Nicole Glazer McKee

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Jennae Wilsey

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Short-Term or Long-Term Amortization Periods: Which One is Best For a Mortgage?

March 21, 2019

There are a number of factors to consider when choosing a particular mortgage product. While the interest rate and fees associated with a home loan are certainly important factors to consider, so is the amortization period.

Basically, the amortization period refers to the length of time that you have to fully repay your home loan. There are different amortization period lengths to choose from, depending on what you’re most comfortable with and what your lender is able to offer you.

But generally speaking, you can choose between either a long-term or short-term amortization period. Both have their perks and drawbacks, which you’ll need to sift through to determine which avenue is best for you.

Pros and Cons of Short-Term Amortization Periods

If you choose a short-term amortization – such as 5 or 10 years – you’ll have a shorter amount of time to pay off your mortgage. Let’s go over some of the benefits and drawbacks of this time frame.

Pros:

Pay off your mortgage sooner – Since the life of the loan is much shorter in comparison to long-term amortization periods, your mortgage can be paid off a lot sooner. Once that loan term expiry date comes and goes (assuming you’ve been diligent with your installment payments), your mortgage will be fully paid off, allowing you to achieve financial freedom sooner rather than later.

Save money in interest – Since you’ll be on the hook for paying your mortgage for a shorter period of time, you’ll spend less time paying into the interest option of your home loan. If you spend more time paying your mortgage, you’ll also be spending more on interest to the lender.

But the opposite is also true: the less time to spend paying the mortgage, the less interest will be paid to the lender, which can save you a bundle at the end of the day.

Interest rates are usually slightly lower – Many lenders reward borrowers for choosing a shorter amortization period with a slightly lower interest rate compared to longer-term time frames. As such, you may be able to save quite a bit of money in interest over the life of your loan.

Cons:

Monthly mortgage payments are much higher – If you have less time to pay off your loan amount, your monthly mortgage payments will be higher. As such, shorter-amortizations often translate into mortgage payments that are not affordable for many borrowers.

Pros and Cons of Long-Term Amortization Periods

Choosing a mortgage with a longer amortization- like 20 or 25 years – also comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, which we’ll take a look at.

Pros:

Make smaller monthly mortgage payments – Perhaps the biggest advantage of a long-term amortization period is the fact that the monthly mortgage payments are cheaper. Because you have a lot more time to pay off the same loan amount, each installment payment will be less compared to repaying your loan within a shorter time frame.

As such, long-term amortization periods can make mortgages a lot more affordable for many borrowers who may not otherwise have the budget to accommodate larger monthly payments. This is the main reason why long-term amortization periods tend to be a lot more popular and common among homebuyers, especially first-timers.

Cons:

Takes longer to pay off – The farther out the end date of the loan term, the longer it will take to pay off the mortgage. As such, you’ll be stuck with your mortgage for a much longer amount of time than you would if you chose a shorter-term mortgage. And the longer it takes you to pay off your mortgage in full, the longer you’ll have to be committed to these payments.

More interest is paid over the life of the loan – With every year added to a mortgage term comes more interest paid over the life of the loan. The more time your lender gives you to pay off your mortgage, the more they’ll earn in interest payments from you. This can mean tens of thousands of dollars more spent in interest over the life of the loan compared to a shorter-term amortization period.

To illustrate, let’s compare a $200,000 mortgage with a 4.5% interest rate at a 15-year term versus a 25-year term. Over a 15-year term, the total interest paid would be $65,694, whereas the amount would be $115,612 for a 25-year term. That’s quite a difference in interest paid for the same loan amount, though the monthly payments would obviously be higher for the shorter-term mortgage to compensate.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to short- versus long-term amortization periods, one isn’t necessarily better than the other. It all comes down to what’s more appropriate and convenient for you.

If you’re able to afford larger monthly payments and are working towards financial freedom sooner rather than later, then a short-term amortization might be best. But if you need something that will fit better within your tight budget, perhaps it’s best to go with something more long-term. Discuss your options with your lender to help you make your final decision.