In simplest terms, a mortgage is a long-term loan designed to help the borrower purchase a house. In addition to repaying the principal, the borrower is obligated to make interest payments to the lender, and the home and the land around it serve as collateral. But if you are looking to purchase a house, you need to know more than these generalities. In this article, we'll look at how a mortgage functions and how it is paid off.
Just about everyone who buys a house has a mortgage. Mortgage rates are frequently mentioned on the evening news, and speculation about which direction the rates will move has become a standard part of our financial culture.
While it may seem like they have always been available, the modern mortgage came into being only in 1934, when the government, to help the country overcome the Great Depression, created a mortgage program that minimized the required down payment on a home, thereby increasing the amount that potential homeowners could borrow. Before the creation of this mortgage program, a 50% down payment was required. Today, a 20% down payment is desirable (as it minimizes private mortgage insurance (PMI) requirements), but there are mortgage programs available that allow significantly lower down payments. (For more on PMI, see Understanding Your Mortgage.)
The primary factors determining your monthly mortgage payments are the size and term of the loan. 'Size' refers to the amount of money borrowed and 'term' refers to the length of time within which the loan must be fully paid back. There is an inverse relationship between the term of the loan and the size of the monthly payment: Longer terms result in smaller monthly payments. For this reason, 30-year mortgages are the most popular mortgage type. If you are shopping for a mortgage, once you know the size of the loan you require for your new home, an easy way to compare mortgages types and various lenders is by using a mortgage calculator.
Once the size and term of the loan have been determined, there are four factors that play a role in the calculation of a mortgage payment. Those four items are principal, interest, taxes and insurance (PITI). As we look at these four factors, we'll consider a $100,000 mortgage as an example.
A portion of each mortgage payment is dedicated to repayment of the principal. Loans are structured so that the amount of principal returned to the borrower starts out low, and increases with each mortgage payment. While the mortgage payments in the first years consist primarily of interest payments, the payments in the final years consist primarily of principal repayment. For our $100,000 mortgage, the principal is $100,000.
While principal, interest, taxes and insurance comprise a typical mortgage, some borrowers opt for mortgages that do not include taxes or insurance as part of the monthly payment. With this type of loan, borrowers have a lower monthly payment but must pay the taxes and insurance on their own.
A mortgage's amortization schedule provides a detailed look at precisely what portion of each mortgage payment is dedicated to each component of PITI. As noted earlier, in the first years mortgage payments consist primarily of interest payments; later payments consist primarily of principal.
In our example of a $100,000, 30-year mortgage, the amortization schedule consists of 360 payments. The partial amortization schedule shown below demonstrates how the balance between principal and interest payments reverses over time, moving towards greater application to the principal.
As the chart shows, each of the required payments is $599.55, but the amount dedicated toward principal and interest varies from payment to payment. Because of the inverse relationship between principal and interest paid, at the start of your mortgage the rate at which you gain equity in your home is much slower. This demonstrates the value of making greater or extra principal payments (if the mortgage permits without prepayment penalty). Each additional payment results in a larger repaid portion of the principal, and reduces the interest due on each future payment, moving the homeowner toward the ultimate goal: paying off the mortgage.
The first mortgage payment is due one full month after the last day of the month in which the home purchase closed. Unlike rent, mortgage payments are paid in arrears. Therefore, if a closing occurs on Jan. 25, closing costs include accrued interest until the end of January. The first full mortgage payment, which is for the month of February, is then due March 1.
As an example, let's assume an initial mortgage of $240,000, on a $300,000 purchase with a 20% down payment. The monthly payment works out to $1,077.71 under a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with a 3.5% interest rate. (This calculation only includes principal and interest; it does not include real estate taxes and insurance.)
The daily interest is $23.01. This is calculated by multiplying the $240,000 loan by the 3.5% interest rate, divided by 365. If the mortgage closes on Jan. 25, the homeowner owes $161.10 for the seven days of accrued interest for the remainder of the month. The next monthly payment, which is the full monthly payment of $1,077.71, is due on March 1, and covers the February mortgage payment.
Homebuyers should have all this information in advance. Under the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure rule, two forms must be provided to the potential homeowners three days before the scheduled closing date – the loan estimate and closing disclosure. The amount of accrued interest, along with other closing costs, is laid out in the closing disclosure form. The buyer can see the loan amount, interest rate, monthly payments and other costs, and compare these to the initial estimate that was provided.
A mortgage is an important tool for buying a house, as it allows individuals become homeowners without making a large proportional down payment. However, when you take on a mortgage, it's important to understand the structure of your payments, whose components are dedicated not only to the principal (the amount you borrowed) but also interest, taxes, and insurance. This structure determines how long it will take to pay off the mortgage and, in turn, how expensive it will ultimately be to finance your home purchase.