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What is a 15 Year Fixed Mortgage?

15 Year Fixed Mortgage

What Is A 15-Year Fixed Mortgage?

A 15-year fixed mortgage is a financing option for purchasing a home. Under this mortgage structure, the homeowner agrees to repay the borrowed amount, plus interest, over a period of 15 years. This mortgage type typically offers lower interest rates compared to its 30-year counterpart, attracting homeowners who wish to save on overall interest costs and afford slightly higher monthly payments.

How Does A 15-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage Work?

A 15-year fixed-rate mortgage involves borrowing a certain amount of money from a lender, agreeing to pay it back over 15 years at a fixed interest rate. This type of mortgage gives you the advantage of knowing exactly how much you will pay each month, and exactly when the loan will be paid off, which is precisely 15 years from when you take it out.

Despite the shorter term resulting in higher monthly payments, the overall payment made towards interest gets significantly reduced. The repayment schedule is front-loaded with interest, but over time more money gets allocated to paying off the initial amount you borrowed—the principal.

Types Of 15-Year Mortgages

There’s a wide range of 15-year mortgage products to match various borrower needs and circumstances:

FHA Loans

Federal Housing Administration or FHA loans are a popular choice among first-time homebuyers or those with less than stellar credit. For eligible borrowers, FHA loans can be availed with 15-year terms. The primary advantages of FHA loans include lower minimum down payments and credit score requirements, expanding access to homeownership.

VA Loans

VA loans are designed specifically for active-duty service members, veterans, and their spouses. Issued by private lenders but backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, VA loans are available with 15-year terms as well. With competitive interest rates, no down payment requirement, and no private mortgage insurance requirement, a 15-year VA loan can be a cost-effective choice for eligible buyers.

USDA Loans

Especially appealing to rural and suburban homebuyers, USDA loans backed by the United States Department of Agriculture can also be chosen with a 15-year term. These loans may require no down payment and offer attractive loan terms for those who meet certain income and property location criteria.

Conventional Loans

Conventional loans, not insured or guaranteed by the federal government, allow for a 15-year term as well. If you have a good credit score, a stable income, and can comfortably afford a down payment, you might opt for a 15-year conventional loan, which often comes with fewer regulatory hurdles and lower interest rates compared to government-insured loans.

Should You Refinance To A 15-Year Mortgage?

Refinancing to a 15-year mortgage can be a strategic move for many homeowners, but it’s essential to consider multiple factors before making your decision:

  • Interest rates: If interest rates have fallen significantly since you secured your original mortgage, refinancing can be a savvy financial move. With lower interest rates, even switching to a 15-year mortgage might not dramatically increase your monthly payments.
  • Financial health: A 15-year mortgage will come with higher monthly payments. Ensure that your budget can comfortably accommodate these payments, along with potential changes in your financial situation in the future.
  • Long-term goals: A 15-year mortgage allows you to build equity faster and become debt-free more quickly, which might align well with your long-term financial goals. However, consider the impact on your retirement savings, education savings, or other financial goals.
  • Cost of refinancing: Refinancing isn’t free. From application fees to appraisal fees, refinancing comes with various costs that can add up. Calculate your break-even point to determine when you’ll start saving money after accounting for these costs.
  • Prepayment Penalties: Check your current mortgage agreement for any prepayment penalties. Some lenders may charge a fee if you pay off your mortgage early, which could apply when you refinance.

When contemplating refinancing to a 15-year mortgage, it’s beneficial to consult with a financial advisor or mortgage professional who can provide a more detailed analysis based on your individual circumstances.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of A 15-Year Mortgage?

Understanding both the advantages and potential disadvantages of a 15-year mortgage will help you make the best choice to align with your long-term financial goals.

The Pros Of A 15-Year Mortgage

There are significant benefits of a 15-year mortgage:

  • Lower Interest Rates: Lenders typically provide lower interest rates for a 15-year mortgage, which can lead to a substantial reduction in the total interest paid over the life of the loan. The reduced risk for lenders comes from the fact that they are lending you the money for half the time compared to a conventional 30-year mortgage.
  • Less Interest Paid Over The Loan’s Lifetime: Since you’re paying the mortgage off in half the time, the amount that goes to interest is greatly reduced. While the higher monthly payments may seem challenging, they predominantly go towards paying down the principal balance.
  • Quick Path To Full Home Ownership: Going with a 15-year mortgage means you will own your home outright in 15 years, years earlier than if you had chosen a conventional 30-year mortgage. This quick path to full homeownership is particularly attractive for those who anticipate the need for financial flexibility in later years, such as those near retirement.

Cons Of A 15-Year Mortgage

Despite its advantages, a 15-year mortgage isn’t the right fit for everyone. Here are a few drawbacks to consider:

  • Higher Monthly Payment: Since the repayment period is so much shorter, you’ll have substantially higher monthly payments with a 15-year mortgage. This situation demands a higher income level to comfortably afford these payments while continuing to meet other living expenses.
  • Reduced Financial Flexibility: The higher monthly payments that the 15-year mortgage demands can reduce your financial flexibility, potentially leaving less room in your budget for other financial priorities or unforeseen expenses. Make sure you’ve considered the impact on your full range of financial commitments and comfort levels before signing on the dotted line.

Compare 15-Year And 30-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgages

When choosing between a 15-year and a 30-year mortgage, you’ll need to consider various factors:

  • Monthly Payments: A 15-year mortgage will give you higher monthly payments but for a shorter period. A 30-year mortgage, on the other hand, will have much lower monthly payments spread over a longer period.
  • Interest Rates: Typically, 15-year mortgages come with lower interest rates than 30-year mortgages. This is due to the shorter lending time frame, which decreases the risk for the lender.
  • Total Interest Paid: In a 30-year mortgage, you’ll pay more in total interest over the life of the loan, as the loan principal is spread out over 30 years. Conversely, in a 15-year loan, you’ll pay less total interest as the principal is paid down quicker.
  • Equity Build-Up: With a 15-year mortgage, you’ll be able to build home equity faster as more of your early payments go towards paying down the principal. In contrast, equity builds up more slowly with a 30-year mortgage as a smaller portion of your initial payments goes towards the principal.

FAQs On 15-Year Mortgages

1. What are the benefits of a 15-year mortgage over a 30-year mortgage?

A 15-year mortgage allows you to pay off your home loan in half the time of a traditional 30-year mortgage. You’ll also likely receive a lower interest rate and pay significantly less in total interest over the life of the loan as payments are made towards the principal more quickly.

2. Is a 15-year mortgage more expensive than a 30-year mortgage?

While the total amount repaid over the life of the loan is typically less with a 15-year mortgage—due to lower interest rates and a shorter term—the monthly payments are generally higher because the loan principal is repaid over a shorter time.

3. Can I pay off a 30-year mortgage in 15 years?

Yes, by making extra principal payments, you can pay off a 30-year mortgage in less time. However, you should review your mortgage agreement or consult with your lender as some loans have prepayment penalties.

4. Is it harder to qualify for a 15-year mortgage?

Qualifying for a 15-year mortgage isn’t necessarily harder, but because the time frame for repayment is shorter and monthly payments higher, lenders may have more stringent income and credit requirements to ensure borrowers can handle the larger payments.

5. Is a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage a good idea?

A 15-year fixed-rate mortgage could be a great choice if you can comfortably handle the higher monthly payments and want to significantly reduce total interest cost of your home loan. It’s an especially advantageous option if you plan to stay in your home for a long time.

About The Author

Channing Moore

Channing is the owner of Bayou Mortgage. He is passionate about empowering people through education and training to own a home. In his spare time you can catch him at church, reading a book or working on his latest project.

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