Negative Amortization: Mortgage Dictionary 2023

Negative Amortization

Unraveling the Mystery

If you’re exploring the world of mortgages, you might have come across a term called negative amortization. But what is negative amortization, and how does it impact your mortgage? In this detailed guide, we’ll explain the ins and outs of negative amortization and help you understand its implications for mortgage borrowers.

What is Negative Amortization?

Negative amortization occurs when the monthly payment on a loan is less than the interest accrued during that period. This results in an increase in the outstanding loan balance, as the unpaid interest is added to the principal amount. Negative amortization is most commonly associated with certain types of adjustable-rate mortgages, such as interest-only negative-amortization adjustable-rate subprime mortgages.

A negative amortization loan allows borrowers to make smaller monthly payments in the initial stages of the loan. However, this can lead to a higher outstanding balance over time, as the unpaid interest accumulates.

Negative Amortization Example

Let’s take an example to understand how negative amortization works. Suppose you have a $200,000 mortgage loan with an annual interest rate of 6%. The monthly interest on the loan would be $1,000. If your monthly payment is only $800, the remaining $200 in interest would be added to your loan balance, resulting in a negatively amortized loan.

Mortgage Negative Amortization

Types of Negatively Amortized Loans

There are several types of negatively amortized loans, including:

  1. Interest-Only Loans: These loans allow borrowers to make interest-only payments for a certain period. However, if the interest-only payment doesn’t cover the entire interest accrued during that month, negative amortization will occur.
  2. Payment-Option ARMs: A payment-option adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) allows borrowers to choose between various payment options, including a minimum payment option that might result in negative amortization.
  3. Graduated Payment Mortgages (GPMs): These loans start with lower monthly payments that gradually increase over time. In the initial years, the monthly payment might be less than the accrued interest, causing negative amortization.

The Pros and Cons of Negative Amortization Loans

While negative amortization loans might seem attractive due to their lower initial payments, they come with several risks and potential drawbacks. Here are some pros and cons to consider:


  1. Lower initial payments can provide temporary relief to borrowers with tight budgets.
  2. Borrowers can enjoy increased cash flow during the early stages of the loan.


  1. The outstanding loan balance can increase over time, leading to higher monthly payments and overall borrowing costs.
  2. Borrowers might face difficulty refinancing or selling their property if the loan balance has grown significantly.
  3. Negative amortization loans can be more complicated and harder to understand for borrowers.

Negative Amortization and the Law

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regulates mortgage lending practices in the United States. Under federal law, negative amortization loans are generally prohibited, except for reverse mortgages. In some states, such as California, negative amortization loans are subject to additional restrictions and regulations.

Negative Amortization Calculator

To help borrowers understand the potential impact of negative amortization on their loan, several online tools, such as negative amortization calculators, are available. These calculators allow you to input your loan amount, interest rate, and payment details to estimate how your loan balance might change over time due to negative amortization.

Negative Amortization and Student Loans

While negative amortization is typically associated with mortgage loans, it can also occur in the context of student loans. Income-driven repayment plans, for instance, can result in negative amortization if the monthly payments are less than the interest accrued. In such cases, it’s essential for borrowers to understand the long-term implications of their repayment plan and make adjustments if necessary.

How to Avoid Negative Amortization

To avoid the pitfalls of negative amortization, consider the following tips:

  1. Opt for a fixed-rate mortgage or an adjustable-rate mortgage with a fully amortizing payment schedule.
  2. Ensure that your monthly mortgage payment covers both the principal and interest on the loan.
  3. Regularly review your mortgage statements and amortization schedule to monitor the progress of your loan repayment.
  4. If you have a negatively amortizing loan, consider refinancing to a more conventional mortgage when your financial situation improves.
Home Negative Amortization

Subprime Mortgage Crisis and Negative Amortization

During the subprime mortgage crisis in the mid-2000s, negative amortization loans played a significant role in the housing market collapse. A Federal Reserve study found that in 2006, nearly 40% of purchase mortgage originations were adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs), many of which featured negative amortization options. The study also found that 20% of adjustable-rate subprime mortgages had negative amortization features.

Negative Amortization and Delinquency Rates

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported that during the peak of the subprime mortgage crisis, the delinquency rate on subprime mortgages reached 25%. Given the prevalence of negative amortization features in subprime mortgages, it’s reasonable to assume that these loans contributed significantly to the high delinquency rates.

Current Mortgage Landscape

In recent years, the mortgage landscape has shifted considerably, with negative amortization loans becoming far less common. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), in 2021, the share of adjustable-rate mortgage applications was just 2.4%, a significant decrease from the 40% seen in 2006. The decline in ARMs, which often featured negative amortization options, suggests that negative amortization mortgages have become less prevalent in today’s market.

For more information on mortgage statistics and the broader housing market, visit the following government and nonprofit websites:

  1. U.S. Census Bureau – Provides monthly data on new residential construction, including housing starts, building permits, and housing completions.
  2. Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) House Price Index (HPI) – Offers quarterly house price data for the United States and individual states.
  3. National Association of Realtors (NAR) – Publishes monthly reports on existing home sales, median home prices, and housing inventory.

Keep in mind that while these resources provide valuable insights into the mortgage and housing markets, they may not have specific data on negative amortization loans due to their rarity and restrictions in the current market.

Further Learning and Resources

For more mortgage terms and learning resources, visit our Mortgage Terms page. This comprehensive guide covers a wide range of mortgage-related topics, helping you navigate the complex world of home financing.

What Is Negative Amortization

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Taking the Next Step

Now that you have a better understanding of negative amortization and its implications, it’s essential to carefully weigh your options before choosing a mortgage loan. If you’re ready to apply for a loan, Mortgage Rater can help you find the best mortgage solution for your needs. Apply for a loan with Mortgage Rater today and take the first step towards securing your dream home.

Donavon Warren

Donavon Warren

Donavon Warren is a seasoned finance professional with over 20 years of experience. Before embarking into the mortgage industry Donavon attended UCLA. He is the owner of Mortgage Rater, a leading mortgage finance company that offers a range of informational services to clients across the United States. As a finance and mortgage author, Donavon brings his wealth of knowledge and experience to the platform, writing about various topics related to personal finance, investments, home loans, FHA loans, VA loans, 30 Year Fixed rates, no-interest loans, mortgages and more. With his insights and expertise, he aims to educate and empower readers to make informed financial decisions that can help them achieve their financial and mortgage goals. NMLS#2470202
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