Should You Consider an Adjustable Rate Mortgage For Your Home Purchase?

Should You Consider an Adjustable Rate Mortgage For Your Home Purchase?With mortgage rates finally looking like they may move upward a bit as the overall market improves the adjustable rate mortgage starts to come into play again. Better known as the ARM home loan, the adjustable rate mortgage can be a flexible, powerful tool, depending on how it is used.

ARMs Can Help Save On Total Interest Expense

When rates were higher years ago, the ARM was an alternative way to obtain financing for a home without paying as much in interest with every payment. This was ideal for folks who felt that a few years forward the regular market rates would drop or they didn’t plan to stay in the same home for a number of years.

By trading away the mundane predictability of a 30-year fixed loan, the borrower was rewarded with a lower cost loan via an ARM. However, after a short period, anywhere from six month to ten years, the ARM would reset and the rate charged would change to a specific market index.

ARMs became all the rage in the early and mid-2000s as people bought homes to then sell them quickly with rising property values. It was low cost interest paid for large sums of financing, which was then paid back and profits were made just holding a home two years or so and well within the typical ARM period. However, when the real estate market went south a number of years back, many had to hold onto homes longer and rates reset to a higher, floating rate index.

The Advantages of Adjustable Rate Mortgages

Today, the advantage of the ARM again presents itself as rates begin to rise, offering again lower interest rates for home financing for a typical one to ten years. But these tools still include the rate reset after the intro period to consider, and with mortgage rates on an upward trajectory for the next few years it’s worth noting that the loan may cost more when the switch happens.

Thus a borrower should remember to look at the ARM as a shorter-term borrowing tool. A few options that can off-set the potential added interest rate costs in the future are:

 

  • sell the home prior to the reset date while verifying that there is no pre-payment penalty period
  • sell the home for a substantial amount more than it was bought for based on price appreciation or property improvement
  • refinance to a fixed-rate loan at a later date to avoid potentially higher index-based floating rates

 

The same caveat from a decade ago applies to today’s ARMs: they can be extremely valuable for up-front borrowing savings, but borrowers need to always remain aware of the included reset date and what it means for further financial obligations down the line.

As always, talk with your trusted mortgage loan professional to examine the best course of action for your personal situation.

With LIBOR Low, Don’t Rush To Refinance Your ARM

Pending ARM Adjustment

Is your mortgage scheduled to adjust this season? You may want to let it. This year’s ARM-holding homeowners are finding out that an adjusting mortgage may be the simplest way to get access to today’s low mortgage rates — without paying the closing costs.

Currently, conventional adjustable-rate mortgages are adjusting to near 3.00 percent.

If your home is financed via an adjustable-rate mortgage, you’re likely cognizant of your loan’s life-cycle. At first, your ARM’s initial mortgage rate is agreed upon between you and your lender, a rate that both parties agree will remain in place from anywhere from one to 10 years, with periods of five and seven years being most common.

Then, after the initial “teaser rate” expires, the mortgage’s mortgage rate adjusts according to a pre-determined formula — one that’s also agreed upon at closing. The loan is then subject to an identical mortgage rate adjustment every 12 months thereafter until the loan is paid in full.

The most common conforming mortgage adjustment formula is to add 2.25 percent to the then-current 12-month LIBOR rate.

Today’s 12-month LIBOR is 1.05% so, as a real-life example, an adjustable-rate mortgage that’s leaving its teaser rate period this week would adjust to 3.30%.

If you’re a homeowner who took a 7-year ARM in 2005, or a 5-year ARM in 2007, your newly-adjusted mortgage rate should be roughly 2 percent lower than your initial teaser rate. On a $250,000 mortgage, a 2 percent mortgage rate reduction yields $298 in monthly savings.

Therefore, if you have an adjustable-rate mortgage that’s due to reset, don’t rush to refinance it. For at least one more year, you can benefit from low mortgage rates and low payments.

As for next year’s adjustment, however, that’s anyone’s guess.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgages Are A Relative Bargain Today

Comparing 30-year fixed to 5-year ARMFor buyers and refinancing households , adjustable-rate mortgages are a relative bargain as compared to fixed-ones.

According to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of more than 125 banks nationwide, mortgage applicants electing for a conventional ARM over a conventional fixed-rate mortgage will save 105 basis points on their next mortgage rate.

“Conventional” loans are loans backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Today’s average, conventional 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate is 3.91% plus points and closing costs. The average rate for a comparable 5-year ARM is 2.86%, plus points and closing costs.

In other words, for every $100,000 borrowed, a conventional 5-year adjustable-rate mortgage will save you $58.15 per month, or $698 per year.

That’s a 12 percent savings just for choosing an ARM.

12 percent is a big figure that adds up over 5 years — especially for households that plan to sell within those first 60 months anyway. There is little sense in paying the mortgage rate premium for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage when a 5-year ARM is perfectly suitable.

For the reason why adjustable-rate mortgages continue are so much lower than their fixed-rate counterparts, look no further than the U.S. economy. ARMs reflect Wall Street’s short-term economic expectations; whereas fixed-rate mortgages reflect medium- to long-term expectations.

In the short-term, analysts expect the U.S. economy to grow slowly, with low levels of inflation. This supports the U.S. dollar, the currency in which mortgage bonds are denominated. When the dollar is strong, demand for mortgage bonds tends to increase.

This supports lower interest rates.

Conversely, over the longer-term, inflation is expected to return, which devalues the dollar and everything paid in it (e.g.; mortgage-backed bonds). This is why inflation is linked to higher mortgage rates. When inflation is present in the economy, mortgage bonds lose value, driving mortgage rates up.

Adjustable-rate mortgages aren’t perfect for everyone, but in the right situation, they can be a big money-saver and a helpful tool for stretching a household budget. Given today’s rates, the money-saving potential is larger than usual.

Before you choose an ARM, discuss your options with your loan officer.