Have you been looking into the prospect of buying a home? If you have, you may have heard about interest only mortgage loans and may be wondering if getting an interest only loan is the right option for you. What exactly are interest only mortgage loans? As the name implies, this type of mortgage is set up so that the borrower (you) pays only on the interest of the loan rather than applying part of the payment to interest and part to principal. Of course, this is not done for the entire life of the loan. When the mortgage is set up, the interest only payment is set up for a set number of years only.

Once that set number of years is up, the borrower “trades in” his interest only mortgage loan for a more traditional one in which he begins to pay down the principal balance as well. Typically, interest only mortgage loans are set up with payments being applied to interest only for the first ten years, and then the loan is changed.

The reason that many folks have been interested in interest only mortgage loans is that they allow the borrower to have a much lower payment for those first ten years. Since you are not paying any principal, the resulting payment is lower than it would be with more conventional financing. If you are buying the house as a home and anticipate having an increased income as time goes on, you may be able to qualify for the interest only mortgage loan because of this lower payment that reduces your debt-to-income ratio. If you are an investor, the interest only mortgage loans allow you to keep more cash flow to make home improvements in anticipation of selling or just to keep more of your money in your pocket if you are interested in selling the property relatively quickly.

There are disadvantages to interest only mortgage loans, as well, however. The major disadvantage is that it is more risky to the borrower. With more traditional financing, you are building equity in your house right from the very start, albeit not a lot at first, as even with traditional loans, the majority of your payments go toward interest in the beginning. With interest only mortgage loans, however, you are building absolutely no equity. Equity comes from paying down the principal, and since you are not paying any principal, you are not building any equity.

What is the problem with not building any equity? Well, you are running the risk of not being able to afford the higher payments when the interest only years come to a close, as these payments will likely be higher than they would have been with a different loan. So, if your career does not bring in the kind of money you expected, you may find yourself unable to meet the payment. Also, you may be unable to sell the house when you are ready to sell if that particular period of time is a buyer’s market. Too, you will be unable to get a home equity loan (refinance) because refinancing is based on the equity in your home, and with interest only mortgage loans, you build no equity.