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Fixed Rate Mortgage vs. Adjustable Rate Mortgage

The most basic distinction between types of mortgages that are available when you're looking to finance the purchase of a new home is how the interest rate is determined. Essentially, there are two types of mortgages - fixed rate mortgage and an adjustable rate mortgage. If you choose a fixed rate mortgage, the rate of interest that you are paying on your mortgage remains the same throughout the life of the loan no matter what general interest rates are doing. In an adjustable rate mortgage, the interest rate is periodically adjusted according to an index that rises and falls with the economic times. There are advantages and disadvantages to either, and no easy answer to 'which is better, a fixed rate mortgage or an adjustable rate mortgage?

The main advantage to a fixed rate mortgage is stability. Since the interest rate remains the same over the entire course of the loan, your monthly payment is predictable. You can count on your monthly mortgage payment to be the same amount each month. On the minus side, because the lending institution gives up the chance to raise interest rates if the general interest rates rise, the interest on a fixed rate mortgage is likely to be higher than that of an adjustable rate mortgage.

A fixed rate mortgage loan makes the most sense for those that are going to settle into their home for many years. While the initial payments may be larger than with an adjustable rate mortgage, stretching the payments over a longer period of time can minimize the effect on your budget.

An adjustable rate is one that is adjusted periodically to take into account the rise or fall of standard interest rates. Generally, the adjustable term is annual - in other words, once a year the lending company has the right to adjust the interest rate on your mortgage in accordance with a chosen index. While adjustable rate mortgages make the most sense in a situation where interest rates are dropping, though it's dangerous to count on a continued drop in interest rates.

Lenders often offer adjustable rate mortgages with a very low first year 'teaser' interest rate. After the first year, though, the interest rate on your mortgage can increase by leaps and bounds. Even so, there are limits to how much an adjustable rate can actually adjust. This is dependent on the index chosen and the terms of the loan to which you agree. You may accept a loan with a 2.3% one year adjustable rate, for instance, that becomes a 4.1% adjustable rate mortgage on the first adjustment period.

Finally, there's a new kind of loan in town. A hybrid between adjustable rate mortgages and fixed rate mortgages, they're known as 'delayed adjustable' mortgages. Essentially, you lock in a fixed rate of interest for a number of years - say 3 or 7 or 10. At the end of that period, the loan becomes a 1 year adjustable rate mortgage according to terms set out in the agreement you sign with the mortgage or financial institution.

Joseph Kenny is the webmaster of the loan information sites and also


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