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Interest only loans vs. traditional loans: What is the difference?

There are a variety of loans available to consumers who wish to buy a home. Out of this variety there are two major choices that most consumers will choose from. These choices are the interest only loans and the traditional loans. What’s the difference? Let’s look at these a little more closely.

An interest only loan is not a type of mortgage. This is only an option that can be attached to a mortgage. Although the interest only loans are not less costly to amortize, more than 31% of all homes in the U.S. have been issued with interest only loans. Many of these loans include refinancing as well. Interest only loans may be attractive to the first time home owners by offering low monthly payments for up to seven years, thus allowing people the opportunity to buy a home at prices they would be able to afford. During the first few years, the borrower may not have to pay down the balance of the loan, making the payments easier and seemingly more affordable. Unfortunately, once the borrower starts paying on the principle, they may be shocked to see the payments rise significantly. If the price of the home begins to stagnate or descend, the borrowers could find themselves between a rock and a hard place as the risks of default begin to increase.

Investors often flock to the interest only home loans when they have intentions on selling the property in a few years for a profit. Otherwise, first time home owners may need the interest only loan in order to qualify for the home they would like to buy. In today’s mobile society where some home owners tend to change residences every seven years, the lower monthly payments with the interest only loan can make sense. But if the home decreases in value over this time, the home owner may decide not to sell and will be left with the high back end payments they didn’t mean to make.

Many lending institutions may charge higher rates to the interest only loans because of the high risks of default. Interest only loans may seem borrower friendly on the surface and most lending institutions will be more than willing to accommodate you on this kind of a loan. But – Buyer Beware! Interest only loans are starting to drop in popularity due to the long- term interest rates dropping to record lows. These low rates are causing people to rethink their interest only loans and having them want to get out of the interested only loan and into a long term loan at a fixed rate.

As an alternative to the interest only loan, a more traditional home loan such as a fixed rate mortgage can offer the predictability of a fixed monthly payment with a choice between a 15 to 30 year loan terms. These fixed rate loans are available for both purchasing a new home or refinancing a home.

The fixed rate mortgage is a traditional loan that offers a fixed interest rate over the entire life of the loan, which can run from 10 to 30 years. With a fixed rate loan, the monthly payments for principal and interest will never change, although your property taxes, insurance and escrow may change each year. Down payments required for these fixed rate loans may be as low as 5%. This is a good deal for those who wish to have predictable mortgage payments over the entire life of the loan.

There are also those adjustable rate mortgages (ARM) that basically start at a low interest rate, with even lower monthly payments. But the interest rates and monthly payments can fluctuate regularly depending on the current market interest rates. The ARM loans have become increasingly popular with those buyers who are expecting an increase in their income over the next few years so they can buy more home on their current lower income. Confidence in their increasing income can make the higher payments more affordable, especially if the interest rates go up in the coming years.

While you are shopping for a mortgage, take advantage of the online tools that can help you learn more about the variety of mortgages offered and choose carefully what kind of mortgage loan will work in your best interests.
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