Mortgage Loan Types Explained

Are you considering buying a new home or refinancing your current mortgage? Understanding the different types of mortgage loans available can help you make an informed decision. In this article, we will explore and explain the various mortgage loan types, from conventional mortgages to government-insured loans, providing you with the essential information you need to navigate the world of real estate financing. So, whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or a seasoned homeowner, let’s dive in and demystify the world of mortgage loans.

Conventional Mortgage Loans


A conventional mortgage loan is a type of loan that is not guaranteed or insured by the government. It is offered by private lenders such as banks, credit unions, and mortgage companies. Unlike government-backed loans, conventional loans follow guidelines set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two government-sponsored enterprises.


One of the main advantages of conventional mortgage loans is that they offer flexibility. As they are not backed by the government, lenders have more freedom to set their own criteria for eligibility. This means that borrowers with good credit scores and a stable income may be able to secure more favorable terms, such as lower interest rates and smaller down payments.

Additionally, conventional loans don’t require mortgage insurance once the borrower’s equity reaches 20% of the home’s value. This can result in significant savings over time compared to government-backed loans that require mortgage insurance for the duration of the loan.


While conventional loans offer advantages, there are also some potential disadvantages to consider. One of the main drawbacks is that they may require higher credit scores compared to government-backed loans. Lenders typically prefer borrowers with credit scores of 620 or higher, although some may require even higher scores for more favorable terms.

Another disadvantage is that conventional loans may have stricter guidelines for debt-to-income ratios. Lenders will evaluate how much of your monthly income goes towards debt payments, including the new mortgage payment. If you have a high debt-to-income ratio, you may have difficulty qualifying for a conventional loan.

Fixed-Rate Conventional Loans

A fixed-rate conventional loan is a popular option for many homebuyers. As the name suggests, the interest rate remains fixed for the entire term of the loan, providing stability and predictability in monthly mortgage payments.

With a fixed-rate conventional loan, you can choose from various loan terms, such as 15-year or 30-year options. The longer the loan term, the lower the monthly payment, but the more interest you will pay over the life of the loan.

Adjustable-Rate Conventional Loans

An adjustable-rate conventional loan, also known as an ARM, offers an alternative to fixed-rate loans. With an ARM, the interest rate is typically fixed for an initial period, usually 5, 7, or 10 years, and then adjusts periodically based on market conditions.

During the introductory period, the interest rate on an ARM is usually lower than that of a fixed-rate loan. This can be an advantage for borrowers who plan to sell the property or refinance before the adjustable period begins. However, once the adjustment period starts, the interest rate can increase, potentially leading to higher monthly payments.

Government-Backed Mortgage Loans

FHA Loans

FHA loans are mortgage loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), a government agency. These loans are designed to make homeownership more accessible to low and moderate-income borrowers.

One of the main advantages of FHA loans is that they generally have more lenient credit and down payment requirements compared to conventional loans. Borrowers with a credit score as low as 580 may qualify for an FHA loan with a down payment as low as 3.5%. This makes it easier for individuals with limited savings or less-than-perfect credit to become homeowners.

Additionally, FHA loans allow for higher debt-to-income ratios, making them a viable option for borrowers with higher levels of debt. However, it’s important to note that FHA loans also require upfront and annual mortgage insurance premiums, which can increase the overall cost of the loan.

VA Loans

VA loans are mortgage loans guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and are available exclusively to eligible military service members, veterans, and their spouses. These loans offer several benefits to those who have served in the military.

One of the major advantages of VA loans is that they often do not require a down payment or private mortgage insurance. This can significantly reduce the upfront costs associated with buying a home. Additionally, VA loans typically have more lenient credit requirements compared to conventional loans, making them accessible to a wider range of borrowers.

Another benefit of VA loans is the opportunity to obtain competitive interest rates. The VA guarantees a portion of the loan, which can provide lenders with additional security, allowing them to offer lower interest rates to eligible borrowers.

USDA Loans

USDA loans, also known as Rural Development loans, are mortgage loans guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These loans are designed to help low and moderate-income borrowers purchase homes in designated rural areas.

One of the main advantages of USDA loans is the option for 100% financing, meaning no down payment is required. This can make homeownership more affordable for borrowers who lack substantial savings for a down payment.

USDA loans also offer competitive interest rates, and borrowers may qualify with lower credit scores compared to conventional loans. However, USDA loans have specific eligibility requirements, including income limits and property location restrictions.

Mortgage Loan Types Explained

Jumbo Mortgage Loans


A jumbo mortgage loan is a type of loan that exceeds the conforming loan limits set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These loan limits vary by location but are generally higher than the standard loan limits.


To qualify for a jumbo mortgage loan, borrowers typically need to have a strong credit history and a high credit score. Lenders may also require a larger down payment, typically around 20% or more of the home’s purchase price, to mitigate the risk associated with larger loan amounts.

Interest Rates

One of the key considerations for jumbo loans is the interest rate. Due to the higher loan amounts and added risk for lenders, jumbo loans often have higher interest rates compared to conventional loans. However, with good credit and a strong financial profile, borrowers may still be able to secure competitive rates.

Down Payment Requirements

Jumbo loans generally require a larger down payment compared to conventional loans. As mentioned earlier, a down payment of around 20% or more is typically required. This higher down payment helps protect lenders in case of default and demonstrates the borrower’s financial stability.

Balloon Mortgage Loans


A balloon mortgage loan, also known as a balloon payment mortgage, is a type of short-term mortgage that offers lower monthly payments for an initial period and requires a large lump sum payment, or “balloon payment,” at the end of the loan term.

Structure and Terms

Balloon mortgage loans typically have terms ranging from five to seven years. During the initial term, borrowers make smaller monthly payments based on a longer amortization period, often 30 years. However, at the end of the term, the remaining balance of the loan becomes due in one lump sum payment.

Advantages and Disadvantages

One advantage of a balloon mortgage is the lower monthly payments during the initial term, which can make the loan more affordable in the short term. This can be beneficial for borrowers who plan to sell or refinance the property before the balloon payment is due.

However, a major disadvantage of balloon mortgages is the risk associated with the balloon payment. If you are unable to make the lump sum payment at the end of the term, you may need to refinance or sell the property to cover the outstanding balance. It’s essential to carefully consider your financial situation and have a plan in place to address the balloon payment.

Mortgage Loan Types Explained

Fixed-Rate Mortgage Loans


A fixed-rate mortgage loan is a type of loan where the interest rate remains constant throughout the entire term of the loan. This means that your monthly mortgage payment will stay the same over time, providing stability and predictability.


One of the primary features of a fixed-rate mortgage loan is the fixed interest rate. This rate is determined at the time of closing and does not change over the life of the loan, regardless of changes in the broader market or interest rate fluctuations.

Fixed-rate loans also offer various term options, typically ranging from 15 to 30 years. Shorter-term loans, such as 15-year terms, often come with lower interest rates but higher monthly payments compared to longer-term loans.


The main benefit of a fixed-rate mortgage loan is the stability it offers. With a fixed interest rate, you can budget more effectively, as your monthly payment will remain the same throughout the loan term. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals who prefer predictability and want to avoid any surprises related to fluctuating interest rates.

Fixed-rate loans also provide protection against rising interest rates. If rates were to increase in the future, your loan’s interest rate would not be affected, allowing you to save money over time.


While fixed-rate mortgage loans offer stability, they may have slightly higher interest rates compared to adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM) during the initial years. Additionally, refinancing a fixed-rate loan can incur costs, so it’s important to factor in any potential fees associated with refinancing if you plan to do so.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgage Loans (ARM)


An adjustable-rate mortgage loan, commonly referred to as an ARM, is a type of loan where the interest rate can change periodically. The interest rate is typically fixed for an initial period and then adjusts based on market conditions.

Introductory Period

The introductory period, also known as the fixed-rate period, is an initial span of time during which the interest rate on an ARM remains fixed. This period usually lasts for three, five, seven, or ten years, depending on the loan terms.

During the introductory period, the interest rate on an ARM is generally lower compared to a fixed-rate loan. This can result in lower monthly payments and potentially allow borrowers to qualify for a higher loan amount.

Interest Rate Adjustments

Once the introductory period ends, the interest rate on an ARM may adjust annually or semi-annually. These adjustments are typically based on changes in an underlying index, such as the U.S. Treasury bill rate or the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR).

The rate adjustment is typically subject to caps, which limit the amount the interest rate can increase or decrease in a given period. Common caps include annual caps and lifetime caps, which protect borrowers from sharp increases in interest rates.


One of the main benefits of an ARM is the potential for lower initial interest rates compared to fixed-rate loans. This can result in lower monthly payments, which can be advantageous for borrowers who expect their income to increase over time or plan to sell the property before the rate adjustments occur.

ARMs can also be suitable for borrowers who plan to pay off the loan in a shorter period. For example, if you plan to sell the property within a few years, an ARM can provide you with the advantage of a lower initial interest rate without the commitment of a long-term fixed-rate loan.


One of the risks associated with ARMs is the potential for the interest rate to increase over time. If market conditions change, interest rates can rise, leading to higher monthly payments. This can make budgeting more challenging and put financial strain on borrowers who are not prepared for higher payments.

It’s also important to consider that while ARM rates can decrease, they can also increase. If you plan to stay in the property for a longer duration and interest rates rise, your monthly payments could become unaffordable.

Interest-Only Mortgage Loans


An interest-only mortgage loan is a type of loan where the borrower is only required to pay the interest on the loan for a specific period, typically between 5 to 10 years. During this time, the borrower is not obligated to make any principal payments.


Interest-only mortgage loans are structured with an initial period where only the interest is due, followed by a subsequent period where both principal and interest payments are required. After the interest-only period ends, the remaining loan balance is amortized over the remaining term of the loan, resulting in higher monthly payments.

Pros and Cons

One advantage of an interest-only mortgage loan is the lower monthly payments during the interest-only period. This can free up cash flow for other expenses or investments. Additionally, if the property appreciates in value during the interest-only period, homeowners may benefit from potential equity growth.

However, it’s important to consider the potential disadvantages of interest-only loans. By not making principal payments during the interest-only period, borrowers are not actively reducing their loan balance. This means that once the principal payments begin, the monthly payments will increase significantly. Additionally, if the property value declines during the interest-only period, homeowners may face challenges with equity and refinancing options.

Reverse Mortgage Loans


A reverse mortgage loan, also known as a home equity conversion mortgage (HECM), is a type of loan available to homeowners who are at least 62 years old. This loan allows homeowners to convert a portion of their home’s equity into cash while still living in the property.


To be eligible for a reverse mortgage loan, homeowners must meet specific criteria, including being at least 62 years old and having sufficient equity in their homes. The loan amount is determined by factors such as the homeowner’s age, the home’s value, and current interest rates.

Payment Structure

Unlike traditional mortgages, reverse mortgage loans do not require monthly mortgage payments. Instead, homeowners receive payments from the lender based on the equity in their homes. The loan balance grows over time as interest accrues, and repayment is typically due when the homeowner sells the property, moves out, or passes away.

Pros and Cons

One of the main advantages of reverse mortgage loans is that they provide homeowners with additional income in retirement. This can help supplement retirement savings, cover healthcare expenses, or simply enhance quality of life.

Additionally, reverse mortgages come with a unique feature called “non-recourse.” This means that if the loan balance exceeds the home’s value at the time of repayment, the homeowner or their heirs are not responsible for covering the difference. The lender can only recover the value of the home, even if it is lower than the loan balance.

However, it’s important to consider the potential disadvantages of reverse mortgages. The loan balance grows over time, which can significantly reduce the equity in the home. This may limit the homeowner’s ability to pass on the property to heirs or sell it for other purposes. It’s crucial to carefully evaluate the long-term financial implications before deciding to pursue a reverse mortgage loan.


Construction Mortgage Loans


Construction mortgage loans, also known as construction loans, are specifically designed for borrowers who want to build a new home or undertake substantial renovations. These loans provide the necessary financing during the construction process.

Construction-to-Permanent Loans

Construction-to-permanent loans are a common type of construction loan. This loan structure combines financing for the construction phase and permanent mortgage financing into a single loan. Once the construction is complete, the loan seamlessly transitions to a traditional mortgage loan.

This type of loan provides convenience for borrowers, as they only need to apply and pay closing costs once instead of for both the construction loan and the permanent mortgage separately.

Draw Schedule

Construction loans typically follow a draw schedule, where funds are disbursed to the borrower or the builder at key stages of the construction process. This helps ensure that the funds are used for intended construction purposes and may involve inspections to verify progress.

The draw schedule typically includes advances for initial construction costs, foundation work, framing, roofing, and other milestones identified in the construction plans. The disbursement of funds allows the builder and homeowner to manage cash flow throughout the construction process.


Construction mortgage loans often require more documentation and oversight compared to traditional mortgage loans. Lenders typically require detailed construction plans, including architectural drawings and cost estimates, to assess the feasibility and value of the project.

Additionally, borrowers may need to provide evidence of qualified builders and contractors, as well as proof of appropriate permits and insurance coverage before receiving loan approval. The lender will also assess the borrower’s financial qualifications, including credit history, income, and assets.

Combination Mortgage Loans


A combination mortgage loan, sometimes referred to as a combo loan, is a financing option that combines two or more mortgage loan types to meet the borrower’s specific needs. This allows borrowers to customize their mortgage structure and potentially access more favorable terms.

Piggyback Loans

One common type of combination mortgage loan is a piggyback loan. This involves combining a first mortgage, usually covering 80% of the home’s purchase price, with a second mortgage to cover the remaining portion – typically 10% or 20%.

Piggyback loans can help borrowers avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI) that would otherwise be required with a loan-to-value ratio above 80%. Additionally, it allows borrowers to secure a smaller down payment, reducing the upfront cash required to purchase a home.

80-10-10 Loans

Another type of combination mortgage loan is the 80-10-10 loan. This loan structure involves taking out an 80% first mortgage, a 10% second mortgage, and providing a 10% down payment from the borrower’s own funds. The 80-10-10 loan structure is commonly used to avoid PMI while still allowing borrowers to make a smaller down payment.


Combination mortgage loans offer borrowers increased flexibility and potential cost savings. By customizing the loan structure, borrowers can tailor their financing to their specific financial circumstances and goals. This can help optimize their loan terms, potentially resulting in lower interest rates, reduced monthly payments, or the ability to avoid additional costs like PMI.


While combination mortgage loans can be beneficial, it’s important for borrowers to carefully assess their financial situation and long-term goals. It’s crucial to understand the terms and conditions of all components of the loan, including interest rates, payment schedules, and potential prepayment penalties. Working with a knowledgeable mortgage professional can help borrowers navigate the complexities of combination mortgage loans and make informed decisions.

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