If you have an interest-only mortgage and you've been making the payments for a few years, you need to take another look at your loan, grab a mortgage calculator, and start working on your future. Your payment may be about to go up. A lot.

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Interest-only mortgages were popular because they allowed borrowers to get the same house but make a smaller payment. But after five years, most loans re-cast, or reamortize the balance, and the resulting new payment could be ugly.

For example, if you have a $400,000 mortgage at 6% (the going rate for those things a few years ago), your interest only payment is $2,000 a month. But after 5 years, you have the entire $400,000 balance and only 25 years left to repay it. Throw those figures into a mortgage calculator: $400,000 balance, 6% rate, and 25 year repayment period, and you get a payment of $2,577 a month! Yikes. If this is going to be a problem, now is the time to look into refinancing your mortgage. If you have bad credit, refinancing may be a real challenge. If you don't qualify for a refinance (many bad credit mortgages aren't owned by Fannnie Mae or Freddie Mac and so don't qualify for government refinancing), you need to look into a mortgage modification.

What should you do? First, take your new payment, including principal, interest, property taxes, and homeowners insurance, and divide it by your monthly income. In this example, you have a payment of $2,577, add taxes and insurance (we'll say they are $273 a month) for a total of $2,850. If you5 income is $7,000 a month, divide $2,850 by $7,000. You get 40.1%. That means you could qualify for a mortgage modification.

Now, take your income of 7,000 and multiply it by .31, or 31%. This is what your total housing payment should be. You get $2,170. Subtract your taxes and insurance of $273 and you get a principal and interest payment of $1,897. This is what you should be paying to have a mortgage that would be considered affordable.

Now, start playing around with the mortgage calculator (this is actually kind of fun). Under Making Home Affordable, lenders first reduce your interest rate to as low as 2%, and then if that doesn't get your payment low enough, they will stretch out your loan to a 40-year term. In this case, you can get your payment down to $1,880.95 if your rate is 3.875%.

Now that you know what you're dealing with, contact your lender--you don;t have to have a mortgage credit problem or missed payments to get a modification. You do have to document that repaying your mortgage as agreed will cause you hardship. And an increasing payment qualifies as a reasonable cause of hardship. You may be offered a trial modification while you get your documentation together and your lender determines if you qualify for a permanent modification. Don't miss any deadlines, and make the new payment on time if you have to beg in the street to do it!

There is no reason that you have to wait until you have serious credit problems before asking for a mortgage modification.