MainStreet.com quoted me in Consumers Should Not Assume a Lower Down Payment Is a Better Option. It reads, in part
First-time homeowners are often caught in a conundrum when they are faced with tantalizing offers of either lower mortgage rates or a smaller down payment.
The decision is much harder to make than it appears because of many variables such as the stability of your profession, the likelihood of buying another home within a few years and the long-term costs of higher payments.
While at first glance paying a smaller down payment sounds like the obvious choice for many Millennials and Gen X-ers who want to own a home, but are also saddled with student loans and credit card debt, the decision has other ramifications. A higher mortgage rate means paying thousands of extra dollars in interest alone over time.
A recent study conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that when a lower down payment is required, it affects the demand on housing more as additional consumers are eager or able financially to purchase a house. Changes in the mortgage rate have a “modest” effect, wrote Andreas Fuster and Basit Zafar, both senior economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s research and statistics group. The study asked 1,000 households what would affect their willingness to buy a home if they were to move to a similar city and a comparable home.
When the households were offered either a 20% down payment compared to a 5% down payment, the number of people willing to pay for a house rose by 15% when the lower amount was an option.
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Advantages of Lower Interest Rates
While a lower down payment might be more appealing for a first time homebuyer, it can often result in paying more money just on the interest alone, said David Reiss, a law professor at Brooklyn Law School in N.Y. Lenders offer mortgage rates largely based on the credit score of the homeowner, so a cheaper interest rate may not always be available.
Let’s say the homebuyer is considering a $100,000 property that is paid for with a $90,000 interest-only mortgage with a 4% interest rate and a $10,000 down payment or with a $95,000 interest-only mortgage with a 5% interest rate and a $5,000 down payment.
The first mortgage means the consumer would pay $3,600 a year in interest. However, the second mortgage results in the consumer paying $4,750 a year in interest.
“That is not an apples-to-apples comparison, because the second mortgage interest payment reflects the higher loan to value ratio and the higher interest rate and it also does not take into account the tax treatment of interest payments,” he said.
Homeowners need to decide if paying additional money in interest is “worth it,” since a consumer would pay about $1,000 a year more in interest for the “privilege of paying the lower down payment,” Reiss said.
“I think that it is smart to figure out how to pay as low of an interest rate as possible, given the other financial constraints you face,” he said.
Many consumers believe there is not much of a difference between a 3.5% or 4% mortgage rate, but it can result in another few hundred dollars each month in mortgage payments, which can add up easily in 30 years.
“That is real money,” Reiss said. “You want to do everything you can to get the interest rate down, especially in today’s low interest rate environment.”
Refinancing a mortgage in the current market conditions means your rate is not likely to decline much, so receiving a lower rate now will have a larger impact over the next 30 years, he said. After paying closing costs, many homeowners do not see the impact of the lower rates until the fourth year after the refinancing occurred.
“Since refinancing requires a large upfront cost of thousands of dollars, you need to live there long enough for it to make sense if you are only saving less than 1% on your mortgage rate,” he said.