Ed Pinto is pushing something he calls a “wealth builder home loan.” Here is his thought process:
1. With a 15-year mortgage, the borrower accumulates equity faster than with a 30-year mortgage. However, by the same token, the monthly payment is higher, which creates a hurdle for low-income home buyers.
2. With an up-front payment, you can buy down the interest rate on a 15-year mortgage, making the monthly payments more affordable.
3. Therefore, a 15-year mortgage with an interest-rate buydown is a way to help low-income borrowers afford mortgage payments and build up equity rapidly.
(1) and (2) are true. However (3) is false. The problem is that the interest-rate buydown undermines the borrower’s equity. Consider two cases.
Case 1: the borrower pays for the buydown. As this article describes it,
let customers of modest means use a down payment of up to 5 percent to “buy” a lower interest rate
So, if you buy a $200,000 house and you have $10,000, you use that $10,000 to buy down the rate. But you could have used that $10,000 as a down payment on the house! That would have given you 5 percent equity to start with, instead of starting with zero.
Case 2: the seller pays for the buydown. If the seller pays $10,000, then the transaction price will be $10,000 above what the house would sell for without a seller concession. So if the borrower makes no down payment, the borrower starts out with $10,000 in negative equity.
There is no free lunch in mortgage lending. People with low incomes and little money to put down on a home are home speculators. There is no reason to encourage them to become home speculators.
Help people save for the down payment. That is the only “affordable housing” approach that does not foster speculation.