Securing the most advantageous financing for your situation is an integral part of the success formula of buying a home. After getting pre-approved but once you’ve found the home you’d like to pursue, one of your primary tasks is exploring different loan products to see which best fits your situation. This is the fork in the road where you’ll need to decide between a fixed-rate mortgage and an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). The following information will help you gain a better understanding of ARMs to help you decide whether they’re right for you.
What Is an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM)?
After your down payment, your mortgage will finance the remainder of your home purchase. Whereas fixed-rate mortgages allow you to lock in a specific interest rate and payment for the life of your loan, adjustable-rate mortgages’ interest rates will fluctuate over time, thus changing your loan payment. It’s typical for ARMs to begin with a low introductory interest rate, but once that first stage of the loan has passed, they will begin to shift up and down. ARMs generally have a cap that specifies the maximum rate that can occur for that loan.
Let’s say you secure an adjustable-rate mortgage with 30-year terms, the first five of which are at a fixed rate. When the variable interest portion of the loan kicks in, your mortgage’s fluctuations will be measured against an index. If the index is higher than when you secured the loan, your rate and loan payment will go up—and vice versa. How often your ARM rates change depends on your agreement with your lender. Talk to your mortgage broker to learn more about the characteristics of adjustable-rate mortgages.
Pros and Cons of an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM)
Different Types of Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (ARMs)
Hybrid ARM: As outlined above, a hybrid ARM begins with a fixed-rate introductory period followed by an adjustable-rate period. Typically, a hybrid ARM’s fixed-rate period lasts anywhere between three to 10 years, and its rates adjust at an agreed-upon frequency during the adjustable-rate period, such as once every six months or once a year.
Interest-Only ARM: With an interest-only ARM, you pay just the interest on the loan for a specified introductory period, then the principal payments kick in on top. The longer the introductory period, the higher your payments will be when the delayed principal payments enter the equation.
Payment-Option ARM: Not all states allow these loan products because they can get home buyers into hot water quickly if rates increase. They include flexibility to choose your monthly payments with a payment-option ARM, including interest-only payments and minimum payments that don’t cover interest.
Home Monthly Payment Calculator
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Adapted from an article that originally appeared on the Windermere blog September 28, 2022. Written by: Sandy Dodge.
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