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Whats the Deal with Interest Only Mortgages?

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/21/2006 | Real Estate
Have you heard that commercial about interest-only mortgages...the one where youre told about what a wonderful benefit it is to have a low, low mortgage payment and all the wonderful tax write-offs you will receive?

Before you decide to buy now and pay later, that is pay big time later, take a moment to enlighten yourself a bit more about these so-called interest only mortgages. Think about it for a moment. If you just pay the interest on your home, will you ever start paying on principal and will you ever earn any equity into your property?

By definition, a mortgage is a temporary, conditional pledge of property to a creditor as security for performance of an obligation or repayment of a debt. Simplified, that means you borrow money from a financial institution and they essentially buy your house and you pay it back. How can this happen if youre just paying interest? More accurately, interest-only mortgages are a temporary reprieve for paying off a traditional mortgage. You may actually be prolonging the inevitable and eventually making it even more costly to pay off your mortgage.

Far too many people are in debt way over their heads because of interest-only mortgages. They took advantage of attractive offers to buy now and pay later. With an interest only payment youre keeping the principal at minimum value while continuing to pay interest at 100%. With a more conventional mortgage youd be slowly dwindling down the total interest amount.

Most interest-only payment schedules are offered on Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs), but they can also be found on a fixed rate mortgage. Interest-only payment periods almost never run for the entire term of the loan which is typically 15 or 30 years. Depending on the terms of your contract, you could be expected to start paying on the principal in five, seven or ten years. Once the interest-only period ends, your monthly payment will go up because then youll be paying on both principal and interest.

Conversely, interest-only mortgages can be a good thing for some people. For those people wanting to purchase a bigger/better home for a lower down payment AND who anticipate moving within seven years, the interest-only payment method may be the way to go. However, keep in-mind that in a "down" realestate market you generally wont be building equity and making money by doing it this way. The majority of the money made from investing in real estate comes from an increase in value to the home. The average person moves every seven years anyway. Gone are the days when people stay in a home thirty years. Hence, if you anticipate moving before youll have to start paying on the principal, then an interest-only payment may be ideal for you.

Theres a great deal of fine print to any mortgage. Evaluate your own goals; be vigilant when reviewing the terms on the loan youre considering before acting.