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Types of Home Loans: A Homebuyer Resource

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Are you familiar with the different types of home loans? Embarking on the journey of homeownership is exciting, but can be a complex process. One of the crucial decisions you’ll make is choosing the right mortgage loan. Whether you’re a seasoned homeowner looking to make a strategic move or a first-time buyer eager to step into the realm of property ownership, the wide variety of mortgage options can be overwhelming.

From conventional loans to government-backed programs, each option comes with its unique set of features, advantages, and considerations. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll navigate through the maze of mortgage possibilities, shedding light on various types of loans to empower both experienced and first-time homebuyers with the knowledge needed to select the perfect home financing solution.

What is a Home Loan?

A home loan, or mortgage, is a financial arrangement in which a lender provides funds to a borrower to help them purchase a home. The borrower then repays the loan over time with interest.

Before buying a house for the first time you should assess your financial standing.

There are various types of home loans, such as fixed-rate mortgages (where the interest rate remains constant) and adjustable-rate mortgages (where the interest rate may change). In this article, we will mostly be reviewing the different types of loans and which one may work best for you. For a more in-depth look at the homebuying process, we recommend exploring this informational article:

Different Types of Home Loans

Choosing the right loan depends on your personal financial situation, preferences, and eligibility criteria. It’s important for prospective homeowners to research and consult with lenders to find the most suitable option.

Conventional Loans

Conventional loans are standard loans not insured or guaranteed by any government agency. They often require a higher credit score and a larger down payment but can offer competitive interest rates. These loans are the most common, and are typically offered by private lenders such as banks, credit unions, or mortgage companies. Conventional loans can also be either conforming or non-conforming.

Conforming conventional loans, as the name implies, conform to the guidelines set by government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) like Fannie Mae (Federal National Mortgage Association) and Freddie Mac (Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation). The loan limits for conforming loans are set by these entities. If a loan falls within these limits, it is considered conforming. If it exceeds the limits, it may be categorized as a non-conforming loan. Conforming loans usually have more favorable terms, such as lower interest rates, because they are considered lower risk by lenders.

Here are some important things to note about conventional loans:

  • Down Payment: Conventional loans often require a down payment, and the amount can vary. The standard down payment is 20%, but it can be lower depending on factors like credit score and the specific loan program.
  • Credit Score: Lenders typically have credit score requirements for conventional loans. A higher credit score usually leads to more favorable loan terms.
  • Loan Terms: Conventional loans can have fixed or adjustable interest rates. Fixed-rate mortgages maintain the same interest rate for the entire loan term, while adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) have rates that may change periodically.
  • Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI): If your down payment is less than 20%, you may be required to pay for private mortgage insurance to protect the lender in case of default.

Non-Conforming Conventional Loans are also known as jumbo loans, which we discuss further down this list.

FHA Loans (Federal Housing Administration)

FHA (Federal Housing Administration) mortgage loans are a type of government-backed mortgage designed to make homeownership more accessible to a broader range of people, particularly those with lower incomes or credit scores. The FHA itself doesn’t lend money but insures loans made by approved lenders, providing a level of protection for the lender against default. They have more lenient credit requirements and a lower down payment.

FHA loans can be beneficial for first-time homebuyers or those with limited financial resources. However, it’s important to understand the costs associated with FHA mortgage insurance and how it impacts the overall affordability of the loan.

VA Loans (Department of Veterans Affairs)

VA mortgage loans are Reserved for eligible veterans, active-duty service members, and surviving spouses. These types of home loans are guaranteed by the VA, which means that the government provides a financial guarantee to lenders, reducing their risk and allowing for more favorable terms for borrowers. View the requirements and details of VA loans here.

Some key features of VA loans include:

  • No down payment
  • No Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)
  • Flexible credit requirements
  • Competitive interest rates
  • Closing cost assistance
  • Streamlined refinancing
  • Assumption

USDA Loans (US Department of Agriculture)

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) mortgage loans are a type of loan designed to encourage economic development in rural communities by offering affordable home financing to eligible borrowers. These loans are specifically for properties located in eligible rural and suburban areas. These areas are determined by the USDA and are often in communities with lower populations.

USDA loans are targeted at borrowers with low to moderate incomes. The specific income limits depend on the location of the property and the size of the household. Additionally, borrowers can finance the entire purchase price of their home since no down payment is required.

Fixed-Rate Mortgages

A fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) is one of various types of home loans where the interest rate remains constant for the entire term of the loan. This means that the monthly principal and interest payments don’t change over the life of the loan. This gives borrowers predictability and stability in their housing costs. Fixed-rate mortgages are in contrast to adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs), where the interest rate may fluctuate over time.

Fixed-rate mortgages are particularly suitable for individuals who plan to stay in their homes for an extended period. The stability of payments allows for better long-term financial planning.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (ARM)

An Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) is a type of home loan where the interest rate can change periodically over the life of the loan. The adjustments are typically tied to changes in a specified financial index, such as the U.S. Treasury Bill rate. The purpose of an ARM is to allow borrowers to take advantage of potential decreases in interest rates while accepting the risk of possible increases.

Here are the key features of this type of loan:

  • The Initial fixed period is often 3, 5, 7, or 10 years during which the interest rate remains constant.
  • Interest rate adjustments are based on changes in a specified financial index. The lender adds a margin to this index to determine the new interest rate. The combination of the index and margin is used to calculate the fully indexed rate.
  • Adjustment periods are the frequency of interest rate adjustments. Common adjustment periods are one year (annual), three years (triennial), or five years (quinquennial).
  • To limit the potential impact of interest rate changes, ARMs often have caps.
  • ARMs often have lower initial interest rates compared to fixed-rate mortgages. This can make them attractive to borrowers who plan to sell or refinance before the adjustable period begins.

Adjustable-rate mortgages are suitable for certain situations, such as when you plan to sell or refinance before the adjustable period begins, or when interest rates are expected to remain stable or decrease. Be sure to weigh the risks and benefits of the loan before choosing an ARM. Be aware of the potential for payment increases and have a clear understanding of the terms outlined in the loan agreement.

Interest-Only Loans

Interest-only mortgage loans are a specific type of home loan in which the borrower is only required to pay the interest on the loan for a designated period, usually the initial years of the loan term. Unlike traditional mortgages, where monthly payments include both principal and interest, interest-only loans allow borrowers to make lower initial payments during the interest-only period.

These mortgage loans are not as common as traditional fixed-rate or adjustable-rate mortgages. They require careful consideration, and borrowers should fully understand the transition from the interest-only period to full amortization. Be prepared for changes in monthly payments when the principal repayment phase begins.

Interest-only loans might be suitable for certain situations, such as when borrowers anticipate an increase in income, plan to sell or refinance before the interest-only period ends, or have irregular income streams.

Jumbo Loans

A jumbo mortgage loan is a type of home loan that exceeds the conforming loan limits set by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). These limits are established annually and represent the maximum amount that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are willing to purchase or guarantee. They are often used for high-value properties. Learn more about jumbo loans here:

Home Equity Loans

A home equity mortgage loan, commonly referred to as a home equity loan or a second mortgage, is a type of loan that allows homeowners to borrow against the equity they have built up in their homes. Home equity is the difference between the current market value of the home and the remaining balance on the mortgage. These loans provide homeowners with a lump sum of money that can be used for various purposes.


  • Many home equity loans have a fixed interest rate.
  • Home equity loans often have fixed repayment terms, commonly 5 to 30 years.
  • In some cases, the interest paid on a home equity loan may be tax-deductible, depending on the purpose of the loan.
  • If you fail to make the required payments, there is a risk of foreclosure since home equity loans are secured by the home.

Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOC)

A Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) is a revolving line of credit that allows homeowners to borrow against the equity in their homes. It operates similarly to a credit card, providing a flexible source of funds. Unlike a home equity loan, which provides a lump sum upfront, a HELOC allows borrowers to access funds over a specified draw period.

HELOCs have two main phases: the draw period and the repayment period. During the draw period, which is usually 5 to 10 years, borrowers can access funds and make interest-only payments. The repayment period follows, during which borrowers must repay the principal and interest.

This line of credit offers flexibility and accessibility to funds, making it suitable for homeowners who have ongoing or variable financial needs. Remember to consider the variable interest rates, potential changes in monthly payments, and the risks associated with using your home as collateral. Understanding the terms and conditions of the HELOC, including the draw and repayment periods, is crucial for responsible financial management.

Combo/Piggyback Loans

This type of loan, also known as a “combo” or “80-10-10” loan, involves taking out two separate loans simultaneously. The purpose of a piggyback mortgage is to avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI) and to allow the borrower to make a smaller down payment while still conforming to the lender’s loan-to-value (LTV) ratio requirements.

The structure of a typical piggyback mortgage involves three components:

  1. First Mortgage (80% of the Home’s Value):
    • The primary component is a conventional mortgage for 80% of the home’s purchase price. This loan is the main mortgage and has a lower interest rate compared to the second mortgage.
  2. Second Mortgage (10% of the Home’s Value):
    • The second mortgage covers 10% of the home’s purchase price. This loan is often a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC). It typically has a higher interest rate than the first mortgage.
  3. Down Payment (10% from the Borrower):
    • The borrower makes a down payment of 10% of the home’s purchase price from their own funds.

Learn more about piggyback loans here:

Assumable Mortgages

An assumable mortgage is a type of home loan that allows a buyer to take over the existing mortgage of the seller, including its terms and interest rate. In other words, the buyer “assumes” responsibility for the seller’s mortgage, continuing the loan with the same terms and conditions established when the seller originally obtained the loan.

Bridge Loans

A bridge loan, or a bridge mortgage, is a short-term loan. It’s designed to provide temporary financing for a real estate transaction until you can secure more permanent financing or the existing property is sold. Bridge loans are often used when a homeowner wants to buy a new home before selling their current one. This loan offers funds needed to cover the down payment and closing costs of the new purchase.

Understanding the nuances of each mortgage type is paramount to securing a loan that aligns with your lifestyle. Remember, the journey to your dream home is as individual as the property itself. Have confidence that you’re equipped with the knowledge you need. Now that you understand the complexities of different types of home loans, you can find the perfect one for you.



Simple Life is not a lender. We are a real estate community developer aiming to educate prospective and experienced homebuyers.

Simple Life only accepts FHA, VA, and Conventional loans (excluding USDA loans) in the purchase of our homes.


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