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Balloon Loan

Category — Loans
By Konstantin Vasilev Member of the Board of Directors of Cbonds, Ph.D. in Economics
Updated April 18, 2023

What is a balloon loan?

A balloon loan is a loan that has a large final payment or "balloon payment" remaining at the end of the loan term. Balloon loans are generally amortized loans, which means that the borrower makes regular payments toward both the principal and the interest on the loan over the loan term. However, the regular payments made towards the loan do not fully pay off the loan by the end of the loan term, leaving a significant lump sum payment remaining.

Balloon loans are used in situations where the borrower expects to have a large sum of money at the end of the loan life, such as the sale of a property or the maturity of an investment. Businesses, in particular, may use balloon loans for equipment purchases or to finance short-term projects.

Balloon loans can have varying term lengths, but they generally last between 5 and 7 years. The balloon payment at the end is usually significantly larger than regular payments made towards the loan throughout the term and may be several times larger. This can make balloon loans a risky proposition, as the borrower must be able to come up with a large final payment at the end of the loan term.

Balloon loans can also have adjustable interest rates, which means the interest rate can change over the course of the loan term. These types of loans are referred to as "adjustable rate balloon loans." The interest rate on a balloon loan may be higher than on a traditional fixed-rate loan, as the lender is assuming more risk by offering a loan with a large final payment.

Balloon Loan

How do balloon payments work?

A balloon payment requires a large lump sum payment typically made at the end of a loan term. It is called a "balloon" payment because it inflates the remaining balance of the loan, making it much larger than the preceding payments.

Balloon payments are commonly used in mortgages, car loans, and other types of loans where the borrower cannot pay off the entire loan balance in typical monthly installments. The borrower makes regular low monthly payments, usually at a fixed interest rate. At the end of this period, a balloon payment is due, and the borrower must pay off the remaining balance in full or refinance the loan.

Balloon payments can often be a good option for borrowers because they allow them to have lower monthly payments compared to traditional loans. However, borrowers need to understand the risks involved. If they are unable to make the balloon payment at the end of the term, they may have to refinance the remaining balance. This can be difficult if they have a poor credit history, interest rates have increased, or their financial circumstances have changed.

There are also specific rules surrounding balloon payments in the United States. For example, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau mandates that balloon loans must also have a qualified mortgage status, which means that the lender has to ensure the borrower has the ability to repay the loan, and the balloon payment must not exceed more than 43% of the borrower’s monthly income.

Types of balloon loans

Balloon loans are typically used to manage short-term financial needs, such as for business, investment, or personal expenses.

There are several types of balloon loans available in the USA, including:

  1. Amortizing balloon loans. These loans require amortization over a certain length of time, usually 30 years, but with the balloon payment due at the end of 5, 7, or 10 years. This type of loan is beneficial for those who are planning to sell the property within a shorter period, even though they might be expecting to pay hefty payments at the end of the term.

  2. Interest-only balloon loans. These loans are structured so that only interest is paid for the duration of the loan, and the principal amount is paid in a "balloon payment" at the end. Interest-only balloon loans are useful for those who have a need for low initial payments now but expect an increase in their income in the future.

  3. Negative amortization balloon loans. These loans are set up where the monthly payments do not cover the interest due, and the principal balance of the loan grows over the loan’s term. At the end of the loan term, a substantial balance remains, which will be paid through a balloon payment.

  4. Partially amortizing balloon loans. These loans are designed to pay off a portion of the loan balance over a specific term, but the final balloon payment is still due. Partially amortizing balloon loans are useful for individuals who want to pay off a portion of the loan quickly but will have larger cash inflows at a future point.

Overall, balloon loans can be a viable option for individuals or businesses that require a shorter-term loan, lower payments, and a more substantial future inflow of cash. It is advisable to research all available offers and consult with an advisor before making a decision.

Pros and cons of balloon loans

Pros of balloon loans

  1. Offer lower interest rates than traditional loans. This makes them an attractive offer for borrowers who want to save money on interest over the life of the loan.

  2. Allow borrowers to secure a larger loan amount. They are only required to make payments on the interest part of the loan during the initial payment period.

  3. Provide more flexibility when it comes to repayment. Since the total amount borrowed is not due until the end of the term, borrowers can choose to pay off the loan early, which can save them money on interest charges.

Cons of balloon loans

  1. The large lump sum payment is due at the end of the loan term. This can be a major burden for many borrowers, who do not have the funds available to make the payment. If they are unable to make a payment, they risk defaulting on the loan, which can have serious consequences.

  2. It can have higher fees than traditional loan options. This is because lenders often require a higher level of documentation and underwriting when offering balloon loans, which can increase origination fees and other charges.

  3. It can be risky for borrowers. It is especially true if you do not have a solid plan for repayment. If the borrower cannot make the lump sum payment at the end of the term, they may be forced to refinance the loan or sell their property in order to avoid defaulting.

How to get a balloon loan

To get a balloon loan in the USA, you will need to follow these steps:

  1. Research potential lenders. Start by researching financial institutions that offer balloon loans. Reach out to banks, credit unions, and online lenders to find out what options are available to you.

  2. Check your credit score. Your credit score will be a factor in determining whether you’re approved for a balloon loan and what interest rates you’ll receive. A higher credit score leads to lower interest rates.

  3. Gather documentation. To apply for a balloon loan, you’ll need to provide proof of income, employment, and other financial information. Have your documents ready before you start the application process.

  4. Apply for the loan. After selecting a lender, you can begin the application process. Be sure to provide accurate information and answer all questions honestly.

  5. Wait for approval. Once you submit your application, the lender will review it and determine whether you’re eligible for a balloon loan. If you are approved, the lender will provide you with the loan terms, including the interest rate and repayment schedule.

  6. Make your payments. After receiving your funds, make the required monthly payments on time. Be sure to account for the balloon payment due at the end of the loan term.

Overall, getting a balloon loan in the USA involves researching potential lenders, checking your credit score, gathering documentation, applying for the loan, waiting for approval, and making payments on time. Make sure to do your research and read the loan agreement to fully understand the terms and conditions.

How to avoid balloon payments

There are ways to avoid balloon payments in the USA:

  1. Make larger monthly payments. One of the effective ways to avoid a balloon payment is to make larger monthly payments. This will help to reduce the principal amount of the loan and lower the total amount of interest accrued.

  2. Refinance the loan. Another option to avoid a balloon payment is to refinance the loan. This involves obtaining a new loan with different terms, including a longer loan term with lower monthly payments, which will help to spread out the principal over a longer period and avoid a large final payment.

  3. Negotiate the loan terms. When taking out a loan, it is essential to negotiate the terms of the loan, including the payment schedule. This means discussing the possibility of avoiding a balloon payment and negotiating alternative arrangements with the lender.

  4. Save for the balloon payment. If it is not possible to avoid a balloon payment, it is vital to start saving for it right from the start of the loan. This can be done by setting up a separate savings account for the payment and making regular contributions to it.

  5. Consider a different loan type. When applying for a loan, it is essential to consider different loan types that do not have balloon payments. For example, a loan with a fixed payment schedule and no balloon payment will help to avoid unexpected financial pressure.


  • What is a balloon loan?

  • Are balloon payments a good idea?

  • Who is a balloon loan best for?

  • What is a balloon on a mortgage?

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