If you're like many of us, owning a home is a long-term dream — and it's your biggest financial investment so you want to make wise decisions. When it comes to choosing a 15-year mortgage vs. a 30-year mortgage, it's tricky to figure out which is right for you.

I connected with KeyBank Mortgage Loan Officer John Whiting to talk this over. You can listen to our whole conversation here:

As the names suggest, the main distinction between a 15-year and 30-year mortgage is the length of the repayment terms. That may seem minor, but the difference in term range can have major cost implications. Is a 15- or 30-year mortgage better?

Although the monthly payments on 30-year mortgages are lower than they are for 15-year loans, the interest is higher, and it takes twice as long to pay off. So while you pay higher monthly payments for a 15-year mortgage, you’re paying off more principal sooner. That means going with a 15-year mortgage can save you thousands over the life of the loan.

When should you consider a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage?

A 15-year fixed-rate mortgage can be attractive because it has a lower interest rate and a shorter lifespan. The fixed rate allows you to set a budget without surprises from rising interest rates. But to take advantage of these perks, you have to be able to afford the higher monthly payment that comes with them. Plus, because the payments are higher, it’s more difficult to qualify for this type of loan.

In short, if you can qualify and afford the higher monthly outlay, the 15-year fixed mortgage can be a great way to save money over the life of your loan when you buy a home.

When should you consider a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage?

The monthly payments on a 30-year mortgage are lower and easier to manage. This makes a 30-year mortgage easier to qualify for compared to a 15-year mortgage. The 30-year can be a good option if you plan to stay in the home for several years and can’t afford a 15-year mortgage. Remember, if your financial situation improves, you may be able to start with a 30-year mortgage and refinance to a shorter term down the road.

Bottom line, what differences and considerations should you keep in mind when choosing between a 15-year mortgage and a 30-year mortgage?

You’ll need to weigh the differences to see whether you benefit more from a shorter repayment term and higher payments, or a longer repayment term with lower payments. Also, consider whether your financial and living situations may change. For instance, how long you might live in the home.

That makes a lot of sense. If you are considering purchasing a home or refinancing your mortgage, talk with a KeyBank mortgage loan officer today about which type of mortgage might be best for you. Learn more at key.com/personal/home-loans-lines/mortgage or by calling 1-800-KEY2YOU® (539-2968).

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