What is an Assumable Mortgage?
An assumable mortgage is a mortgage that can be transferred from the current owner of the property to the buyer, with the terms that were agreed upon originally. In other words, the buyer is able to “assume” the owner’s mortgage, eliminating the need for raising funds through new debt.
- Assumable mortgages are mortgage loans that can be transferred from one party to another when the mortgaged property is sold, after approval from the seller and the lender, who conduct background checks on the new buyer.
- Typically, the terms of the mortgage remain unchanged despite mortgage assumption transfers, which allows both sellers and buyers to reap the benefits of dynamic market interest rates.
- Assumable mortgages, however, carry some amount of risk for sellers as they may be held accountable in case of default by the new homeowners.
How Does an Assumable Mortgage Work?
Individuals who are interested in purchasing homes typically use mortgage loans to pay a majority of the price of their homes. The newly bought home then acts as collateral on the money obtained from the mortgage.
Assumable mortgages are types of mortgages that can be transferred to another party at the originally agreed-upon terms, which include the:
1. Principal amount: The total amount of money obtained through the loan.
2. Interest rate: The percentage that is added on to each mortgage payment as a payment to the lender.
3. Property taxes: The amount of tax that the individual must pay as a homeowner.
4. Insurance: The insurance issued by the homeowner to cover damage to the property. Lenders often require homeowners to secure property theft and damage insurance for additional security along with the collateral.
For a mortgage to be assumed, the mortgage contract must include a clause that permits assumption. The lender, as well as the seller, must approve the assumption and conduct any necessary background checks on the new buyer (i.e., the person assuming the mortgage). The approval of the lender is important to reduce the risk for the seller – without approval, the seller remains responsible for the repayment of the loan.
Types of Assumable Mortgages in the United States
The following types of loans are assumable in the United States:
- Loans administered by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
- Loans issued by the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA)
- Loans guaranteed by the Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Advantages and Disadvantages of Assumable Mortgages
Assumable mortgages come with several advantages and disadvantages for both buyers and sellers, depending on certain economic conditions, such as:
If interest rates increase over time:
- In fixed-interest rate mortgage contracts, the value of the mortgage increases because the borrower gets to pay a lower-than-market interest rate on the mortgage. It allows the seller to charge a higher price on the property, while potentially benefiting both parties.
- By assuming the previous homeowner’s debt, the new homeowner (i.e., the new mortgage borrower) avoids paying the full amount that is owed for the house. For example, if the selling price of the house is $100,000, and the assumed mortgage is worth $70,000, the buyer only needs to pay $30,000 to the seller.
- It also reduces the need for large new loans at higher interest rates. However, if interest rates decrease, it may be in the buyer’s interest to take a new loan instead of assuming a mortgage that includes an agreement for a higher-than-market interest rate.
If interest rates decrease over time:
- In fixed-interest rate mortgage contracts, the value of the mortgage decreases because the borrower must now pay a higher-than-market interest rate on the mortgage. It gives more negotiating power to the buyer, potentially reducing the selling price of the house.
- Similarly, any buyer who assumes a mortgage at an older, higher interest rate is at a disadvantage since they can obtain a new loan at a cheaper cost of borrowing (i.e., a lower interest rate).
- If the new homeowner/borrower defaults on their mortgage payments, the lender may still take action against the seller, which puts them at risk since they may be held accountable for the default. Therefore, the terms of the contract must be made clear before any mortgage assumption agreements are signed.
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