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What Are Mortgage Points? Upfront Fees That Could Save You Money

September 25, 2019

What Are Mortgage Points

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What are mortgage points? The interest rate your mortgage lender offers you when you buy or refinance a house is not necessarily the rate you have to stick with. In fact, you can lower your mortgage rate by shelling out at closing for something called mortgage points. But what are mortgage points and how can they save you some serious cash (like, thousands of dollars over the years you make monthly payments)? Read on for the answers from loan experts.

What are mortgage points?

There are two types of mortgage points:

  • Discount points: These points, also known as prepaid points, lower your interest rate but increase your closing costs, because payment for them is due at closing. Discount points are a kind of prepaid interest you “buy” from your lender, based on your loan amount, for a lower mortgage rate.
  • Origination points: These points are charged to recover some costs of the mortgage origination process. This would include compensating your loan officer, notary fees, preparation costs, and inspection fees.

One mortgage origination or discount point typically costs 1% of the loan amount. For example, 1 point on a $250,000 mortgage would equal $2,500.

How do mortgage points lower your interest rate?

The primary purpose of buying discount points from the lender is to reduce your interest rate on your mortgage, and thus lower your monthly payment.

You can pay points during the home-buying process, or when you refinance your home. One point usually reduces the borrower’s interest rate between 0.125% to 0.25%, depending on the lender’s terms, although 0.25% is typical.

For example, if you took out a 30-year, $400,000 loan at an interest rate of 5%, you would pay $2,147 in mortgage payments a month (not including taxes, insurance, or anything else). Paying 2 mortgage points to the lender at 0.25% per point would lower the interest rate to 4.5% and drop the monthly payment to $2,027. You would also need to foot the upfront cost of $8,000 to buy discount points at closing.

Should you buy mortgage points?

Buying points from a lender makes the most sense for borrowers who plan on living in their house and making monthly mortgage payments for many years, either for the life of the loan or close to it.

Consider how long you think you’ll stay in your house and keep your home loan. Generally, if you buy points, you want to stay longer to break even and recoup the money it took to buy the points on the loan. If you sell the house or pay off the loan too soon, you won’t reach the break-even point, and you can lose money.

Let’s go back to the above example of the 30-year, $400,000 loan. The 2 mortgage discount points for $8,000 at closing saves you $120 in monthly payments. It would take about 5.5 years to reach the break-even point of $8,000, before you could start to save money.

However, it would also save you $43,394 in interest over the life of the loan. Deduct that $8,000 in point-buying costs from money saved in interest and you will have actually saved a total of $35,394. Of course, that’s if you see out the life of the loan. If you sell after six or seven years and pay off your mortgage, buying those points from the mortgage lender wasn’t worth it. Know your future plans and move forward accordingly.

You should also consider how much money you have to use for a down payment at the time of closing. If you are looking to pay the least amount possible in mortgage closing costs, and you can’t afford out-of-pocket points on your loan, you may need to opt for a zero-point loan program.

Tax breaks and mortgage points

Because discount points are a form of interest you pay on your loan, they’re usually tax-deductible as mortgage interest for the year you buy your home. However, origination points that are basically document fees for your mortgage are not deductible.

If you’re considering buying discount points, consult your tax adviser to determine if you qualify for these mortgage deductions.

When you refinance your home and pay for mortgage discount points, you amortize the cost of the points over the years you have the loan. If you sell the house or pay off the loan, you can deduct any remaining points in the last year you have the mortgage.

Generally, the bigger the mortgage, interest rate, and mortgage length, the more money discount points will save you. Buying points on mortgages with only a few years left, or on those with already very low mortgage rates, could yield monthly savings of only a few bucks and never reach a break-even point for your closing costs, so be sure to do the math before you finalize any mortgage decision.

The post What Are Mortgage Points? Upfront Fees That Could Save You Money appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Your 2019 Home Tax Deduction Checklist: Did You Get Them All?

March 22, 2019

Your Home Tax Deduction Checklist: Did You Get Them All?

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Welcome to your home tax deduction checklist! For homeowners, this kind of guidance is essential in the wake of all the (confusing) changes ushered in by the new tax plan, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

The biggest change? The standard deduction jumped to $12,200 for individuals, $18,350 for heads of household, and $24,400 for married couples filing jointly. And this higher number means you need to dig into all of your home expenses to see if their total sum tops the standard deduction, depending on your filing status. (If the total doesn’t surpass it, then you’ll just take the standard deduction on your taxes when you file.)

To help, here’s a list of all the tax breaks for homeowners.

Mortgage interest

In the past, you could deduct the interest from up to $1 million in mortgage debt (or $500,000 if you filed singly).

“But for loans taken out from Dec. 15, 2017, onward, only the interest on the first $750,000 of mortgage debt is deductible,” says William L. Hughes, a certified public accountant in Stuart, FL.

Mortgages are structured so that you start off paying more interest than principal. For example, in the first year of a $300,000, 30-year loan at a fixed 4% interest rate, you’d be deducting $10,920. (To find out how much you paid—or will pay—in mortgage interest any year, punch your numbers into our online mortgage calculator.)

Note that taking this deduction under the new tax law does require itemizing deductions, but it may be worth the hassle, especially for new homeowners.

Mortgage points

If you bought a home and paid points, then you can still deduct those from your taxes. They must be “true,” or discount, points, not origination points. After all, points are essentially mortgage interest that you prepay, so it makes sense that they’d be treated like the rest of your mortgage interest. Each point is 1% of the loan amount, so if you paid 2 points on that $300,000 loan, you can deduct $6,000.

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Watch: 5 Pet-Related Tax Deductions We Bet You Didn’t Know Of

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Private mortgage insurance

For now at least, Congress has renewed this deduction.

If you can’t make a 20% down payment on your home, most lenders require that you pay private mortgage insurance, or PMI. The upside: It’s tax-deductible as long as your adjusted gross income is less than $100,000. (For each $1,000 you make after that, you can deduct 10% less of your PMI, up to $109,000.) PMI is generally between 0.3% and 1.5% of the loan amount annually, so on a $300,000 loan, you’d be deducting between and $900 and $4,500.

Home equity debt interest

Homeowners often take out a home equity loan or home equity line of credit in order to tap into some quick cash—for college, weddings, home improvements, or otherwise—using their home as collateral. And up until 2017, homeowners could deduct the interest on home equity debts up to $100,000 for married joint filers.

Now? “Home equity debt interest deductions have been eliminated,” says Eric Bronnenkant, a certified public accountant and financial planner, and head of tax at Betterment. That is, unless you spend the money on one thing only: home improvements.

So if you’re eager to renovate that kitchen, this deduction still stands. But if you have to foot the bill for your daughter’s wedding, the IRS will no longer pitch in, explains Amy Jucoski, a certified financial planner and national planning manager at Abbot Downing.

And unlike mortgage interest deductions, the new rules on home equity debt apply to all loans regardless of when they were taken. And to reap the benefit, your total debt—meaning your mortgage plus your home equity loan—can’t be more than the new $750,000 cap.

Property taxes

In the good ol’ days of 2017, your property taxes were fully tax-deductible.

This tax season, there’s a $10,000 cap on the combined amount of your property taxes, state and local income taxes, and (for states without income tax) deductible sales tax.

One bright side for landlords and those with vacation homes: “You can take deductions for all the properties you own, plus add your state income tax,” says Steven Weil, president of RMS Accounting, in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Energy-efficient upgrades

Did you add solar panels or a solar-powered water heater last year? That means you can help yourself to a tax credit.

According to Bishop L. Toups, a taxation attorney in Venice, FL, qualifying solar electric panels and solar water heaters are good for a credit of 30% of the cost of the equipment and installation. For a $30,000 green investment, that’s a cool $9,000 back!

To qualify, the solar panels have to generate at least half of the energy used by the home, they have to be installed in your primary residence, and they can’t be used to heat a pool or hot tub (sorry!).

The credit will remain 30% of the cost for equipment installed between now until the end of 2019, 26% until the end of 2020, and 22% until the end of 2021.

Home office deduction

The home office tax deduction disappeared for all W-2 employees who have an office elsewhere that they could use if they wanted to. The only people who can continue taking this deduction are those who truly run their own business from home, says Joshua Hanover, a senior manager at Marks Paneth.

Using the simplified home office deduction, self-employed people can take $5 for every square foot of office space, up to a maximum of 300 square feet. For a 200-square-foot home office, you’re looking at a nice $1,000 deduction. Just don’t try any funny stuff—it has to be a dedicated home office, used only for work. Here’s more on the home office tax deduction.

The post Your 2019 Home Tax Deduction Checklist: Did You Get Them All? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.