Balloon Loan – What it is and How it Works

A balloon loan presents an intriguing financial structure that is characterized by its distinguishing repayment schedule. Unlike traditional loans, which typically spread the repayment evenly over the term, a balloon loan is structured to offer borrowers lower initial payments. This period of smaller payments is then capped off by a significantly larger sum due at the end of the loan’s term, resembling the sudden expansion of a balloon, hence the name.

This type of loan arrangement is particularly prevalent in specific financing scenarios, such as commercial property transactions, certain auto loans, and occasionally in personal mortgage agreements. The appeal of a balloon loan lies in the initial ease of lower payments, making substantial investments appear more manageable in the short run.

Balloon Loan - What it is and How it Works

However, the looming large payment requires careful planning and consideration. Borrowers must strategize on how to tackle this balloon payment, whether through refinancing options, selling the financed asset, or having a savings plan in place. The risk of inability to cover the balloon payment poses a significant risk of default, making it crucial for borrowers to evaluate their long-term financial stability when considering such a loan.

What is a Balloon Loan?

A balloon loan is a type of loan that typically features relatively low monthly payments for a certain period, followed by a large lump-sum payment for the remaining balance at the end of the term. This final payment is significantly larger than the earlier, smaller payments, hence the term “balloon,” as it swells to a much larger amount at the end.

Balloon loans are common in certain types of financing, such as commercial real estate or business loans, and sometimes in consumer finance for the purchase of automobiles or in private mortgage agreements. The main attraction of a balloon loan for borrowers is the initially lower periodic payments, which can make expensive purchases seem more affordable in the short term. However, the large final payment can pose a significant financial challenge.

How Does it Work?

A balloon mortgage features initial payments that are lower but do not cover the entire cost of the loan. As a result, when you reach the end of your fixed payment term, you are faced with a substantial remaining balance that must be settled in one lump sum. This type of payment arrangement is known as “non-standard amortization.”

In the meantime, amortization refers to the process by which lenders determine your monthly payment amount if you intend to pay off a loan in full through a series of equal payments. To fully amortize a loan over, say, 30 years means calculating the monthly payments required to zero out the loan by the 30-year mark.

Balloon mortgages typically have a shorter duration than standard mortgages, often five to ten years. Borrowers might aim to refinance the loan or sell the property to sidestep the hefty final payment when the term concludes. Alternatively, if the funds are available, you can choose to settle a balloon mortgage either early or at the time the balloon payment is due.

Pros and cons

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of applying for a balloon loan:


  • Less stressful.
  • Affordable.
  • Fast processing time.
  • Flexibility.
  • No waiting periods


  • Loan costs.
  • Upcoming debt in the future.
  • Significant financial burden.
  • Slow home equity-building period.
  • Risk of default.
  • Stringent requirements.

Who Can Take Out a Balloon Loan?

Taking out a balloon loan is best for borrowers who meet any of these criteria. Hence, you can consider a balloon loan if:

  • You are looking forward to a lump sum.
  • Planning to sell soon.
  • Have a final payment.
  • Interested in short-term financing?
  • You are expecting an income increase.

As for the question of who can take out this loan, they include:

  • Real estate investors.
  • Car buyers.
  • Business owners.

What Are Balloon Loans Used For?

Here are the common uses of a balloon loan:

  • Commercial Real Estate: Investors may opt for balloon loans to secure lower initial payments, planning to refinance or sell the property by the loan’s end.
  • Business Financing: Businesses might use balloon loans for purchasing equipment or funding operations, betting on future revenue to cover the balloon payment.
  • Automobile Purchases: Some auto loans come with a balloon payment structure, aiming to offer lower monthly costs.
  • Home Financing: Homebuyers might choose a balloon mortgage if they plan to sell or refinance before the balloon payment is due, often in markets with rising property values.

How to Pay Off a Balloon Mortgage

Some borrowers manage to accumulate the necessary funds for the balloon payment through savings or anticipated financial gains, such as bonuses or inheritances, during the term’s fixed-payment phase. Yet, for many, covering the balloon payment in one go is unfeasible. Below are alternative methods for settling a balloon mortgage.


Escaping a balloon payment might be achievable through refinancing the loan into a new mortgage before the due date. It’s important to note, though, that refinancing usually requires a certain level of home equity, which might be challenging to attain if the initial lower payments didn’t significantly reduce the loan’s principal.

Sell the Property

If making the balloon payment by the deadline is not possible, selling the home is another strategy to prevent loan default and potential foreclosure.

Increase Initial Payments

If the loan agreement permits, paying above the required minimum during the initial phase can lessen the principal amount owed at the term’s end, assuming there are no penalties for early payment.

Seek an Extension

For homeowners who find themselves unable to meet the balloon payment deadline, requesting an extension from the lender could be a viable route. Be prepared, however, for possible hefty fees, and understand that any extension granted may only offer temporary relief.

Alternatives to balloon loans

If you are not able to apply for or get a balloon loan, there is nothing to worry about because there are alternatives that I would like to recommend to you. Why worry when you might just be able to qualify for these alternatives?

  • Adjustable-rate mortgages.
  • Traditional loans.
  • Longer-term mortgage.
  • FHA graduated payment mortgage.
  • Construction-to-permanent loans.
  • Leasing.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if you can’t pay the balloon payment?

Failing to pay can lead to default, foreclosure, or repossession of the financed asset. Refinancing or selling the asset are common strategies to avoid this.

Can you refinance a balloon loan?

Yes, many borrowers plan to refinance a balloon loan before the balloon payment is due. However, refinancing depends on creditworthiness, market conditions, and the asset’s value at the time.

When is your balloon payment due?

The due date for the balloon payment is set at the end of the loan term, often 5 to 7 years after the loan’s commencement. Borrowers should be acutely aware of this timeline to prepare adequately.