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Fixed rate or adjustable rate mortgage, which is better?

I've heard horror stories about adjustable rate mortgages, yet the interest rate seems lower than fixed rate mortgages. Which is better?

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Thirty-year fixed rate loans are what most people think of when they hear the word "mortgage." Fixed rate loans are also referred to as "fully-amortized" loans. One of the aspects that buyers like about fixed rate loans is that the payments stay the same for the life of the loan. Generally, these loans are offered in a 15- or 30-year duration.

A 30-year loan will provide larger tax deductions, as you will be paying more interest than principal during the first 23 years of the loan. A 15-year loan, on the other hand, is paid off twice as quickly and usually has a lower interest rate. You build more equity because your payments pay more principal. As mentioned earlier, you (or the seller) also can "buy down" your loan by paying more tax-deductible points up front, to lower your fixed interest rate.

Balloon Loan A fixed loan that is amortized over a 30-year period but becomes due and payable at the end of a shorter term (i.e., 5, 6, 7 or 10 years). Some of these loans have an option to be extended with a new rate or rolled into another type of loan. Usually, the rates of these loans are lower than those for a regular 30-year fixed rate loan, but they are not recommended if you plan to stay in the home for a longer period of time.

Graduated Payment Mortgage (GPM) A fixed-rate loan that has payments starting lower than the payments on a standard fixed rate loan, which increase by a predetermined amount each year for a specific number of years, usually five years.

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