points and How They Work

Understanding Mortgage Points and How They Work

When navigating the waters of home financing, one of the concepts that often surfaces is that of mortgage points. Also known as discount points, these financial tools can be a bit of a head-scratcher for first-time homebuyers and seasoned property investors alike. This comprehensive guide aims to demystify mortgage points and explain how they function, so you can make an informed decision about whether they are right for your situation.

What Exactly Are Mortgage Points?

Mortgage points are essentially fees paid directly to the lender at closing in exchange for a reduced interest rate on your mortgage, which is commonly referred to as \"buying down the rate.\" One point is equal to 1 percent of the total amount of your loan. So, for example, if you are taking out a $300,000 mortgage, one point would cost you $3,000.

There are two types of mortgage points: discount points and origination points. Discount points are a form of pre-paid interest, which homeowners can buy to lower their mortgage interest rate. Origination points, on the other hand, are fees charged by the lender to cover the cost of making the loan. For the purpose of this article, we\'ll focus on discount points and their benefits.

How Do Mortgage Points Work?

When you opt to pay for mortgage points, you are paying the lender a portion of the interest upfront. This is beneficial for both the lender who receives the payment immediately and the borrower who gets to enjoy a lower interest rate over the term of the loan. The exact amount of rate reduction per point varies from lender to lender but is typically around 0.25 percent per point.

Let\'s break down the process:

1. You choose to buy mortgage points at the time of closing.

2. Each point you buy costs 1 percent of your mortgage amount.

3. The lender reduces your mortgage interest rate by a certain percentage for each point purchased.

The Benefit of Mortgage Points

The primary benefit of mortgage points lies in the potential long-term savings on interest payments. By reducing the interest rate, each monthly payment includes less interest and possibly more towards the principal, meaning you could pay off the mortgage faster and save money over the life of the loan.

For instance, if you have a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage for $300,000 with an interest rate of 4 percent, your monthly mortgage payment (principal and interest only) would be around $1,432. By purchasing two mortgage points for $6,000, your interest rate might drop to 3.5 percent, and your payment would decrease to about $1,347. That\'s a saving of $85 per month. Over the life of the loan, those savings could be significant.

When Should You Consider Buying Mortgage Points?

Buying mortgage points may suit you if:

1. You plan to stay in your home for a long time. The longer you stay, the more you save, as the upfront cost of the points will be spread out over many years of lower interest payments.

2. You have the extra cash to pay for the points upfront without impacting your emergency savings or the funds you’ll need for moving and home repairs.

3. You want to secure a lower monthly mortgage payment.

Do Mortgage Points Have Any Drawbacks?

While mortgage points can lead to substantial savings over the course of a home loan, they are not without their drawbacks:

1. Upfront Cost: The initial cost can be considerable, and if you don\'t have the additional funds, this option might not be feasible.

2. Break-Even Point: It takes time to reach the break-even point where the savings earned from the lower interest rate surpass the initial cost of buying the points.

3. Less Money for Other Investments: Using funds to buy points means less money to invest elsewhere, which could potentially yield a higher return.

How To Decide If Mortgage Points Are Right for You

Calculating whether mortgage points are a wise investment involves several steps:

1. Determine the cost of the points and your potential new interest rate.

2. Calculate your monthly savings with the reduced interest rate.

3. Figure out how many months it will take to break even on the cost of the points.

4. Consider how long you plan to stay in the house to see if you\'ll surpass the break-even point.

5. Evaluate alternative investments for the money you would use to buy points.


Mortgage points can be a powerful tool in your home financing arsenal, offering the potential for long-term savings on interest payments. However, they require a significant upfront investment and are best suited for those who plan to stay in their homes for several years. Before making a decision, evaluate your financial situation carefully, consider the length of time you\'ll stay in the home, compare the cost of points to the interest savings, and think about alternative uses for your money. As with any financial maneuver, it\'s wise to consult with a financial advisor or mortgage professional to ensure that purchasing mortgage points aligns with your overall financial strategy and goals.

This article was contributed on Feb 20, 2024