Demand Doubles for Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARMs)

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Financing

The share of mortgage applications with adjustable-rate mortgages doubled last week when compared to three months ago, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported Wednesday. ARMs, which start at one rate and then fluctuate after a set period, comprised more than 9% of loans and 17% of the dollar volume.

ARMs were blamed for contributing to the housing bubble of the mid-2000s, offering teaser low rates to borrowers that, once they reset, led to some homeowners no longer being able to afford their mortgage. Lenders say they’re stricter about who qualifies for ARMs nowadays.

The latest lower introductory rates from ARMs may grow more enticing as home buyers watch other rates quickly climb. The average contract interest rate for the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with conforming loan balances ($647,200 or less) rose to 5.37% last week. That is up from 3.17% just a year ago, the Mortgage Bankers Association reports. The average rate on a 5-year ARM, however, was 4.28% last week.

The doubled share of ARM applications compared to three months ago coincides with the 1.5 percentage point increase in the 30-year fixed rate, says Joel Kan, an MBA economist.

“As buyers continue to navigate today’s housing market and rising interest rates, many are considering adjustable-rate mortgages,” says Glenn Brunker, president of Ally Home. “ARMs can help buyers save money over a fixed rate because they often offer a lower monthly mortgage payment for the initial period of the loan, typically 5, 7, or 10 years.”

When determining whether to choose a fixed or ARM mortgage, borrowers likely will want to make two main considerations, Brunker says: How long they’ll be in the home and their personal finances and affordability. “The interest rate on a fixed-rate mortgage is locked in for the life of the loan—whether it’s 15, 20, or 30 years,” he says. “So if a buyer is planning to stay in their home for an extended period of time, the peace of mind that comes with a fixed-rate mortgage is beneficial.”

Also, he notes that ARM loans may increase if interest rates rise further when they do reach that adjustable reset period. But there is some protection offered on ARMs based on periodic and lifetime caps on interest rate increases, which borrowers can look into before they commit.

Bottom Line

Consult with your lender to determine if this is a viable option. You can also reach out to us for a qualified lender referral.