A prepayment penalty is a fee charged to borrowers that make full payment on their mortgage, or pay off a substantial portion (generally anything exceeding 20% of the total loan amount), ahead of schedule. This is a clause written into some contracts to protect the lender’s book of business in exchange for providing a lower interest rate, or for providing financing to a high-risk borrower.
Prepayment penalties vary with different lenders, but generally apply to a one-, two-, three-, or five-year period oftime. This fee can be expressed as either a specific number of months’ interest or a percentage of the outstanding balance. A ‘hard’ prepayment penalty applies to either the refinance or the sale of a property. A contract written with a ‘soft’ prepayment penalty permits the borrower to sell their property without incurring a penalty, but does restrict refinancing for a set period of time. It is important for the consumer to know that a prepayment penalty is the borrower’s choice and should never be considered a requirement!
Make sure you are working with a reputable loan professional who is aware of your long-term plans before consenting to sign off on an agreement that includes a prepayment penalty! Always ask for a written evaluation of your loan options.