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How Mortgages Work


Fixed-rate Mortgages

Not that long ago, there was only one type of mortgage offered by lenders: the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage. A fixed-rate mortgage offers an interest rate that will never change over the entire life of the loan. Not only does your interest rate never change, but your monthly mortgage payment remains the same for 15, 20 or 30 years, depending on the length of your mortgage. The only numbers that might change are property taxes and any insurance payments included in your monthly bill.

The interest rates tied to fixed-rate mortgages rise and fall with the larger economy. When the economy is growing, interest rates are higher than during a recession. Within those general trends, lenders offer borrowers specific rates based on their credit history and the length of the loan. Here are the benefits of 30, 20 and 15-year terms:

  • 30-year fixed-rate -- Since this is the longest loan, you'll end up paying the most in interest. While that might not seem like a good thing, it also allows you to deduct the most in interest payments from your taxes. This long-term loan also locks in the lowest monthly payments.
  • 20-year fixed-rate -- These are harder to find, but the shorter term will allow you to build up more equity in your home sooner. And since you'll be making larger monthly payments, the interest rate is generally lower than a 30-year fixed mortgage.
  • 15-year fixed-rate -- This loan term has the same benefits as the 20-year term (quicker payoff, higher equity and lower interest rate), but you'll have an even higher monthly payment.

There is a long-term stability to fixed-rate mortgages that many borrowers find attractive-- especially those who plan on staying in their home for a decade or more. Other borrowers are more concerned with getting the lowest interest rate possible. This is part of the attraction of adjustable-rate mortgages, which we'll talk about next.


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