What is an Alt-A Mortgage?
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What is an Alt-A Mortgage?

Harry Jensen, Trusted Mortgage Expert with 45+ Years of Experience
By , Trusted Mortgage Expert with 45+ Years of Experience
Edited by Michael Jensen

An alt-a mortgage is a term used in the lending industry to describe a category of mortgages that fall in between prime mortgages (the highest quality mortgages) and sub-prime mortgages (the lowest quality mortgages).  It is difficult to define exactly what an alt-a mortgage is, but in short, most alt-a mortgages fail to meet the Qualified Mortgage guidelines outlined by the government.  The Qualified Mortgage guidelines focus on the borrower’s ability to repay the mortgage, the type of loan and lender fees.  In short, a lender must demonstrate that the borrower can afford the monthly payment and pay back the loan in full over time.  Additionally, interest only mortgages are not permitted according the Qualified Mortgage rules, so this is an example of an alt-a loan.

If a loan is classified as an alt-a mortgage this does not mean that the borrower cannot afford it, but it means that the lender applied more flexible guidelines to approve the borrower. For example, the lender may have permitted a lower credit score or higher debt-to-income ratio than usual. Or the lender may have approved the mortgage with less borrower documentation. These are just several of the many examples of loans and borrower situations that fall into the alt-a mortgage category.

From the borrower’s perspective, the interest rate for an alt-a mortgage is typically 2.75% - 4.75% higher than the rate for a regular mortgage and the closing costs are usually higher. In many cases a borrower will obtain an alt-a mortgage as a short-to-medium term financing option and then refinance into a standard mortgage with a lower mortgage rate and fees.  As you can see by the list below, there are a range of circumstances that result in borrowers obtaining alt-a mortgages.  Some of the loan and borrower characteristics that fall into the alt-a mortgage category include:

Use the FREEandCLEAR Lender Directory to search for twenty-five loan programs by lender type.  For example, you can search for private money lenders that offer multiple alternative mortgage programs. 


The important point for borrowers to understand about alt-a mortgages are that they may be a viable option when you cannot qualify for a mortgage using a traditional loan program. Additionally, because the mortgage rate and fees for alt-a mortgages are higher, we recommend that you shop several lenders to find the best loan terms.

Current Mortgage Rates in Ashburn, Virginia as of July 15, 2024
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Rate data provided by RateUpdate.com. Displayed by ICB, a division of Mortgage Research Center, NMLS #1907, Equal Housing Opportunity. Payments do not include taxes, insurance premiums or private mortgage insurance if applicable. Actual payments will be greater with taxes and insurance included. Read through our lender table disclaimer for more information on rates and product details.

Related FREEandCLEAR Resources


"FHFA Limiting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Loan Purchases to Qualified Mortgages."  News Release.  Federal Housing Finance Agency, May 6 2013.  Web.

About the author
Harry Jensen, Mortgage Expert

Harry is the co-founder of FREEandCLEAR. He is a mortgage expert with over 45 years of industry experience. Over his career, Harry has closed thousands of loans for satisfied borrowers and now offers his advice and insights on FREEandCLEAR.  Harry is a licensed mortgage professional (NMLS #236752). More about Harry

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