Home > Mortgages > Are No-Cost Mortgages Always the Best Deal?

Comments 0 Comments

A program made popular in the height of the subprime lending environment was the no-cost mortgage. No-cost mortgages have gotten quite a bit of exposure lately, as consumers seek to better understand loan terms, interest rates and how to qualify for mortgages in an ever-tightening credit market. And then there’s the low-cost mortgage. No-cost mortgages, low-cost mortgages — two distinct differences. Here’s how they differ.

Some Lending Lingo

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is a function of blending the closing costs with the loan amount and re-amortizing that figure over the term of the loan. On traditional loan financing, the APR is usually within .125% of the actual note rate tied to the amount borrowed.

What to know: APR is a comparative tool enforced by the Truth In Lending Act to quickly assess cost differences between loan choices. The APR has no bearing on your principal and interest payment amount nor the note rate. APR is a barometer of loan cost solely. The interest rate, rather than note rate, determines the monthly mortgage payment.

No-Cost Mortgage is truly a “no-cost” loan — no appraisal fee, no lender fees and no closing costs. These fees are assessed by virtue of taking out the loan. The mortgage lender provides a credit at the close of escrow equal to the amount of the closing costs, thereby creating a “no fees” loan. APR is equal to the interest rate, but disclosure will have a higher APR just as a traditional mortgage would, as lenders are required to disclose APR whether there is a lender credit or not.

What to Know: No-cost mortgages will contain a higher interest rate and APR, so you’re in essence amortizing the closing costs over the life of the loan (i.e. 360 months representing a 30-year fixed rate mortgage). The higher interest rate allows the lender to generate “overage” for the benefit of the consumer taking out the no-cost mortgage.

Low-Cost Mortgage is a traditional mortgage all lenders offer that is considered the norm, taking out a loan while paying any applicable fees associated with doing so, excluding discount points, which are usually optional. (In some cases paying discount points may very well make sense, but for our purposes a low-cost mortgage is under the assumption of no discount points.)

What to Know: Low-cost mortgages will contain lower rates than their no-cost mortgage counterparts. Because the lender does not have to inflate the rate for generating overage to pay the borrower’s closing costs, the lender can offer the consumer premium pricing when it comes to the interest rate and terms. Not always, but in most cases.the interest rate and APR are lower on low-cost mortgages than on no-cost mortgages.

Which Is Better for You?

The benefits you would gain from either type of loan depends on how long you plan to hold the loan and your financial goals. For example, because the future for many is unknown in terms of how long the loan will be held for and/or how long the property will be held for, a low-cost mortgage is a more appropriate long-term strategy as the realized benefits of the lower cost mortgage materialize over time — i.e., lower interest savings over the life of the loan. Conversely, if the property hold time or the loan payoff is going to be dramatically shorter, such as within the next 12 months, a no-cost mortgage is more appropriate despite the higher interest rate.

Here is a typical no-cost versus low-cost mortgage scenario to see how the numbers change over time…

No-Cost Mortgage (A)
Loan Amount – $300,000
Interest Rate – 4.13%
P&I Term – 360 Months
Financed Loan Amount – $300,000
Monthly Payment – $1,453
Closing Fees – None

Low-Cost Mortgage (B)
Loan Amount – $300,000
Interest Rate – 3.63%
P&I Term – 360 Months
Financed Loan Amount – $300,000
Monthly Payment – $1,368
Net Savings – $85
Closing Fees – $2,500

A – Principal Paid ($300,000) – Interest Paid ($223,422)
Total Loan Cost (P&I) – $523,422

B – Principal Paid ($317,000) – Interest Paid ($192,535)
Total Loan Cost (P&I) – $509,535

  • Assumptions based on primary residence, with excellent credit and 65% loan to value.
  • No-cost mortgage rate: 4.125%/APR 4.26%
  • Low-cost mortgage rate: 3.625%/3.76% APR

Based on the figures, after backing out the $2,500 in closing costs, the low-cost mortgage is $28,387 lower in mortgage interest for the life of 360 months. Looking at the monthly figures, $78.85 per month is the monthly interest benefit attainable on the low-cost loan. Adding the interest savings and payment savings provided a total benefit.

How to Crunch the Numbers on Low-Cost and No-Cost Loans

  1. Subtract the total interest of the low-cost mortgage from the no-cost mortgage.
  2. Take this figure and divide it by the term of the loan — 360 months for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage — and then subtract the one-time closing costs from this figure (title fees, loan origination fee, recording fees, etc.).
  3. If you do this correctly it will give you a monthly figure representing the monthly interest savings between the two loans.
  4. Next add in the payment savings generated by the lower interest rate and you’ll have the total monthly loan benefit of a low cost mortgage

Don’t be fooled by a no-cost mortgage, because there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and no matter how good the advertisement is, you’ll pay the closing costs over the life of the loan term. A low-cost mortgage will always net a better interest rate and payment.

Image: iStockphoto

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other sponsored content on Credit.com are Partners with Credit.com. Credit.com receives compensation if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any financial products or cards offered.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team