Interest-only vs repayment mortgages Interest-only mortgages explained

A house and a percentage sign on a see-saw

Mortgage repayments on an interest-only mortgage can be lower, but you'll need to save elsewhere too

If you're looking for a mortgage, there are two main options: a repayment mortgage or an interest-only mortgage. We explain below how the interest-only option works, and the next page of this guide explains all you need to know about repayment mortgages.

Interest-only mortgages

With interest-only schemes you only pay back the mortgage interest during its term. Your payments to your lender only go towards repaying the interest charged - you don't actually repay any of the money you originally borrowed (the capital).

This means you should also make other arrangements for paying back the capital. For example, you could pay a separate monthly amount into an investment such as a stocks and shares Isa.

The potential downside of interest-only mortgages

While the monthly repayments you make on an interest-only mortgage are likely to be lower than with a repayment mortgage, there are disadvantages:

  • Many mortgage providers won't lend on an interest-only basis. If house prices drop, as they have in recent years, there's a risk that borrowers will be trapped in negative equity, which poses a risk for lenders. As a result many won't lend at all.
  • If lenders will give you a mortgage on an interest-only basis you may need a much bigger deposit than you would with a repayment mortgage.
  • If you don't build up a separate fund to repay the mortgage, you may struggle to switch mortgages if your interest rate goes up.
  • You will pay more interest overall on an interest-only mortgage as you are paying interest on the whole loan for the whole term.
  • There is no guarantee that your separate investment (for example, your stocks and shares Isa) will grow fast enough to pay off the mortgage in full at the end of the term.

Life insurance to cover your mortgage repayments

If you have a family or other dependents and want to make sure your mortgage is paid off if you die, it's worth considering a life insurance policy.

Under an interest-only mortgage, the outstanding capital on your mortgage stays the same throughout the mortgage term. It's therefore often worth taking out a life insurance policy under which the sum insured stays the same too. So if you're expecting to pay off your mortgage over 25 years, you could take out a 25-year life insurance policy. A policy that keeps the same cover for a fixed period is called a 'level-term policy'.

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