Do you qualify for an adjustable-rate mortgage?

Property buyers today must contend with historically high home prices in addition to increased borrowing rates.

Jan 17 | 6 minutes read
Do you qualify for an adjustable-rate mortgage?

These combined effects have a startling effect: the average mortgage payment is currently more than $400 per month higher than in January*. More house buyers are looking into adjustable-rate mortgages as a result of the combination of rising interest rates and property price increases.

With ARMs, the borrower may be exposed to greater risk because the interest rate may change after the initial, fixed rate has passed. Planning a budget for this loan may be challenging due to an unforeseen possible increase.


So, who would make a suitable ARM candidate?

Those who fit the following criteria could be good candidates for an ARM:

  • Before their first mortgage rate adjusts, they want to move or sell their house soon.
  • As ARMs frequently have lower beginning interest rates than fixed loans, they are searching for the lowest interest rate or monthly payment.
  • Would prefer to pay less each month to save money now, but would be okay with paying more in the long run.


What is an ARM loan, or adjustable rate mortgage?

What Exactly Is an ARM?

An ARM, or adjustable-rate mortgage, has an initial interest rate that lasts for a predetermined amount of time before adjusting every six months for the remainder of the loan term. Your interest rate and monthly payment will change after the chosen time period.




10/6 ARM: For 10 years, your interest rate is fixed; after that, it changes every six months for 20 years.

7/6 ARM: For seven years, your interest rate is fixed; after that, it changes every six months for 23 years.

Less common 5/6 ARM: Your interest rate is fixed for five years, then it changes every six months for a total of 25 years.

Less common 3/6 ARM: Your interest rate is fixed for three years before adjusting every six months for a total of 27 years.


General Pros and Cons:



Your monthly payment will be reduced because the beginning interest rates for adjustable rate mortgages are frequently lower than those for fixed rate mortgages. An ARM loan may benefit you if you only intend to live in your house for a brief length of time since you anticipate selling or moving out before your initial mortgage rate increases. If you anticipate an increase in your income in the future, you could be okay with the idea of making a smaller monthly payment now in order to save money, but you might not be okay with making higher payments when your income increases and your ARM changes.

Because your interest rate may increase once the initial fixed-rate period is over, ARMs are typically viewed as risky.


When My ARM Loan Adjusts, What Happens?

Based on the value of an index, an ARM's interest rate may go up or down throughout the adjustment period. The index value at the time of adjustment and the margin are added to determine an ARM's adjusted interest rate. While the margin value remains constant over the course of the loan, the index value fluctuates.

  • An index is a benchmark variable interest rate that is frequently released by a trustworthy third party and made available to the general public. The SOFR (Secured Overnight Financing Rate), T-Bill (U.S. Treasury Bill), and CMT are common index rates linked to ARMs (Constant Maturity Treasury).
  • To get the fully indexed rate for an adjustable-rate mortgage, you must include a margin, which is a fixed percentage rate.

For instance, if your margin is 2 percent and the index rate is 3% at the time of adjustment, your fully indexed interest rate will be 5% at that time.

Your interest rate's ability to change during the adjustment period is constrained by three different caps: the initial cap, the periodic cap, and the lifetime cap.

  • The initial cap determines how much the interest rate can change during the initial adjustment.
  • The greatest amount each interest rate adjustment following the original rate change can be is known as the periodic limit.
  • The lifetime cap establishes the maximum amount by which the interest rate may vary throughout the whole loan term.

The specifications of your unique ARM mortgage quotes are defined on Zillow. We draw attention to the length of rate fixation, initial interest rate, index type, margin, initial cap, periodic cap, and lifetime cap.

adjustable rate mortgage


Different ARMs

Three types of ARMs are typically available: hybrid, interest-only (IO), and payment option. Here is a brief explanation of each.


Hybrid ARM

ARMs with a hybrid structure mix fixed and adjustable rate periods. The interest rate for this kind of loan will first be fixed and then start to fluctuate at a predetermined time. Usually, this data is given as two numbers. The first number typically denotes the amount of time the loan will have a fixed rate, while the second denotes the length of time or frequency of adjustments for the variable rate.

A 2/28 ARM, for instance, has a fixed rate for the first two years and a floating rate for the following 28 years. A 5/1 ARM, in contrast, has a fixed rate for the first five years before switching to a variable rate that changes annually (as indicated by the number one after the slash). Comparably, a 5/5 ARM would begin with a fixed rate for five years before adjusting after that.

It's also feasible to obtain an interest-only (I-O) ARM, which would essentially imply paying the mortgage's interest only for a predetermined period of time—typically three to 10 years. You will be obligated to repay the loan's principal and interest when this time period has passed.

These kinds of plans are attractive to people who want to pay less for their mortgage in the initial years so that they can save money for other things, like furnishing their new house. This benefit, of course, has a trade-off: the longer the I-O period, the greater your payments will be after it expires.


ARM with payment options

a means of payment As the name suggests, an ARM with many payment alternatives is known as an ARM. These alternatives often include making payments that pay off both principal and interest, only the interest, or the least amount that does not even cover the interest.

It may sound enticing to choose to pay only the interest or the minimum. It's important to keep in mind that you must repay the lender in full by the deadline set in the agreement and that interest rates are greater when the principal isn't being paid off. If you keep making small payments, your debt will probably continue to build until it becomes unmanageable.


How ARM Variable Rates Are Calculated?

After the initial fixed-rate period, the interest rate on an ARM will change (become adjustable) and depend on an external reference rate (the ARM index) plus a certain amount of interest over that index rate (the ARM margin). The benchmark rate used for the ARM index is frequently the prime rate, LIBOR, the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR), or the rate on short-term US Treasury bonds.

The margin doesn't alter even though the index rate might. The interest rate on the mortgage changes to 7%, for instance, if the index is 5% and the margin is 2%. The rate drops to 4% depending on the loan's 2% margin, though, if the index is only at 2% when the interest rate is adjusted the following time.


When did ARMs start being provided to homebuyers?

The ability to obtain a long-term mortgage with changing interest rates first became available to Americans in the early 1980s, so ARMs have been around for a while.

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