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The difference between a 30 and 15-year fixed mortgage

A mortgage term is how long it will take you to repay the loan in full. There are a few term options, but most common are 15 or 30-year terms.

Both mortgage options are fixed rate meaning the interest rate and monthly payment is set when the loan is taken. A fixed-rate makes it much easier for a borrower to budget since they know exactly how much the minimum payment is each month for years to come.  No matter what happens with interest-rates, the minimum payment won’t change.

30-year mortgages are by far the most popular mortgage product for American homebuyers – Freddie Mac says 90% of all loans are 30-year fixed. What makes them so appealing? Are there any benefits to a 15-year fixed?

30-year mortgage
Because the term of the loan is longer, there is a higher chance the borrower will default over time, so it’s a riskier option for lenders. But the payoff for borrowers is big – substantially lower monthly payments than a 15-year mortgage.

A lower monthly payment makes homeownership a possibility for more Americans and it may allow some people to purchase more home than they’d be able to with a 15-year fixed. Even borrowers who could afford to make larger payments may choose a 30-year fixed and re-invested or put away the money they’re saving to further their financial stability.

The catch? You’ll save money each month, but you’ll be paying your mortgage for longer. And, in the end, you’ll end up paying much more in interest than you would with a 15-year loan for the same house.

15-year mortgage
Lower monthly payments sound great, so why would anyone get a shorter loan term? Borrowers often choose a 15-year loan because they pay off the loan much faster and with less interest overall. Take the example below.

$275,000 Mortgage
 APRMonthly paymentTotal interest paid
15-year fixed2.529%$1,837$55,737
30-year fixed2.948%$1,152$139,617

The monthly payments are nearly $700 more per month, but over the course of the loan, the borrower saved $83,880. If you can afford a bigger payment, looking into a 15-year fixed mortgage may be a good idea.

Because there’s less time for the loan to be exposed to risk, interest rates for 15-year mortgages are usually lower than that of 30-year fixed. The rate can be around a quarter to a whole percentage point less.

How about something in-between?
If you like the lower payments of the 30-year mortgage but the faster payoff of the 15-year mortgage, consider getting something in between like a 20-year mortgage. There are a lot of different options when it comes to home loans. It’s best to speak with a local loan expert to see what would work best for you and what your payments would be like with each option. Together, you can find the best path forward for your financial goals.

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