8 Types of Mortgage Loans for Buyers and Refinancers

Fixed-rate, adjustable-rate, FHA, VA and jumbo mortgages each have advantages and an ideal borrower.
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Many types of mortgage loans exist, and they are designed to appeal to a wide range of borrowers' needs.

For each type of mortgage listed below, you’ll see its advantages and the kind of borrower it's best for. This page concludes with a glossary of terms describing different types of mortgage loans.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is a home loan with an interest rate that’s set for the entire 30-year term.

Best for: Home buyers who want the lower monthly payment that comes from stretching out repayment over a long time. The fixed rate makes the payment predictable. A 30-year fixed offers flexibility to repay the loan faster by adding to monthly payments.

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The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage has an interest rate that remains the same over its 15-year term.

Best for: Refinancers and home buyers who want to build equity and pay off the loan faster. Payments are predictable because the interest rate doesn't change. Because the borrower pays interest for fewer years, total interest payments are less.

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An adjustable-rate mortgage is a home loan with an initial rate that’s fixed for a specified period, then adjusts periodically. For example, a 5/1 ARM has an interest rate that is set for the first five years and then adjusts annually. See the .

Best for: Home buyers who don’t plan on having the mortgage for a long time, or who believe interest rates will be lower in the future.

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An FHA mortgage is a home loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration. are backed by the government and designed to help borrowers of more modest means buy a home. See how .

Best for: Borrowers with lower credit scores and a down payment less than 20%.

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VA loans are mortgages backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs and are available to military service members and veterans. See .

Best for: Military-qualified borrowers who appreciate a low interest rate and no down payment minimum.

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USDA home loans are mortgages backed or issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. See more about .

Best for: Income-qualified buyers in rural and some suburban areas who want a low or zero down payment.

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are mortgages above a certain dollar amount. Jumbo loan limits vary by county and are adjusted periodically. See .

Best for: Buyers of expensive homes and owners who want to refinance jumbo-size mortgages.

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An requires payments only on the lender’s interest charge. The loan balance, or principal, is not reduced during the interest-only payment period.

Best for: Borrowers with high monthly cash flow, a rising income, large cash savings or an income that varies from month to month. Also for those who receive large annual bonuses they can use to pay down the principal balance.

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Now you know the types of mortgages you're likely to encounter when buying a home. Here are four subsets of mortgage types you might hear about along the way:

Conventional mortgages: Lenders use the term to describe loans that aren’t backed by the government.

Conforming mortgages: Another industry term, which defines a mortgage that meets local loan limits, as set by the government. See the .

Government-backed mortgages: Loans guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA loans), FHA-insured loans and loans backed or issued by the Department of Agriculture (USDA loans).

Reverse mortgages: A way to unwind equity in a home as a lump sum or stream of income, for homeowners over age 62. See .

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