How Do I Qualify for a 15-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage?

Lenders typically offer 15-year mortgages at .5 to 1 percent lower than 30-year mortgages.
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While 30-year mortgage loans tend to be a popular choice among homebuyers, the primary benefits of taking out a 15-year loan include paying off your mortgage within a shorter period of time and paying a lot less in interest over the life of the loan. According to Mortgage-X, you can save more than half the total amount of interest you would pay on a 30-year mortgage. Some of the tradeoffs are a higher monthly payment and less of a mortgage interest tax deduction. Yet affordability is likely to be a chief concern, especially if you are buying an expensive home.

Step 1

Reduce your monthly expenses so that you can afford a higher mortgage payment. Determine if you can do away with some of your current expenses, as the monthly payments for a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage could run you about 10 to 15 percent higher than you would pay for a 30-year mortgage.

Step 2

Lower the amount of debt you owe by paying off as much debt as you can. A lender is more likely to think that you can handle a higher monthly payment if you have fewer bills to pay each month. Try to pay off small debts completely before applying for a home mortgage. Pay down credit card balances, and don’t apply for any new credit before applying for a mortgage loan or refinance.

Step 3

Establish an excellent credit history. The best credit rates and terms are offered to people who have a high credit score. Shoot for a score of at least 700. If you need to improve your credit score, work to resolve any accounts that are in poor standing. Another strategy is to use only a small percentage of your available revolving credit to show that you manage credit responsibly. By building good credit, you can qualify for a lower interest rate. Lenders typically offer 15-year mortgages at interest rates that are .5 to 1 percent lower than for 30-year mortgages.

Step 4

Show a steady income. Lenders usually look to see whether you have held down the same job or have been employed by the same company for at least two years. You are also more likely to qualify for a 15-year mortgage if you have a high enough income to afford the monthly payments associated with this shorter mortgage term.

Step 5

Assemble your financial documents, as a lender will ask to see tax returns, your most recent pay stubs, W-2 forms, and other information proving your income. Be ready to provide statements relating to any assets you own. The lender may also request documentation showing your current expenses in order to evaluate your debt-to-income ratio. Your income and expense records will help the lender determine if you can comfortably afford a higher mortgage payment each month. Jack Guttentag, mortgage expert and author of “The Mortgage Encyclopedia,” advises homeowners to look at whether the payment and payoff date of a 15-year mortgage fits in with your overall financial plans.

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