No one factor affects the cost of purchasing a house more than length of the loan. This may seem like a no-brainer, but so many people look only at the monthly cost and never consider the total cost. That is a huge error. Using our amortization calculator you can enter various scenarios to reveal the true cost of the place you will call home & any other type of loan.
It can't be expressed enough that you should almost always choose a 15-year fixed mortgage. Unless you plan to move in a few years, the 15-year is the way to go. In the beginning, a large portion of your payment goes to interest. As time progresses more is placed toward principal, but it takes years before the interest and principal are equal paid. For example, let's assume you have a $200,000 fixed mortgage for 30 years at 4% interest and no down payment. Your monthly principal and interest is $954.83, but it would take 153 payments until more money is directed to principal than interest. The road to building equity is slow moving. After five years you still owe $180,895; after 10 years you still owe $157.568, and after 30 you will have paid the bank $143,739 in interest. Yes, you saw that right. So In reality that $200,000 home really costs you $343,739!
Let's take the same $200,000 fixed loan at 4%, but this time let's select a 15-year term. This scenario provides monthly principal and interest of $1,479.38. This is a bit more than our other example, but stay with me here. Right off the bat, more of your investment is going more to principal than interest. After five years you still owe $146,117; after 10 years you still owe $80,328, and at the end of the term you will have paid the bank only $66,287 in interest. This time the total cost of borrowing $200,000 is $266,287 saving you $77,452 in interest compared to the 30-year option. Think of what your life would be like being mortgage free after only 15 years and having an extra $77,452 in your pocket!
You may say that you don't want to be locked into that higher payment and that you'll simply add extra each month to reduce some of that interest? It rarely happens. Life happens, and the extra money slides through your fingers for things you no longer remember. Forcing yourself to fit the higher payment into your budget from the start is the only way to ensure paying the loan off in 15 years and saving all that interest.
Principal and interest are not the only expenses tied to the loan. Your county wants some of your money and so does your insurance company, so be prepared for property taxes and homeowners insurance. The more expensive the house, the more both of these will cost. Most people roll these two charges into their monthly mortgage. Otherwise, you will be faced with a large bill at the end of the year.
If your down payment is under 20%, the bank will require private mortgage insurance (PMI). This doesn't protect you, it protects the bank in case you default. It can cost 0.5% to 1% of the entire loan. This fee is also rolled into your monthly payment. When the equity in your house reaches 20% the PMI can be removed, so this is another reason to choose the 15 year option - where your equity builds faster.
If you are a renter, you are accustomed to charges for utilities, but if you move into a larger house, be prepared for a larger heating and cooling bill. If anything needs repaired, you are responsible for all the parts and installation. So you need to build a rainy day fund, because odds are against you that one day the air conditioner will fail or the roof will leak or one of your major appliances will go on the blink. Without an emergency fund, these types of events can put you in the red. Lawn maintenance is another expense which may be new to you. Lawn mowers, weed whackers, hedge trimmers, etc. will be an immediate expense. If you live in a neighborhood with a homeowners association, monthly or quarterly fees may be required.
Although a discretionary expense, home decoration/improvements must be addressed here. The home you buy, may not be move-in ready, so carpets may need to be replaced, floors refinished and walls painted. Beyond that, there is also the temptation to buy new furniture, draperies, and wall hangings, especially if you move from say a 1,200 square foot apartment to a 2,400 square foot house. You will be eager to make the house your home and nothing says home like the unique additions you select. For bargains look at amazon.com, your local craigslist.org or ebay.com. Go slow and don't overextend yourself by buying on credit. It's very easy for first time homeowners to find themselves not only with a large payment but also debt that can be overwhelming. It's wise to make a list of the things you want to change and plan to tackle one every few months or however long it takes to save the extra money. You have just made the most expensive purchase of a lifetime, enjoy your new surroundings, and treasure the gradual debt free changes you make over the years.