I often get asked questions about how much mortgage interest is deductible and what size loan to use when financing a home purchase. Also it is common to get into a discussion about if paying points to pay down interest make sense and if they are deductible.
While every situation is different with regard to mortgage size, and I am a fan of getting the largest mortgage that one can possibly afford in most cases but not all, I will tackle the deductible nature of interest and points here to clarify how it works.
Mortgage Interest: Interest paid on a qualified residence is limited to interest on the acquisition indebtedness secured by a principal or secondary residence up to a maximum debt level of $1,000,000, plus home equity indebtedness secured by a principal or secondary residence up to a maximum debt level of $100,000.
Points Paid: Points paid on a loan are really nothing more than prepayments of interest. Generally points must be capitalized and amortized over the life of the loan. However, the points incurred on a loan that is used to buy or improve a principal residence generally are deductible in the year the points are paid.
Points Paid on Refinance: These points must be deducted ratably over the life of the loan (amortized). If it is a second refinance the un-amortised (not deducted) points from the first refinance are deductible in full when the first refinance loan is paid off.
Choosing to pay down loan interest by paying points can help lower a payment to a level that is more affordable. Often I suggest that not doing so is the better decision. Buyers will have use of the funds used to pay the points and often through investment may be able to generate a better return on those funds than paying down the points would generate over time. However, doing so really is specific to the home purchasers own situation. In many cases, home purchases are as much an emotional decision as they are a financial decision and if paying down points to make a payment more affordable gets a buyer in the home they love and want that may in itself make paying points well worth it.