Are you shopping for a Mortgage? Educate yourself on the types of mortgages available to you before committing to the wrong one.
In many housing markets, home prices have risen to very high levels, making it harder to afford a home-especially for first-time homebuyers. The traditional fixed-rate mortgage and standard adjustable-rate mortgage may not be the best options for everyone. A growing number of homebuyers are deciding to use one of several new types of specialty mortgages that let them "stretch" their income so they can qualify for a larger loan. But before you choose one of these mortgages, make sure you understand their risks and how they work.
Specialty mortgages often begin with a low introductory interest rate or payment plan-a "teaser"-but the monthly mortgage payments are likely to increase a lot in the future. Some are "low documentation" mortgages that come with easier standards for qualifying, but also higher interest rates or higher fees. Some lenders will lend you 100% or more of the home's value, but these mortgages also present a big financial risk if the value of the house goes down.
Pose a greater risk that you won't be able to afford the mortgage payment in the future, compared to fixed rate mortgages and traditional adjustable rate mortgages.
Have monthly payments that can increase by as much as 50% or more when the introductory period ends.
Cause your loan balance (the amount you still owe) to get larger each month instead of smaller.
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Today, when you apply for a loan, you have more choices than ever before. Here are a few examples:
Your monthly mortgage payment only covers the interest you owe on the loan for the first 5 to 10 years of the loan, and you pay nothing to reduce the total amount you borrowed (this is called the "principal"). After the interest-only period, you start paying higher monthly payments that cover both the interest and principal that must be repaid over the remaining term of the loan.
Your monthly payment is less than the amount of interest you owe on the loan. The unpaid interest gets added to the loan's principal amount, causing the total amount you owe to increase each month instead of getting smaller.
You have the option to make different types of monthly payments with this mortgage. For example, you may make-
You pay off your loan over 40 years, instead of the usual 30 years. While this reduces your monthly payment and helps you qualify to buy a home, you pay off the balance of your loan much more slowly and pay much more interest.
One major risk is that your monthly payment may increase by a large amount, resulting in "payment shock." Even a change of 1% or 2% in interest rates can result in a very big jump in your monthly mortgage payment. For example, if the interest rate on your mortgage changes from 4% to 6%, your monthly payment could rise by as much as 50% (from $1,000 to $1,500).
If your income has not increased enough, you may not be able to afford the new larger monthly mortgage payment. And if that happens, you could lose your home.
Assume you buy a home for $300,000, put 10% down, and choose a 5.75% interest-only adjustable rate mortgage. The mortgage requires interest-only payments for 5 years. After that, the interest adjusts every year based on rates in effect at that point.
Another risk that comes with specialty mortgages involves your "equity"-the amount your house is worth after you subtract the amount you still owe to the lender. Consumers who choose some types of specialty mortgages will build equity in their home much more slowly than with traditional loans. In fact, with some specialty mortgages, the amount you owe on your home could increase rather than decrease over time.
Specialty mortgages are designed for homebuyers in special circumstances. The lower initial monthly payments may make sense for buyers who intend to own a home for a short time or who can handle high payments in the future. If you are a homebuyer who plans to be in your home for years, or who does not expect a significant increase in income by the time the monthly payments go up, you should very carefully consider the risks and advantages of a specialty mortgage.
As of September 2005 (or earlier, depending on where you live), you have the right to receive a free credit report once a year from each of the 3 major credit bureaus- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. For completeness, it is best to review reports from each one of them. Contact information is included under "Additional Resources."
Determine how much you can afford to pay for a home.
This score, which is calculated based on your credit history and other factors, determines how lenders view your creditworthiness and determine the loan terms to offer. Scoring rules vary widely, but generally a score of 650 or higher means that you qualify for the most favorable loan terms.
Different lenders charge different rates and fees and have different options. Be sure to compare to get the best deal. Your REALTORTM can recommend reliable lenders.
Be sure you understand the risks of your mortgage and know whether you can handle possible payment increases.