What Is an ARM Loan?
An adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) is a home loan with a variable interest rate that fluctuates based on market conditions.
The rate on an ARM loan, which typically lasts for 30 years, changes at predetermined times over the life of the loan, with limits in place to cap increases and decreases. Each ARM loan has two numbers associated with it, indicated as 7/1 ARM, for example. These indicate what the rate adjustment schedule is. The first number indicates the initial fixed-rate period, while the second number indicates how often the variable rate will update. So a 7/1 ARM loan will have the same interest rate for seven years. After that, the rate may readjust once a year through the end of the loan.
ARM loans are riskier. But if you have solid credit, secure a great rate through your lender, and can afford to pay off your mortgage before the rate changes, it might be a better option for you over a conventional mortgage.
ARM Loan vs. Fixed-Rate Loan
An ARM loan has an interest rate that changes based on the market, while a fixed-rate loan’s interest rate stays the same through the lifetime of the loan.
ARM loans are considered riskier because rates could go up dramatically — a feature that contributed to the foreclosures of the 2008 housing crisis. However, they’re attractive to borrowers when the average mortgage rate is high and they’re able to secure favorable rates through an ARM.
There are a few situations where an ARM loan could make sense over a conventional, fixed-rate mortgage. For example, an ARM loan might be more beneficial if you’re not planning on staying in your home for more than five to 10 years or you can afford to pay off your mortgage before the rate changes. Additionally, those looking to get a jumbo loan may benefit from an ARM loan because the difference between fixed and adjustable rate tends to be larger.
What Experts Say About Adjustable-Rate Mortgages
A 30-year fixed rate mortgage is pretty straightforward – your interest rate, and your monthly payment, will stay the same for three decades – but an ARM is more complicated. It also involves a bit more of a gamble on your part as the borrower. It’s for that risk that you can usually get a much better interest rate, to the tune of about a percentage point lower than for a fixed-rate loan. The bet is on one of two things: Either you’ll move (or refinance) before the initial term with a lower fixed rate is over, or you expect rates will drop by the end of that period.
Adjustable-rate loans were less common in the past two years as interest rates were at historic lows, and taking that bet didn’t make any sense. Now that rates have risen to levels not seen in more than a decade, it might make sense for some, particularly first-time homebuyers who don’t think they’ll be in the home more than a few years. Ace Watanasuparp, national director of strategic sales at Citizens Bank, suggests buyers considering ARMs get one with an initial fixed-rate period longer than they expect to be in the home. “Give yourself a little room,” he told us.
Be careful if you’re expecting interest rates to come down significantly, says Skylar Olsen, principal economist at Tomo, a digital real estate and mortgage company. “It’s reasonable for someone to make but I don’t know that you would bet on it. It could be painful if rates jump back up to 6% or keep going higher,” she says.
ARMs also raise some borrowers’ concerns because they were one of the drivers of the subprime mortgage crisis. There are some key differences between then and now, Olsen says, namely that lending standards are much higher now and the vast majority of loans today are 30-year fixed rate mortgages. ARMs were misused by predatory lenders in the early 2000s, she says. “It’s a responsible thing to do as long as you emphasize when an ARM is appropriate, and that is when you know you’re not going to stay for very long.”
The Latest Housing News
What’s Going On With Rising Mortgage Rates?
The surge in mortgage rates so far this year is due to a variety of economic factors. Persistently high inflation is a big one, Jacob Channel, senior economic analyst at LendingTree told us. May’s inflation report shows 8.6% inflation and the highest in 40 years. In response, the Federal Reserve increased its benchmark short-term interest rate to combat that inflation. The Fed raised rates by 50 basis points in May and by 75 points in June, since inflation remained higher than expected.
Recently, we saw mortgage rates surge after the inflation report and ahead of the Fed’s announcement. “I think what we’re seeing is that lenders had already anticipated that the Fed was going to raise the fed funds rate by 75 basis points and they began to preemptively push mortgage rates up,” Jacob Channel, senior economist at LendingTree, told us.
Financial markets are still responding to other global factors that can affect the economy, namely China’s COVID lockdown and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “We have a lot of factors like that that are putting upward pressure on mortgage rates,” Channel says. “The volatility has been through the roof,” Shashank Shekhar, founder and CEO of InstaMortgage, told us. “The market has been adjusting to a new news cycle practically every single day.”
What Can Homebuyers Do About Rising Mortgage Rates?
A higher mortgage rate leads to a higher monthly payment, which can eat into your total buying power. But, experts also point out that these 5.5+% rates we are seeing right now are still considered normal from a historical perspective. It was only a few short years ago when a “good rate” was around 5%.
Rising mortgage rates also mean the rate you might be quoted one day could be significantly different than one you get the next day. Experts caution against trying to time the market to get the best rate. “If you think you’re going to like the rate, lock it,” Jennifer Beeston, senior vice president of mortgage lending at Guaranteed Rate, told us. “Because it’s probably going to change in 20 minutes.”
Be sure to get quotes from different lenders to ensure you’re getting the best deal, experts say. “The rate highly impacts your monthly affordability for as long as you will hold this home,” Skylar Olsen, principal economist at Tomo, a digital real estate and mortgage company, told us. “It is actually a critical piece of this decision, and that takes shopping around.”
What Can Homebuyers Do About Rising Home Prices?
When thinking about your mortgage rate, it’s also important to consider what’s happening to housing prices. According to data from Realtor.com, the median U.S. home listing price was $447,000 in May 2022, another all-time high. Experts say the big uptick in prices is due to a mismatch between supply and demand: There are a lot of people trying to buy houses, and there aren’t enough houses to go around. That means you probably shouldn’t wait around and hope for the market to crash. “I don’t think buyers should be betting on any really significant price declines,” Robert Dietz, chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders, told us.
What you can do is think beyond just the mortgage rate. Be sure you’re in a good position to buy a house. “The most important thing that any would-be homebuyer should do is take stock of where they are personally,” said Channel. “Do I have enough cash to make my mortgage payments, to put money down on a down payment? Is my credit score good?” Then, be patient and be creative with your home search. Don’t rush for the first houses you see, he says. Look in unexpected places. One possibility is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s page of foreclosed homes. “The more you plan and the more diligent you are before you really even start going out house hunting actively, the easier it is to navigate a housing market that is as hot and fast as this one,” Channel says.
It’s more important than ever to shop around for a mortgage when you’re in the market for a house, said Channel. When rates aren’t going up as dramatically as they are now, quotes from different lenders can regularly vary by half a percentage point. With the market moving so quickly, that could be even higher.
What Are Today’s ARM Loan Rates?
On Thursday, July 07, 2022 according to Bankrate’s latest survey of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders, the average 5/1 ARM loan rate is 4.270% with an APR of 5.650%.
Current ARM Loan Rates
|30-Year Fixed Rate||5.640%||5.660%|
|30-Year FHA Rate||4.790%||5.630%|
|30-Year VA Rate||4.970%||5.160%|
|30-Year Fixed Jumbo Rate||5.620%||5.620%|
|20-Year Fixed Rate||5.630%||5.650%|
|15-Year Fixed Rate||4.860%||4.890%|
|15-Year Fixed Jumbo Rate||4.850%||4.860%|
|10-Year Fixed Rate||4.840%||4.880%|
|5/1 ARM Rate||4.180%||5.540%|
|5/1 ARM Jumbo Rate||4.410%||5.280%|
|7/1 ARM Rate||4.750%||4.890%|
|7/1 ARM Jumbo Rate||4.770%||4.820%|
|10/1 ARM Rate||4.810%||4.890%|
|30-Year Fixed Rate||5.670%||5.690%|
|30-Year FHA Rate||4.840%||5.660%|
|30-Year VA Rate||4.970%||5.070%|
|30-Year Fixed Jumbo Rate||5.630%||5.640%|
|20-Year Fixed Rate||5.650%||5.670%|
|15-Year Fixed Rate||4.870%||4.900%|
|15-Year Fixed Jumbo Rate||4.870%||4.890%|
|10-Year Fixed Rate||4.860%||4.890%|
|5/1 ARM Rate||4.270%||5.650%|
|5/1 ARM Jumbo Rate||4.530%||5.630%|
|7/1 ARM Rate||4.750%||4.930%|
|7/1 ARM Jumbo Rate||4.770%||4.820%|
|10/1 ARM Rate||4.800%||4.910%|
Rates as of Thursday, July 07, 2022
ABOUT THESE RATES
These rate averages are based on weekday mortgage rate information provided by national lenders to Bankrate.com, which like NextAdvisor is owned by Red Ventures. These averages provide borrowers a broad view of average rates that can inform borrowers when comparing lender offers. We feature both the interest rate and the annual percentage rate (APR), which includes additional lender fees, so you can get a better idea of the overall cost of the loan. The actual interest rate you can qualify for may be different from the average rates quoted in our rate table. But these rates are useful for giving you a benchmark to use when comparing loan offers by giving you a sense of how the type of mortgage and the length of the repayment term impacts your interest rate and APR.
What Are the Different Types of ARM Loans?
There are many times of ARM loans to choose from. Here are the main ones.
- Hybrid: Offers a fixed rate for a preset time period, then becomes an adjustable rate through the end of the loan. The most common term is 5/1 — fixed for five years, then the rate changes once per year.
- Interest-only loans: For a set period of time, the borrower pays only the monthly interest on the loan and not the principal. After this period, the mortgage is amortized and your payments will increase so the loan is paid off by the end of the term.
- Option ARMs: At the beginning of the loan, you’re given four different payment options: an agreed monthly payment, an interest-only payment, a 15-year amortizing payment, and a 30-year amortizing payment. These tend to be riskier, because your payment may not cover enough to stay on track with your payoff schedule.
VA and FHA ARMs
Both VA and FHA ARM loans are backed by the federal government. Through low to 0% down-payment requirements and lenient credit standards, these loans, which offer fixed- and adjustable-rate products, are intended to create pathways to homeownership for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it. You’ll need to get these loans through approved lenders rather than through the government agencies themselves.
VA ARM loans are used by veterans and active-duty servicemembers to buy homes with 0% down and no private mortgage insurance. To get a VA loan, you need a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to prove you qualify for the benefit, and you’ll also pay a VA funding fee during closing.
FA ARM loans are intended for low-to-moderate income families who cannot afford the traditional 20% down-payment requirement. FHA loans can require as little as 3.5% down, depending on your credit score. Credit standards for FHA loans are also more lenient compared to conventional loans. Just keep in mind that the lender will have it’s own standards you’ll have to meet as well, so make sure you have a strong financial profile and good credit before you go this route.