Note: You can use any financial calculator to do this problem, but if you want the BEST, you can get our 10bii Financial Calculator for iPhone/iPad, Android, Mac, Windows 8.1/10,
and Windows 7!

THE SCENARIO

I’ve recently been talking with a lender to refinance a property. They told me that they can lend me \$97,500 for 30 years at 7.375%, fully amortizing. They also said that if I paid them \$2,015, they could reduce the rate to 6.5%. This is a commonly-available feature when you’re getting a new loan, and is called ‘buying down the rate’. Many times, the bank will have a variety of options with different costs, and they often won’t tell you about it unless you ask. But sometimes it can be worth it to do a rate buy-down.

So I’m considering whether to just take the ‘standard’ refinance rate, or whether to pay the money to get the lower rate.

My question is ‘If I buy down the rate, what’s my return on the \$2,015 I have to spend in order to do so?’

THE SOLUTION

This is a four-parter, but each of the parts is fairly straightforward.

First, I need to find out how much I’d pay per month if I took the loan at the 7.375% rate.

Second, I need to find out how much I’d pay per month if I bought the rate down to 6.5%.

Third, I need to use these two numbers to figure out how much money I save each month if I buy down the rate.

Fourth, I need to find out what my return on my \$2,015 up-front cost (to buy down the rate) is.

This may seem daunting, but if we take it one step at a time, we’ll see that there’s nothing tricky going on here.

Let’s get started.

First things first, make sure the calculator is using 12 Payments per Year.

Step 1: The ‘normal’ loan
N: 360
I/YR: 7.375
PV: 97,500
PMT: (this is what I’m trying to find)
FV: 0

Step 1 answer: -673.41. So if I took this loan, I’d pay \$673.41 every month.

Step 2: The ‘buy-down’ loan
N: 360
I/YR: 6.5
PV: 97,500
PMT: (this is what I’m trying to find)
FV: 0

Step 2 answer: -616.27. So if I bought down the rate, I’d pay \$616.27 every month.

Step 3: What’s my monthly savings?

If I pay \$616.27 from the lower rate instead of \$673.41 from the higher rate, I save \$57.14 per month.

Step 3 answer: If I buy down the rate, I save \$57.14 each month.

Step 4: The return on the buy-down cost
N: 360
I/YR: (this is what I’m trying to find)
PV: -2,015 (if I pay this much today…)
PMT: 57.14 (… then I save this much each month)
FV: 0

The answer to the question is 34.03%. So if I buy down the rate, I make a 34% return on the \$2,015 I spend to do the buy-down.

As I mentioned at the top, when you go to get a loan, there are often a variety of different rates available to you, and those rates carry a variety of costs. Sometimes, you can take a higher rate and the bank will actually give you money to take the loan. It’s very important to be able to figure out which buy-down (or buy-up) option makes the most sense, and now that we’ve been through the process, you should be able to analyze your own loan prospects next time you’re talking to a bank. What do you think? Leave a comment below!

Money Blog – Buying down the rate
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