June 27, 2022

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If thinking about an adjustable rate mortgage, consider the risks

2 min read

Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

As interest rates tick upward, it may be tempting for homebuyers to explore adjustable rate mortgages.

The appeal of an ARM, as it’s called, can be the lower initial interest rate compared with a traditional 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. However, that rate can change down the road — and not necessarily in your favor.

“There is a lot of variability in the specific terms as to how much the rates can go up and how quickly,” said certified financial planner David Mendels, director of planning at Creative Financial Concepts in New York. “No one can predict what rates will do, but one thing is clear — there is a whole lot more room on the upside than there is on the downside.”

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Interest rates remain low from a historical perspective but have been rising amid a housing market that already is posing affordability challenges for buyers. The median list price of a home in the U.S. is $405,000, up 14% from a year ago, according to Realtor.com.

The average fixed rate on a 30-year mortgage is 4.67%, up from below 3% in November and the highest it’s been since late 2018, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. By comparison, the average introductory rate on one popular ARM is at 3.5%.

With these mortgages, the initial interest rate is fixed for a set amount of time. 

After that, the rate could go up or down, or remain unchanged. That uncertainty makes an ARM a riskier proposition than a fixed-rate mortgage. This holds true whether you use an ARM to purchase a home or to refinance a loan on a home you already own.

If you’re exploring an ARM, there are a few things to know.

For starters, consider the name of the ARM. For a so-called 5/1 ARM, for instance, the introductory rate lasts five years (the “5”) and after that the rate can change once a year (the “1″).

Don’t just think in terms of a 1% or 2%…



2022-04-02 09:00:00

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