Despite their popularity among homebuyers, 30-year mortgages come with a few key drawbacks. For one thing, homeowners with 30-year mortgages typically take longer to pay off their homes and pay much more in interest.
These are just a couple of the reasons why some homebuyers prefer the 15-year mortgage. In fact, last quarter alone, more than 30% of homeowners who refinanced switched from a 30-year mortgage to a 15-year mortgage. Whether you're a first-time homebuyer or you're thinking of refinancing your current loan, here are a few good reasons to consider a mortgage with a 15-year term.
1. You can afford the higher monthly payment
If you don't have a lot of non-mortgage debt and you're earning decent money, then it's a good time to consider a 15-year loan. A 15-year mortgage will come with a higher monthly payment, but the shorter the life of your loan, the less money you wind up throwing away on interest charges.
Let's say you're looking to take out a $200,000 fixed-rate mortgage, and you're approved for 4% interest for both a 15-year and 30-year mortgage. (In reality, the 15-year mortgage would most likely come with a lower rate, but for the sake of an easy comparison, we'll keep the rate the same for both options.) If you go with the 30-year mortgage, you'll wind up paying $955 a month and a total of $143,700 in interest over the life of the loan. If you take the 15-year mortgage, your monthly payment will be higher at $1,479, but over the life of your loan, you'll only wind up paying about $66,300 in interest.
In all, you'd save over $77,000 by going with the 15-year mortgage. The higher your mortgage amount and interest, the more a 15-year term can save you. So if you can swing that higher monthly payment, you might as well go for it.
2. You have a stable job
The danger of getting a 15-year mortgage -- and the higher monthly payment that goes with it -- is that if you suddenly find yourself unemployed, you'll have a harder time making your payments than you would with a 30-year loan. But if you have a stable job, then you're in a far better position to get a 15-year mortgage than someone who's new to the workforce or who works in an industry with low job security. A 15-year mortgage might also be more suitable for someone who's a salaried employee, as opposed to a freelancer whose income is unpredictable. That said, some self-employed folks have more income stability than others. If you're a freelance employee who's built up a steady workflow and client base, then you might benefit from a 15-year mortgage as well.
3. You're nearing retirement
Once retirement hits, you'll be limited to a fixed income, so the less debt you have when you retire, the better. If you're looking to buy a new home or refinance in your late 40s or 50s, and you want a shot at paying off your mortgage before you retire, then a 15-year term might be your best bet. Furthermore, if you're within two decades of retirement, then there's a good chance you're earning more now than you were 10 years ago, which means those higher payments are likely to be more affordable.
4. There are other things you want to save for
The average American spends more on housing than on any other category of living expense. If you have other goals you need to save for, like retirement, college, or that trip around the world you've always dreamed of taking, then knocking out your home loan and shaving off thousands of dollars in interest charges will bring you one major step closer to those goals. In fact, you can think of a 15-year mortgage as a forced savings plan. Rather than spending less money each month on housing and leaving the rest available for frivolous purchases, you can avoid the trap of instant gratification by locking yourself into a 15-year mortgage.
While a 15-year mortgage isn't for everyone, there are several benefits to going this route. Remember, too, that while a 15-year mortgage will result in a higher monthly payment than a 30-year loan, it won't double your payment. Once you actually sit down to crunch the numbers, you may come to find that your payments under a 15-year loan are far more affordable than you initially thought.