mortgage financingWhen pundits discuss mortgage financing, they frequently tout the money saved in interest when paying cash. But is that worth touting?

Let's say we have two home buyers: each has $100,000 and each buys a $100,000 home. One pays cash; the other puts $10,000 down and finances the remaining $90,000 with a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 4.25%. Both stay put, and 30 years later the 30-year mortgage is paid in full. Over the 30 years, the cash buyer obviously incurred no interest charges. The financed buyer, on the other hand, pays over $69,300 in interest over the life of the loan.

It appears the cash buyer comes out ahead, but does he?

Keep in mind that the cash buyer did not have use of the $90,000 like the financed buyer did. Let's say the financed buyer took his $90,000 and bought 5,000 shares – $18 a share – of a real estate investment trust (REIT) that pays $0.125 in dividends each month. We'll assume there is no dividend increases (which would be unlikely in the real world).

Each month, the REIT pays the financed buyer $625 in dividends. In a year, the REIT owner collects $7,500 in dividend income. Over 30 years, the REIT owner will collect $225,000 in dividend income.

In other words, opportunity costs must be factored into the equation. By financing his home with a low-rate loan, the intelligent investor/home buyer was able to use his money to buy a cash-generating investment that far exceeded his interest payments.

This example shows that opportunities and opportunity costs must always be factored into a financial equation. When this occurs, the cheaper option can frequently be shown to be the less financially profitable option.

Information provided by Jessica Regan.

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