Dan Green

Dan Green

Since 2003, Dan Green has been a leading mortgage lender and respected industry authority. His unwavering commitment to first-time home buyers and home buyer education has established him as a trusted voice among his colleagues, his peers, and the media. Dan founded Homebuyer.com to expand the American Dream of Homeownership to all who want it. .

Spokane Washington Home - Loan Term

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What is Loan Term?

Loan term is the number of months or years a home buyer’s mortgage loan lasts.

A Longer Definition: Loan Term

A mortgage loan term is the period, expressed in months or years, over which a home buyer must pay back their original principal balance plus interest.

Except for USDA mortgages, which only allow 30-year loan terms, home buyer can choose their mortgage’s loan term.

The three most common mortgage loan terms are:

  • 360 months / 30 years
  • 240 months / 20 years
  • 180 months / 15 years

Other loan terms, including 25-year and 10-year, may also be available depending on the mortgage type.

A mortgage’s loan term affects its mortgage rate, monthly payment, and pace at which equity is built in the home. A loan with a shorter term will have a higher PITI and pay off faster. Conversely, a loan with a longer term will be more affordable monthly but take more years for a buyer to own their place free-and-clear.

The majority of first-time home buyers choose a 30-year loan term. Since 2018, conventional mortgage rates average 41 basis points higher for 30-year loan terms compared to 15-year terms.

You can find more mortgage statistics here.

Loan Terms, Purchase Mortgages Since 2018

Loan Term Market Share
10 Year Loan 0.24%
15 Year Loan 3.37%
20 Year Loan 1.01%
30 Year Loan 93.42%
Other Loan Terms 1.96%
Data: FFEIC Home Mortgage Disclosure Act

Loan Term: A Real World Example

First-Time Home Buyer Stories: Loan Term

Imagine a first-time home buyer choosing between a 15-year and 30-year mortgage loan term for their upcoming purchase.

The 15-year term looks attractive because the buyer will build home equity and own their home faster. However, because the mortgage payback is compressed into half as many years, monthly payments are larger and eat into the home buyer’s housing budget.

After careful consideration, they decide that choosing a 30-year mortgage is the more prudent path, offering lower monthly payments, a boost in purchasing power, and the ability to send optional extra payments to pay down their balance at any time in the future.

Common Questions About Loan Term

How does a mortgage loan term affect its monthly payments?

Shorter mortgage loan terms typically result in higher monthly payments, with less mortgage interest paid over the life of the loan. Longer mortgage loan terms typically result in lower monthly payments and more mortgage interest paid.

Can you change your loan term after closing on a mortgage?

Once a mortgage is closed, the loan term is generally fixed. However, refinancing can change the loan term, but this involves taking out a new mortgage.

Is a shorter loan term better?

Shorter loan terms save money for home buyers but may be worse for them because shorter loan terms mean higher monthly payments. If you cannot manage the mortgage payments of a shorter loan term, you could default and lose your home to foreclosure.

How does loan term affect interest rates?

Generally, mortgages with shorter loan terms come with lower interest rates. Lenders offer lower rates for shorter terms because the loans have less perceived risk to the bank.

What happens if I pay off my mortgage before the loan term ends?

Making extra payments to pay off a mortgage early reduces a mortgage’s interest costs. However, in rare cases, your loan may have a prepayment penalty, so check with your lender first.


This article, "What is Loan Term?" draws on the author's professional mortgage experiences and references information found at these authoritative websites:

       Loan term is the number of months or years a home buyer's mortgage loan lasts.

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