1% Mortgage Refinance loans, you've probably seen 100 different advertisements, but how is it possible? There is really only one big secret to 1% mortgages: 1% minimum payments are below the interest payable on the loan. Once we've addressed this feature, most of the other facets of 1% mortgages are relatively logical. 1% mortgages, which now come in dozens of varieties with start rates from below 1% (some even starting at 0% for a few months after refinance) up to 4% or more, offer astonishingly low payments. Some of them offer fixed rates for 30 or even 40 years, some of them are adjustable from the day you take them out, all of these are basically variations of "1% mortgages" and are extremely popular amongst homeowners today. 1% mortgages and their offspring are being used for debt consolidation, cash flow management, investments, and for tax purposes, and they are being used a lot.
A full 40% of home loans originated in 2005 and 2006 are estimated to be from the 1% mortgage family, with multiple payment options. By its proponents, the success of the 1% mortgage has been hailed as a new era of affordability and flexibility, of an extremely sharp financial tool once available only to the very rich now available to every family in the country. Its opponents tend to think that the 1% mortgage is a bit too sharp for the average homeowner to handle, they fear "Average Joes" could conceivably cut themselves. Despite their division, one thing is certain, the popularity of the 1% mortgage is driven by the relentless pursuit of the American dream. There are more homeowners in the United States today than in any other period in history, and many of those who own homes have only been able to accomplish home ownership, which was once a lifelong achievement, in their early 20's and 30's, largely because of the extended availability of these 1% mortgages to normal borrowers.
How much less expensive is a 1% mortgage payment option versus the comparable 30 Year Fixed traditional principal and interest payment?
For a 500,000.00 Mortgage:
1% Minimum Payment: 1200.00
Normal Loan Payment: 3000.00
Cash Flow / Savings: 1800.00
Its easy to see why the 1% mortgage refinance is so heavily marketed as a way to cut your mortgage payment in half. In the above example, the 1% mortgage minimum payment option is 60% less than a typical, traditional principal & interest loan payment. 1% mortgage minimum payments are usually 50% lower than even the highly lauded Interest Only payment mortgages, and most loans in the 1% mortgage family include the ability to pay more than just 1% if need be.
So How Does it Work?
In fact, 1% mortgages are more than just the 1% start rate. They have a fully indexed rate as well, which is the true amount of interest due each month. When making a 1% mortgage minimum payment, the borrower is not paying all of the interest due, which is seen by some as a good thing and some as a bad thing. Let's examine some of the commonly perceived benefits and caveats of 1% mortgages:
Commonly Perceived Benefits of the 1% Mortgage Family:
Commonly Perceived Caveats of the 1% Mortgage Family:
1. Artificially Low Payments: Because the minimum payments are so low compared to traditional mortgages, many pundits fear that people who would normally not qualify for home ownership can now own a home. The fear is that new or "low income" homeowners could "get in over their heads" by buying more house than they can truly afford. Ultimately, it is up to the borrower to decide how much they can afford.
2. Deferred Interest: Often referred to as negative amortization, this concern is commonly cited by journalists as a "negative" because the loan balance may increase over time if the minimum payment is always selected. However, this perspective does ignore the advantages of dramatically increased cash flow in the borrower's pocket each month and the tax benefits of deferring interest. Of course, the borrower can choose for themselves whether they want to spend their money paying interest to the bank or if they would rather put the difference into their own pockets.
3. Depreciation: If the value of the borrower's home falls dramatically, and other factors force the borrower to sell the home while the value is low, the borrower may wind up owing more than the home is worth. This is a valid risk over short periods of time for all types of mortgages, not just 1% mortgages. Even a traditional principal and interest mortgage does not pay off enough principal over the first 5 years of its life to offset a dramatic short term decline in home values. The risk of property values declining is a real risk of owning property, period. However, history tells us that residential real estate appreciates consistently over any given ten year period in the past 50 years.
4. Too Easy To Qualify: This may not seem to be a disadvantage to most borrowers looking to purchase or refinance a home, but there are those who believe that borrowers should be forced to document significantly more income and assets to qualify for these types of loans. A lot of this sentiment is an outgrowth of antiquated conceptions of 1% mortgages as a "Rich Mans Mortgage", which used to require significant net worth to obtain, and some of it is attributable to equally antiquated "one size fits all" notions about mortgages. Your perspective will likely depend on whether or not you are in a position to provide extensive documentation of your income and assets in support of your loan application.
Many of the criticisms of 1% mortgages revolve around the adjustable rate variety of these mortgages, which like all adjustable rate mortgages go up and down with the rest of the market. However, in most 1% mortgages, the minimum payment stays fixed and can go up or down only 7.5% per year. So if your payment in Year 1 is 1000.00, in Year 2 it can go no higher than 1075.00. Because the rate on the loan can change more or less than the minimum payment change, which is extremely low, the loan can result in the deferral of interest if only the minimum payment is made. While this protects the borrwer by keeping the minimum payment low no matter where broader interest rates go, this protection may have a cost in terms of interest deferred. Many of the amortization issues which are seen by critics of 1% Mortgages as their key detractor have been recently resolved by the introduction of fixed rate minimum payment loans to the 1% mortgage family.
Fixed rate 1% mortgage variations, the latest additions to the 1% mortgage family, have fixed interest rates from 3 to 30 years or more. The minimum payment option is generally available for the first 5, 10, 15 or in some cases 20 years of the mortgage, at which point the 1% mortgage payment recasts or readjusts to the interest only payment or the full principal & interest payment. During the fixed period, the loan payment and interest rates of fixed 1% mortgages are utterly predictable and can be defined down to the penny. Many borrowers who would prefer a fixed rate can benefit significantly from the 30 year fixed 1% mortgage, which actually carries a minimum payment of 1.95% and a fixed rates in the 6% to 7% range for 30 years.
While there are those in the journalism community who believe that 1% mortgages have too much power for your average homeowner, ultimately the decision is in the homeowner's hands. Make a high payment to the bank each month, or put the money in their pockets. And homeowners seem evenly divided, as refinances into loans from the 1% mortgage category are projected to represent over 50% of all refinances in 2007. Traditional mortgages are not a one size fits all solution, and neither are 1% mortgages, but with low minimum payment options, excellent debt consolidation capabilities, significant cash flow and tax advantages made possible by deferring interest, and flexibility to control your finances or insulate yourself from interruptions in income or disability, 1% mortgages continue to post significant growth across the country. Whether or not a 1% mortgage refinance is right for you should be determined by performing a detailed analysis of your personal financial situation with a home loan professional who has extensive experience with 1% mortgage products. As always, we welcome your calls and emails.
Tristan Hunt is a seasoned financial professional with a wealth of experience in the mortgage industry, advising clients on debt consolidation, refinancing & investor loans.