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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 (ARM)

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 Loans

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 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 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 personal that have either served 181 days during peacetime, 90 days during war, or a spouse of serviceman either killed or missing in action.

Balloon Mortgages

A balloon mortgage has an interest rate that is fixed for an initial amount of time. At the end of the term, the remaining principal balance is due. At this time, the borrower has a choice to either refinance or pay off the remaining balance.

There are no penalties to paying off a balloon mortgage loan before it is due. Borrowers may refinance at any time during the life of the loan.

Balloon loans typically have either 5 or 7-year terms. For example, a 7-year balloon mortgage with an interest rate of 7.5% would feature this interest rate for the entire term. After 7 years, the remaining loan balance would become due.

Reverse Mortgages

A reverse mortgage is a type of home equity loan that allows you to convert some of the existing equity in your home into cash while you retain ownership of the property. Equity is the current cash value of a home minus the current loan balance.

A reverse mortgage works much like a traditional mortgage, except in reverse. Instead of the homeowner paying the lender each month, the lender pays the homeowner. As long as the homeowner continues to live in the home, no repayment of principal, interest, or servicing fees are required. The funds received from a reverse mortgage may be used for anything, including housing expenses, taxes, insurance, fuel or maintenance costs.

To qualify for a reverse mortgage, you must own your home. You may choose to receive the reverse mortgage funds in a lump sum, monthly advances, as a line-of-credit, or a combination of the three, depending on the reverse mortgage type and the lender. The amount of money you are eligible to borrow depends on your age, the amount of equity in your home, and the interest rate set by the lender.

Because the borrower retains ownership of the home with a reverse mortgage, the borrower also continues to be responsible for taxes, repairs and maintenance.

Depending on the plan selected, a reverse mortgage is due with interest either when the homeowner permanently moves, sells the home, dies, or the end of a pre-selected loan term is reached. If the homeowner dies, the lender does not take ownership of the home. Instead, the heirs must pay off the loan, typically by refinancing the loan into a forward mortgage (if the heirs meet eligibility requirements) or by using the proceeds generated by the sale of the home.

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