Interest-only and deferred-interest mortgages are gaining increasing popularity, as homeowners like the idea of having the freedom to decide how much to pay against their mortgage each month. Interest-only loans offer you the option to pay only the monthly interest, or you can pay the monthly interest and as much of the principal as you’d like. Deferred-interest mortgages give you even more choices. In addition to the payment options of an interest-only mortgage, a deferred-interest loan also allows you to pay just a portion of the interest payment each month (the unpaid interest would then be added to your principal loan balance).

By opting for an interest-only payment or a deferred-interest payment, your monthly mortgage payment is less — often times, significantly less — than it would be if you made a “conventional” interest plus principal payment. You gain the freedom to do with your available cash as you choose.

To help you decide how much home you can afford, it’s smart to think in terms of an interest plus principal payment each month. If you can only afford the minimum payment on your mortgage, you may be overextending yourself. Having a choice to pay only the minimum is quite different than only being able to afford the minimum.

Is an interest-only or deferred-payment mortgage right for you? If any of the following situations apply to you, these loans may be just what you’ve been waiting for:

  • If you need cash flow and have a low interest rate, paying interest only is the same as borrowing money at a great rate.
  • If you’re paid on commission or depend on tips, and your income fluctuates month-to-month, interest-only or deferred-interest payments are great. When commissions are down, make the minimum payment. When you have an excellent month, pay the full payment or more.
  • If you invest the money you don’t put toward your mortgage in something with a higher rate of return. For example, if you pay 6.5 percent on your mortgage but find an opportunity to make an investment that returns 9 percent, you will make 2.5 percent on your money that you wouldn’t make if you had paid your full principal plus interest.
  • You have higher interest debt to pay off. Again, if you have credit card debt at 15 percent, it makes dollars and sense to pay that before mortgage interest debt at 6.5 percent
  • If you expect to be in your home for less than 10 years.
  • If you live in an area with appreciating home values. Regardless of what you’ve heard, most of the country is still appreciating in value. In those areas, even if you pay mostly just interest on your home, you’re likely gaining equity in your home. In some cases, you can gain equity even with deferred-interest minimum payments.

Interest-only and deferred-interest loans can be great tools for money management. But, be careful not to stretch your budget too thin so that you have to rely on paying only the minimum payment each month. This can cause headaches down the road and isn’t recommended. If you can afford the full payment but choose to have the payment flexibility that these types of loans offer, they just might be a fit for your financial goals.

As always, make sure your mortgage professional goes over all the numbers and fully explains the payment scenarios. Don’t assume anything. Get real numbers and you’ll make the best decision.

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