Fixed Rate Mortgage Loans:
A mortgage that has a fixed interest rate for the entire term of the loan. The distinguishing factor of a fixed-rate mortgage is that the interest rate over every period of the mortgage is known at the time the mortgage is originated. The benefit of a fixed-rate mortgage is that the homeowner will not have to contend with varying loan payment amounts that fluctuate with interest rate movements.
There is typically a trade off when it comes to choosing a mortgage between risk and reward, or between an adjustable-rate mortgage and a fixed-rate mortgage. Depending on market conditions (the shape of the yield curve), an adjustable-rate mortgage might have a large initial payment advantage over a fixed-rate mortgage. However, if such a scenario exists, there is a probability that the payments on the adjustable-rate mortgage will rise over time. Mortgage borrowers need to understand and measure risks when deciding between an adjustable-rate and fixed-rate mortgage.
A fixed-rate mortgage (FRM), often referred to as a “vanilla wafer” mortgage loan, is a fully amortizing mortgage loan where the interest rate on the note remains the same through the term of the loan, as opposed to loans where the interest rate may adjust or “float”.
As a result, payment amounts and the duration of the loan are fixed and the person who is responsible for paying back the loan benefits from a consistent, single payment and the ability to plan a budget based on this fixed cost.
Other forms of mortgage loans include interest only mortgage, graduated payment mortgage, variable rate mortgage, negative amortization mortgage, and balloon payment mortgage. Unlike many other loan types, FRM interest payments and loan duration is fixed from beginning to end.
Unlike adjustable rate mortgages (ARM), fixed-rate mortgages are not tied to an index. Instead, the interest rate is set (or “fixed”) in advance to an advertised rate, usually in increments of 1/4 or 1/8 percent.
The fixed monthly payment for a fixed-rate mortgage is the amount paid by the borrower every month that ensures that the loan is paid off in full with interest at the end of its term.
Popularity of Fixed Rates Mortgages:
The United States Federal Housing Administration (FHA) helped develop and standardize the fixed rate mortgage as an alternative to the balloon payment mortgage by insuring them and by doing so helped the mortgage design garner usage. Because of the large payment at the end of the loan, refinancing risk resulted in widespread foreclosures. It was the first mortgage loan that was fully amortized (fully paid at the end of the loan) precluding successive loans, and had fixed interest rates and payments.
Fixed-rate mortgages are the classic form of loan for home and product purchasing in the United States. The most common terms are 15-year and 30-year mortgages, but shorter terms are available, and 40-year and 50-year mortgages are now available (common in areas with high priced housing, where even a 30-year term leaves the mortgage amount out of reach of the average family).
Comparisons of Fixed Rates Mortgages:
Fixed rate mortgages are usually more expensive than adjustable rate mortgages. Due to the inherent interest rate risk, long-term fixed rate loans will tend to be at a higher interest rate than short-term loans. The relationship between interest rates for short and long-term loans is represented by the yield curve, which generally slopes upward (longer terms are more expensive). The opposite circumstance is known as an inverted yield curve and occurs less often.
The fact that a fixed rate mortgage has a higher starting interest rate does not indicate that this is a worse form of borrowing compared to the adjustable rate mortgages. If interest rates rise, the ARM cost will be higher while the FRM will remain the same. In effect, the lender has agreed to take the interest rate risk on a fixed-rate loan. Some studies have shown that the majority of borrowers with adjustable rate mortgages save money in the long term, but that some borrowers pay more. The price of potentially saving money, in other words, is balanced by the risk of potentially higher costs. In each case, a choice would need to be made based upon the loan term, the current interest rate, and the likelihood that the rate will increase or decrease during the life of the loan.