What Are Seller-Paid Points?

The term seller-paid points refers to a concession or rebate offered by a seller to the buyer in a transaction. The points lower the purchase price paid by the buyer at closing. Seller-paid points are commonly found in real estate transactions and normally consist of a lump sum paid to the buyer's lender. The points help reduce the closing costs or interest rate the buyer must pay on their mortgage, where one point is the equivalent of one percent on the mortgage loan.

Key Takeaways

  • Seller-paid points are rebates or costs paid by the seller of real estate or another asset on behalf of the buyer.
  • Sellers may pay offer to pay discount points in a real estate transaction toward a mortgage or closing costs to entice a buyer to seal the deal.
  • Seller-paid points reduce the interest rate on a mortgage loan by 1%.
  • The IRS may allow points to be deducted on your tax return.

Understanding Seller-Paid Points

Mortgage points represent a fee paid to lower the interest rate on a mortgage loan for the purchase price of a home. Mortgage points are also called discount points because they can also reduce the interest rate on a mortgage loan by a certain percentage.

Homebuyers sometimes purchase mortgage points to reduce the loan's interest rate with the goal of saving on the total interest cost over the life of the loan. The fee for the mortgage points is paid at the loan's closing or when the documents are signed with the lender. Although homebuyers usually buy mortgage points, sometimes a seller might offer to pay mortgage points on behalf of the buyer to entice the buyer to purchase the home.

The amount of interest rate reduction for each point can vary between lenders, but usually, purchasing one mortgage point would lower the interest rate on a loan by 0.25%. In other words, a mortgage loan interest rate of 4% would be reduced to 3.75%. Typically, one mortgage point costs 1% of the loan amount, meaning that it would cost $2,000 to buy one mortgage point for a $200,000 loan (0.01 * $200,000).

Special Considerations

You may be able to lower your tax burden as the buyer in a deal by using deductions for mortgage interest and points. But there are certain requirements that must be met before you can do so.

You can deduct the mortgage interest paid only on the first $750,000 of your total debt. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does allow you to go beyond that limit—up to $1 million—only if you incurred your debt before Dec. 16, 2017.

The mortgage loan must be used to finance your primary residence. The points paid can't be for costs that are listed separately at the closing or on the settlement sheet. These costs include appraisal fees, title fees, inspection fees, attorney fees, and property taxes.

Finally, it must be an established practice in your local area for lenders to offer points. The points must be computed as a percentage of the loan's principal amount, and the amount must show clearly as points on your settlement statement in order for you to qualify for a deduction.

You may pay less in interest if the seller offers you points rather than a reduction of the same amount on your purchase price, so it's a good idea to weigh the numbers before you agree to anything.

Benefits of Seller-Paid Points

Seller-paid points offer benefits to both buyers and sellers alike.

Lower Interest Costs

Seller points reduce the interest rate a buyer pays to the lender on their mortgage These points also have the effect of increasing a buyer’s down payment by reducing the price that's ultimately paid for the home since the borrower will pay less interest over the course of the loan.

Seller points could also be used to lower the monthly payment helping the borrower afford the mortgage more easily. If a mortgage interest rate is reduced, the monthly payment is usually reduced as well.

Tax Deduction

As mentioned above, seller-paid points also have tax advantages for the buyer. They can be deducted from the home buyer’s income taxes as mortgage interest. The (IRS) considers seller-paid points as prepaid interest or interest paid by the buyer of the home. Mortgage interest can be deducted from a homeowner's total taxable income when they file their taxes. As a result, seller points can also be deducted, reducing the buyer’s tax liability.

Sellers Can Sell their Home Quickly

People who want to sell their homes quickly can entice buyers by sweetening the offer with seller-paid points. Seller points can be a more attractive option than a straight discount. Here's why.

Let's say you're selling your home, and it has a list price of $200,000, but you are willing to accept an offer of $195,000. You could reduce the list price by $5,000 or you could strategically offer $5,000 in seller points instead. You’d still end up with the same amount of money, but the buyer would likely be better off with the points versus the $5,000 discount. The points would come with a tax deduction and reduce the loan's interest rate, which would lower the mortgage's total interest cost.

Example of Seller-Paid Points

Here's a hypothetical example to show how seller-paid points work. Let's say a buyer wants to purchase a home with a listing price of $250,000. The buyer plans to put a down payment of $50,000 or 20% of the purchase price.

As a result, the buyer plans to take out a $200,000 mortgage loan to be paid in monthly installments for 30 years at a rate of 4.50%. Below are the financial details of the loan.

Mortgage Loan Cost Without Seller-paid Points
Terms Without Seller-paid Points
Loan amount  $200,000
Interest rate 4.5%
Monthly payment  $1,013
Total interest paid  $164,814

As shown above, the buyer's monthly mortgage payment would be $1,013 excluding property taxes and home insurance. By the end of the 30-year period, the home would cost the buyer $164,814 in interest.

The seller decides to offer two seller-paid points. The lender knocks down the interest rate by 0.25% for each point, meaning the new interest rate is 4.0%. Below are the new financial details of the loan.

Mortgage Loan Cost With Seller-paid Points
Terms Without Seller-paid Points With Seller-paid Points
Loan amount  $200,000 $200,000
Interest rate 4.5% 4.0%
Monthly payment  $1,013 $955
Total interest paid  $164,813 $143,739
Total interest saved $21,074

The buyer's monthly mortgage payment would decrease to $955 per month, excluding property taxes and home insurance. By the end of the 30-year period, the home would cost the buyer $143,739 in interest.

Assuming no extra payments were made over the course of the loan, the buyer would save $21,074 by the time the mortgage loan was paid off in 30 years, thanks to the seller-paid points.