Find Out More Information About Loan Programs & Which Is the Best Option for You
Fixed Rate Mortgages
The traditional fixed rate mortgage is the most common type of loan program, where monthly principal and interest payments never change during the life of the loan. Fixed rate mortgages are available in terms ranging from 10 to 30 years and can be paid off at any time without penalty. This type of mortgage is structured, or "amortized" so that it will be completely paid off by the end of the loan term. There are also "bi-weekly" mortgages, which shorten the loan by calling for half the monthly payment every two weeks. (Since there are 52 weeks in a year, you make 26 payments, or 13 "months" worth, every year.)
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
Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARM)s are loans whose interest rate can vary during the loan's term. These loans usually have a fixed interest rate for an initial period of time and then can adjust based on current market conditions. The initial rate on an ARM is lower than on a fixed rate mortgage which allows you to afford and hence purchase a more expensive home. Adjustable rate mortgages are usually amortized over a period of 30 years with the initial rate being fixed for anywhere from 1 month to 10 years. All ARM loans have a "margin" plus an "index." Margins on loans range from 1.75% to 3.5% depending on the index and the amount financed in relation to the property value. The index is the financial instrument that the ARM loan is tied to such as: 1-Year Treasury Security, LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate), Prime, 6-Month Certificate of Deposit (CD) and the 11th District Cost of Funds (COFI).
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.
FHA home loans are mortgage loans that are insured against default by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). FHA loans are available for single-family and multifamily homes. These home loans allow banks to continuously issue loans without much risk or capital requirements. The FHA doesn't issue loans or set interest rates, it just guarantees against default.
FHA loans allow individuals who may not qualify for a conventional mortgage to obtain a loan, especially first time home buyers. These loans offer low minimum down payments, reasonable credit expectations, and flexible income requirements.
The VA Loan provides veterans with a federally guaranteed home loan which requires no down payment. This program was designed to provide housing and assistance for veterans and their families.
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 have either served 181 days during peacetime, 90 days during war, or a spouse of serviceman either killed or missing in action.
What Type Of Program Is Right For Me?
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