30-year vs 10-year mortgage

10-Year Mortgages vs. the 30-Year Fixed: Which Is Better?

Last updated on July 21st, 2020

It’s time for another mortgage match-up folks. Today, we’ll look at 10-year mortgages versus the 30-year fixed mortgage to see how these home loans stack up against one another.

Before we get started, it’s important to note that there are two very different types of 10-year mortgages out there, one a fixed-rate mortgage and the other an adjustable-rate mortgage. So clearly you need to pay real close attention here.

Two Very Different Types of 10-Year Mortgages

  • There are actually two types of 10-year mortgages
  • One is a 10/1 ARM with a 30-year term
  • It’s fixed for 10 years and adjustable for the remaining 20 years
  • The other is a 10-year fixed that only last 10 years and the interest rate does not change

There are 10-year fixed mortgages, which have a mortgage term of 10 years. Yep, just a decade and they are paid off in full.

Then there are 10-year adjustable-rate mortgages, which have a term of 30 years. Huge difference for a number of reasons.

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The first type of mortgage is pretty straightforward. It’s similar to a 30-year or 15-year fixed mortgage, only shorter. As mentioned, the loan duration is just 10 years.

What this means, if you happen to be brave enough to go with the loan program, is that your monthly mortgage payment will be quite high since you only get 120 months to pay it off.

After all, if you only get 10 years to pay off your entire mortgage balance, as opposed to 30, you’ll need to come up with some sizable monthly payments to get it down to zero in a hurry.

As such, this loan type isn’t for the faint of heart, nor is it for the borrower with no money in their savings account.

However, 10-year loans will save you a ton of money in interest. And that’s exactly why someone would choose this type of mortgage. To save lots of money! If you don’t believe me, grab a mortgage calculator and change the term from 360 months to 120 months. You’ll be amazed.

But most folks probably can’t afford such high payments, or simply don’t want to pay down their mortgage that aggressively. So this type of home loan won’t be for the borrower with a low down payment, nor will it likely suit a first-time homebuyer.

For example, FHA loans and VA mortgages probably don’t come in this flavor, but it will likely be an option for a jumbo mortgage.

The “other” 10-year mortgage you’ll see out there is the “10/1 ARM,” which is fixed for the first 10 years, and annually adjustable for the remaining 20. Put simply, it’s a 30-year loan with an initial 10-year fixed period.

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This makes it a hybrid ARM because of its fixed/adjustable nature. It also means the monthly payments have the ability to adjust both higher and lower once those first 10 years are up.

We’re basically talking about two loan products on opposite ends of the spectrum. One that pays down the entire home loan balance in a third of the time (typically it’s 30 years), and one that’s an ARM, which some consider higher-risk than traditional fixed mortgages.

So, are either loan programs a better choice than the classic 30-year fixed mortgage when buying real estate? Let’s see.

10-Year Fixed Mortgages Only Last Ten Years

10-year fixed

  • A 10-year fixed only lasts for a decade
  • It is paid off in full in that time
  • As such monthly payments are very high
  • Since you get a third of the time to pay off you home loan
  • But you can save a ton of money!

If you’re really, really serious about paying off your mortgage fast, the 10-year fixed could be the loan for you. You’ll gain home equity hand over fist in no time at all.

Just note that your mortgage payment will be huge relative to other, more traditional options that give you more time to pay off your balance. If you have student loans and credit card debt, you may want to go with something a little more conservative. So use an affordability calculator first to determine if you can qualify, let alone handle the payments.

For example, on a $250,000 loan amount, a 10-year fixed mortgage with an interest rate of 3% would come with a monthly mortgage payment of $2,414.02.

Compare that to a monthly payment of $1,787.21 on a 15-year fixed at 3.5%, and a payment of $1,193.54 on a 30-year fixed at 4%. It’s about double the 30-year payment.

Notice how I even factored in the lower mortgage rate afforded to the 10-year fixed and 15-year fixed and the payment is still significantly higher.

Well, while the payment on the 10-year fixed is quite a bit higher, you’d only pay about $40,000 in interest over those 10 years of loan repayment.

On the 15-year fixed, you’d pay about $72,000 in interest, and on the 30-year fixed you’d pay nearly $180,000 in total interest. Yes, you read that right. Nearly five times the amount of interest versus the 10-year loan!

So that illustrates why someone would opt for the shorter term 10-year fixed. A lower mortgage rate and much less interest paid. And a home purchased with one of these loans will be free and clear much more quickly, if that’s your goal.

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But it only makes sense if you really want to pay off your mortgage fast, and have the means to do it without breaking the bank.

10-Year Mortgage Rates Are Lower

  • Another advantage of a 10-year fixed is the lower rate
  • They are cheaper than 15-year and 30-year fixed mortgages
  • How much cheaper may depend on the lender
  • Perhaps .25% lower than a 15-year fixed and .75-1% lower than a 30-year fixed

Speaking of rates, let’s talk about what you might expect to receive on a 10-year fixed loan.

First, not all lenders offer the program. It’s somewhat of a specialty loan program, so be sure to ask about it specifically when speaking to a loan officer or seek it out directly when comparing current mortgage rates.

It’s certainly not as common as a 30-year or 15-year fixed. So once you find a lender that does offer the loan, you might see that 10-year mortgage rates are an .125 (eighth) better than a comparable 15-year fixed. Maybe a quarter lower…

In other words, if the 15-year fixed is priced at 3.25%, the 10-year fixed mortgage rate might be offered at 3.125% or 3%. It’s not going to be a huge difference.

Some mortgage lenders may not even price the two types of loans differently. The only difference might be lower closing costs on the 10-year fixed.

Meanwhile, a similar 30-year fixed might go for 3.875%, so you’re looking at about a .75% discount, more or less. That’s pretty significant.

Tip: The difference between a 15-year fixed mortgage rates and 10-year fixed mortgage rates may be marginal or even nil, so taking the longer term on the 15-yr could provide you with some much needed breathing room. You can always make larger payments each month to pay it down quicker.

10-Year Fixed Mortgage Pros and Cons

The Good

  • Pay off your mortgage in just 10 years!
  • Get a lower interest rate than a 15-year or 30-year fixed
  • Pay much less interest over the shorter loan term
  • More of your monthly payment goes toward principal balance
  • Own your home much faster

The Bad

  • Monthly payments will be much higher
  • May not qualify for an expensive home
  • May limit your purchasing power
  • Could get into payment trouble if your income drops

10-Year ARMs Are a Different Beast

10-year ARM

  • A 10-year ARM is an adjustable-rate mortgage
  • That is fixed for 10 years and adjustable for 20 years
  • It has a 30-year loan term just like a 30-year fixed
  • But is subject to annual rate adjustments after the first 10 years

Here’s where things can get confusing, or even misleading. Many mortgage companies advertise 10-year ARMs as if they’re fixed mortgages, which just isn’t the case. Or at best half the story.

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They basically use that initial 10-year fixed period to their advantage when putting together marketing materials. But they’re mot 10-year loans. They are 30-year loans, end of story.

But mortgage lenders can make 10-year ARMs appear really attractive by touting the lower interest rate that accompanies them.

After all, an ARM will always be priced lower than a 30-year fixed mortgage. So you can see why a customer may think the 10-year ARM is the better choice hands down.

But the fact of the matter is that these loans are still adjustable-rate mortgages in fixed-rate clothing.

And when it comes down to it, they generally aren’t that much cheaper than a traditional 30-year fixed because they’re fixed for a decade.

10/1 ARM Rates Come at a Discount

  • While interest rates will vary over time and by lender
  • Expect a 10/1 ARM to price slightly below a comparable 30-year fixed
  • Perhaps .125% to .25% cheaper in rate
  • The discount is marginal because 10 years is still a long time to offer a fixed rate before the first adjustment

Now let’s discuss 10/1 ARM rates, which generally come cheaper than 30-year fixed rates.

However, the interest rate may only be .125% or .25% cheaper because you get a fixed rate for a full decade before any adjustment takes place.

Many folks don’t stay in the same home or keep their mortgages for very long, so the 10/1 ARM could make sense and save you some dough with little to no downside.

But if you’re not comfortable with a loan program that features adjustable rates, steer clear. The savings may not be worth the stress.

If you plan to move within 10 years (or refinance for some reason), going with a 10-year ARM will provide you with a discounted fixed rate for a significant period of time while you figure things out.

Of course, if you know you won’t stay even five years, it could be even smarter to look to the 5/1 ARM instead, which will feature an even lower interest rate.

10/1 ARM Pros and Cons

The Good

  • Lower interest rate than a 30-year fixed
  • Long fixed-rate period (120 months)
  • Most homeowners move or refinance in a decade’s time
  • So you may never have to face a rate adjustment

The Bad

  • The interest rate may not be much cheaper than a 30-year fixed
  • Rate can adjust higher after 10 years
  • Could face payment difficulty if rates adjust significantly higher
  • Or be forced to refinance at unfavorable terms

In summary, pay close attention so you know which type of 10-year mortgage you’re actually getting…

Read more: 30-year vs. ARM

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