Location, school ratings, number of bedrooms, outdoor spaces. These are the things potential homeowners focus on when they start house hunting. They’re all important factors, for sure. Even more crucial: How will you pay for your home?
Home loans are not a one-size-fits-all proposition. They differ based on their type, such as fixed or adjustable rate, and their loan term. Loans also vary in interest rate and annual percentage rate (APR).
To ensure you’re getting the best home loan for your situation, you’ll want to do your homework, talk to reputable credit counselors and lenders and follow these tips:
Fixed or adjustable?
There are two main types of mortgages: fixed rate and adjustable rate.
Most homeowners today opt for fixed-rate mortgages. With a fixed-rate mortgage, you are locked in to a set interest rate, resulting in monthly mortgage payments that remain the same for the entire term of the loan. The No. 1 benefit of this type of mortgage is inflation protection. If mortgage rates go up, your rate will not follow suit. Conversely, if rates drop, your interest rate will not drop. (Of course, you could refinance your mortgage if rates dropped significantly.)
Most lenders offer 15- and 30-year fixed mortgages, and some also offer 20-year terms. The longer the term of your fixed mortgage, the lower your monthly payment because you’re paying over many years. With a 30-year term, however, you will end up paying more interest over time.
A 15-year fixed mortgage will have a higher monthly payment because you’re paying for fewer years. On the other hand, you’re building equity at a faster rate and will pay less interest over the life of your loan. The shorter the term of your loan, the lower your interest rate will likely be.
An adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) is a loan with an interest rate that will change over the life of the loan. ARMs have adjustment periods that determine how often their interest rates can change and they have initial “fixed” periods during which their interest rates won’t change at all — most often 3, 5 or 7 years. After this period, rates can readjust. These loans are often considered riskier because the interest rate and payments can increase when the loan adjusts. However, if you’re planning to live in your home for a shorter period of time, these loans may make sense for you, especially because you’re likely to obtain a lower interest rate than with a fixed mortgage.