What kind of loan program is best for you?
The many different types of home loans available can seem overwhelming. Should you choose a fixed rate, adjustable rate or government loan mortgage? The truth is there is no right answer. Choosing a loan type is an important decision that is best made after you have researched your options. Remember, taking the time to explore your options now can mean saving thousands of dollars in the long run.
Ask yourself the following questions to determine what loan type is right for you:
- Do you expect your financial situation to change over the next few years?
- Do you plan to live in your current home for a long time?
- Do you feel comfortable with the idea of a changing mortgage amount?
- Do you want to be free of mortgage debt by the time your children go to college or you retire?
A professional lender is the best resource available to help you decide which loan best fits your needs. Follow the general guidelines outlined below to get started selecting the best mortgage for your home.
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Fixed Rate Mortgages
Even though you have a fixed rate mortgage, your monthly payment may vary if you have an “impound account”. In addition to the monthly loan payment, some lenders collect additional money each month (from folks who put less than 20% cash down when purchasing their home) for the prorated monthly cost of property taxes and homeowners insurance. The extra money is put in an impound account by the lender who uses it to pay the borrowers’ property taxes and homeowners insurance premium when they are due. If either the property tax or the insurance happens to change, the borrower’s monthly payment will be adjusted accordingly. However, the overall payments in a fixed rate mortgage are very stable and predictable.
Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARM)
When the time comes for the ARM to adjust, the margin will be added to the index and typically rounded to the nearest 1/8 of one percent to arrive at the new interest rate. That rate will then be fixed for the next adjustment period. This adjustment can occur every year, but there are factors limiting how much the rates can adjust. These factors are called “caps”. Suppose you had a “3/1 ARM” with an initial cap of 2%, a lifetime cap of 6%, and initial interest rate of 6.25%. The highest rate you could have in the fourth year would be 8.25%, and the highest rate you could have during the life of the loan would be 12.25%.
Some ARM loans have a conversion feature that would allow you to convert the loan from an adjustable rate to a fixed rate. There is a minimal charge to convert; however, the conversion rate is usually slightly higher than the market rate that the lender could provide you at that time by refinancing.
Hybrid ARMs (3/1 ARM, 5/1 ARM, 7/1 ARM, 10/1 ARM)
The beauty of a fixed-period ARM is that the initial interest rate for the fixed period of the loan is lower than the rate would be on a mortgage that’s fixed for 30 years, sometimes significantly. Hence you can enjoy a lower rate while having period of stability for your payments. A typical one-year ARM on the other hand, goes to a new rate every year, starting 12 months after the loan is taken out. So while the starting rate on ARMs is considerably lower than on a standard mortgage, they carry the risk of future hikes.
Homeowners can get a hybrid and hope to refinance as the initial term expires. These types of loans are best for people who do not intend to live long in their homes. By getting a lower rate and lower monthly payments than with a 30- or 15-year loan, they can break even more quickly on refinancing costs, such as title insurance and the appraisal fee. Since the monthly payment will be lower, borrowers can make extra payments and pay off the loan early, saving thousands during the years they have the loan.
FHA loans allow individuals who may not qualify for a conventional mortgage obtain a loan, especially first time home buyers. These loans offer low minimum down payments, reasonable credit expectations, and flexible income requirements.
VA Home Loans
The Veterans Administration provides insurance to lenders in the case that you default on a loan. Because the mortgage is guaranteed, lenders will offer a lower interest rate and terms than a conventional home loan. VA home loans are available in all 50 states. A VA loan may also have reduced closing costs and no prepayment penalties.
Additionally, there are services that may be offered to veterans in danger of defaulting on their loans. VA home loans are available to military personnel that has either served 181 days during peacetime, 90 days during the war, or a spouse of serviceman either killed or missing in action.