Avoiding Mortgage Prepayment Penalties by Partial Payment

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I enjoy your blog very much and figured you would be a good person to ask this prepayment penalty question to.

Is there a prepayment penalty if you dont pay down the whole amount? For
instance, say I owe 620k and want to refinance this. Can I get a loan for
say 610k from another lender and leave 10k with the orignal lender?

Does that avoid the prepay penalty?

No.

Have to admire the ingenuity, but it won't work. Here's why:

First off, the penalty is triggered by paying a certain amount extra. There are two main trigger points for a prepayment penalty, usually known as "first dollar" and "twenty percent." "First dollar" prepayment penalties are uncommon, but they do exist. What such a penalty means is that if you pay one extra dollar of principal during the time the penalty is in effect, you will get hit for the penalty - usually six months interest on the prepaid amount. Not so bad if you pay an extra dollar and get hit with a three cent penalty, but you have to pay a substantial amount to get any noticeable good out of it. You pay $1000 extra, and that's $30 they're going to hit you with on a 6% loan. Pay off a $100,000 at 6%, and they're going to have their hands out for $3000 extra.

The other trigger point, "twenty percent" lets you pay down the balance by up to twenty percent for any given year without triggering the penalty. Note that this includes not only any extra you pay, but normal amortization as well. If you have a $100,000 balance, and would normally pay $3000 down through regular amortizationduring the year, this leaves you with "only" $17,000 of extra that you can pay before the penalty starts hitting you. Most often for this type of trigger, the prepayment penalty will only be assessed on any amount over 20% of the balance, but I have seen these charge the full penalty once triggered. So paying off $20,001 of a $100,000 balance at 6% might, depending upon your loan contract, cause a $600.03 penalty to be assessed - but most often it will only be that three cents. In this case, paying off the loan in full would only cause the penalty to be assessed on $80,000 - $2400 instead of $3000. It's also something to be cognizant of that this 20% paydown applies to the balance as of the start of the loan year, which runs from contract anniversary to anniversary. Say you have such a penalty in effect for three years. The first year you only pay it down to $80,000, escaping the penalty. The second year, you can only pay it down to $64,000 - by 20% of the beginning amount for the year - before triggering the penalty. If you do so, in year three you can only pay it down as far as $51,200 without triggering that penalty. This type of trigger is used when the lender is mostly worried about a complete refinance or selling the property. (A "soft" prepay is one where the penalty is not due if you actually sell the property, but most loans with prepayment penalties have "hard" penalties that are assessed at a certain trigger level, no matter the reason.)

No matter whether your penalty trigger is "first dollar" or "twenty percent" though, you're not going to refinance without paying it off completely. Here's why: In order for the new loan to be first in line, the old loan has to be paid off completely. The rates and prices on home loans that we all see advertisements and such for are predicated upon them being first trust deeds. They can only do this by paying off the previous loan in full and having a Reconveyance of the Deed of Trust recorded. Not paying the old loan off means no Reconveyance, which in turn means no new loan because their Deed of Trust will not be first in line. You'd have to content yourself with the higher prices for a loan priced as a second trust deed.

There are only four ways to avoid a prepayment penalty that I'm aware of. 1) Don't accept one in the first place, 2) Don't sell or refinance until it expires if you do accept one, 3) Convince a court the lender has done you sufficient dirt for the court to order part of the contract voided (this takes a lot of dirt), or 4) Swap your old penalty period for a brand new one by refinancing with the same lender, if they will allow it (They don't have to).

Caveat Emptor

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on November 10, 2012 7:00 AM.

The Mortgage Loan Market Controls the Real Estate Market was the previous entry in this blog.

Real Estate and the Four Levels of Competence is the next entry in this blog.

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