How to know if the popular adjustable rate mortgage is right for you

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Adjustable rate mortgages are making a comeback.

With interest rates soaring, more and more buyers are turning to ARMs, which offer lower initial rates than fixed-rate loans. However, after a certain period, the ARM rate adjusts to reflect current market conditions.

“You have double the number of borrowers applying for ARMs in the past four months because of how quickly rates have risen,” said Joel Kan, associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting at Mortgage. Bankers Association.

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The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage is 5.41%, according to Mortgage News Daily. Meanwhile, the rate for a 5/1 ARM is 4.38%. The “5” means that the rate is fixed for five years and the “1” means that it would then be readjusted once a year for the remaining term of the loan.

“Obviously people are looking for other options when it comes to financing their homes because they’re competing with other borrowers and they’re probably looking to get the home they want, given the scarcity of housing inventory,” Kan said.

How MRAs Work

There are different terms available for the fixed part of the loan: usually three, five, seven and 10 years. The readjustment period could be one year or six months, which would look like 7/1 or 7/6, respectively, for a seven-year ARM.

There are also caps on the interest rate, meaning there is a maximum amount the rate can go up or down each time, as well as a maximum lifetime cap. For example, if you have a 5% lifetime cap on your 5/1 ARM, your 4.38% rate could eventually end up at 9.38%.

Make sure you know how much the interest on your loan can increase and what this means for your monthly payment and its impact on your budget.

Danielle Hale

Chief Economist at

This is why it is so important to understand the specific terms of the loans you are considering.

“Using an adjustable rate mortgage might make sense in some situations, but it’s a more sophisticated mortgage product,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist at

“Buyers considering it will want to make sure they understand the pros, cons and risks.”

Weigh your options

ARMs aren’t as popular as they were during the subprime mortgage crisis of the mid-2000s, when credit standards were lax and many borrowers found themselves in trouble. Credit standards are much higher these days and underwriting is extremely tight, Kan said.

“We’re not looking at the same kind of risks as we were back then,” he said.

That said, if you take out an adjustable-rate mortgage, you may end up with a significantly higher interest rate than a fixed-rate loan.

Therefore, if you’re considering an ARM, think about how long you plan to stay in the house.

“That might make sense for people looking at a short timeline,” said certified financial planner Diahann Lassus, managing director of Peapack Private Wealth Management in New Providence, New Jersey.

“They want to buy a house but will probably move in three to five years,” she added. “If they can lock themselves into a five-year ARM, it could help them cut costs and sell in five years before the interest rate is recalculated.”

It can also do work for someone who will repay the loan in a relatively short time, such as those who are waiting to sell their old home and then use the proceeds for the new home, said CNBC Financial Advisor Lassus. Advice.

However, remember that plans may change or you may not be able to sell your home when you want. If you stick with the loan beyond its original fixed rate and the rate goes up, you’ll end up with an increased monthly payment.

“Make sure you know how much the interest on your loan can go up and what that means for your monthly payment and how it impacts your budget,” Hale of said.

Of course, ARM rates can also drop if mortgage rates drop.

Withaya Prasongsin | time | Getty Images

“Typically, when mortgage rate cuts are expected, variable rate mortgages are offered at less of a discount, and very rarely even a premium, compared to fixed rate mortgages,” she explained.

Lassus advises anyone planning to stay longer than the fixed rate term on an ARM to stick with traditional fixed rate loans.

Of course, home prices are also high, making affordability a factor for many. For those who can wait, be patient and wait for the right opportunity, she advises.

Also, keep in mind that fixed mortgage rates around 5% are still reasonable, historically speaking, Lassus pointed out.

“We lived through this really, really cheap mortgage period and it changed our perspective,” she said.

“It’s going to take some time to get used to higher mortgage rates and what that means.”

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