What Is a 2-1 Buydown?

A 2-1 Buydown Explained in Less Than 4 Minutes

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In a 2-1 buydown loan, you pay an upfront fee to temporarily reduce the interest rate on your mortgage. You’ll pay the fee when you ultimately close on your home. From there, your interest rate gradually increases over the first two years until reaching the permanent interest rate. 

Many homeowners apply for a 2-1 buydown because it’s an easier way to qualify for a mortgage and it helps them ease into the process of making a monthly mortgage payment. Understanding more about a 2-1 buydown loan can help you determine whether applying for one is the right choice for you.

Definition and Examples of a 2-1 Buydown

A 2-1 buydown loan lets you temporarily lower your interest during the first couple of years of homeownership in exchange for an upfront additional charge. During the first year of homeownership, you’ll pay an interest rate that’s 2% lower than your standard rate. In the second year, your interest rate will be 1% lower than the agreed-upon rate. Once the first two years are up, you’ll begin paying the permanent interest rate on your mortgage.

In exchange for a lower rate, the difference is paid through a one-time fee, or point, when you close on your home. This fee is usually deposited in an escrow account, and a small amount is paid out every month to cover the difference. Through this process, you are essentially buying your way into obtaining a lower interest rate for a two-year period. 

  • Alternate name: temporary buydown

A 2-1 buydown may sound appealing, especially if you don’t have to pay the escrow fee. But the exact details of your mortgage will depend on the lender.

How a 2-1 Buydown Works

With a 2-1 buydown loan, the borrower pays a lump sum upfront, ensuring a temporarily lower interest rate for the first two years of homeownership.

To help you better understand a 2-1 buydown, let’s look at an example of how one would play out. Let’s say you’re purchasing a $250,000 home with a 5% fixed interest rate. If you agree upon a 2-1 buydown, you’ll pay 3% in interest for the first year of homeownership. During that year, your monthly mortgage payment would be $1,337.34. 

After that year is up, your interest rate will go up to 4% and your monthly payments would go up slightly to $1,476.87. After the two years are up, you’ll begin paying your permanent rate of 5% and your monthly payments will stay at $1,766.17.

This arrangement allows you to save money on your monthly mortgage payments during those two years. During the first year of your 2-1 buydown, you’ll save $428.83 per month and during the second year, you’ll save $289.30 per month. Of course, the difference of $8,617.56 has to be paid upfront and deposited into an escrow account. 

During the homebuying process, you can negotiate to get the seller or builder to fund the fee associated with a 2-1 buydown. In particular, a seller or builder may be willing to pay the fee if the home has been on the market for a long time. Your real estate agent can help you negotiate this during the offer stage.

Pros and Cons of a 2-1 Buydown

Pros
    • Pay less money upfront on your monthly payments
    • Eases you into making monthly mortgage payments
    • Saves you money during the first two years of homeownership
Cons
    • Comes with a high upfront cost
    • Potential problems with escrow

Pros Explained

  • Pay less money upfront on your monthly payments: With a 2-1 buydown, your interest rate is lower for the first two years of homeownership. As a result, your monthly payments will be lower than a traditional payment plan too.
  • Eases you into making monthly mortgage payments: Making lower mortgage payments for the first two years can be a good way to ease into homeownership. This way, you’ll become more accustomed to the process and save money, too.
  • Saves you money during the first two years of homeownership: Due to the reduced rate, you can save the difference in your mortgage payments. This way, you can save for other short- and long-term financial goals

Cons Explained

  • Comes with a high upfront cost: A 2-1 buydown is really only worth the price if you can get the seller to pay the escrow deposit. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay a large upfront fee. 
  • Potential problems with escrow: If, for any reason, the escrow agent doesn’t send the payment, then the mortgagor (i.e., you) would be responsible for paying the difference.

Alternatives to a 2-1 Buydown

If you’re interested in a buydown program, but you’re not sure if a 2-1 buydown is right for you, here are a few alternatives you can consider.

1-0 Buydown

With a 1-0 buydown, you’ll pay an interest rate that’s 1% lower than the agreed-upon rate during your first year of homeownership. For example, if your regular interest rate is 5%, it’ll be 4% for the first year. You won’t lower your mortgage payments as much as you would with a 2-1 buydown, but you’ll also have to pay less money upfront.

1-1-1 Buydown 

With a 1-1-1- buydown, you’ll pay an interest rate that’s 1% lower for the first three years of homeownership. This can help you ease into your mortgage payments before the interest rate deduction expires.

3-2-1 Buydown

In a 3-2-1 buydown, your interest rate will be 3% lower the first year, 2% lower the second year, and 1% lower the third year before adjusting to your fixed rate. This is a great way to lower your monthly mortgage payments, but the initial escrow payment could be substantial.

Key Takeaways

  • A 2-1 buydown lets you temporarily lower your interest rate for the first two years of homeownership in exchange for a one-time fee due at closing.
  • During the offer stage, your real estate agent can negotiate with the home’s seller or builder to try to get them to pay the one-time upfront fee.
  • A 2-1 buydown can be a good way to lower your monthly payments and pay less during your first two years of homeownership.
  • If a problem arises with the escrow payments, you’ll be responsible for paying the difference.