Choosing an ARM is a good idea when:
- Interest rates are going down
- You intend to keep your home less than 5 years
ARMs have the following distinguishing features:
- Adjustment Frequency
- Initial Interest Rate
- Interest Rate Caps
An adjustable rate mortgage’s interest rate increases and decreases based on publicly published indexes. ARMS are based on different indexes including:
- United States Treasury Bills (T-bills)
- The 11th District Cost of Funds Index (COFI)
- London Interbank Offering Rate Index (LIBOR)
- Certificate of Deposit Indexes (CODI)
- 12-Month Treasury Average (MTA or MAT)
- Cost of Savings Index (COSI)
- Bank Prime Loan (Prime Rate)
Margin is a fixed percentage amount that is pointed added to the index – accounting for the profit the lender makes on the loan. Margins are fixed for the term of the loan.
interest rate = index + margin
- Adjustment Frequency
- Adjustment frequency reflects how often the interest rate changes – also known as the reset date. Most ARMs adjust yearly, but some ARMs adjust as often as once a month or as infrequently as every five years.
- Initial Interest Rate
- The initial interest rate is the interest rate paid until the first reset date. The initial interest rate determines your initial monthly payment, which the lender may use to qualify you for a loan. Often the initial interest rate is less than the sum of the current index plus margin so your interest rate and monthly payment will probably go up on the first reset date.
- Interest Rate Caps
Interest rate caps put limits on interest rates and monthly payments.
- Initial Adjustment Cap
An initial adjustment cap limits how much the interest rate can change at the first adjustment period.
If your ARM has a 1% initial adjustment cap, your interest rate may only increase or decrease by a maximum of 1% at the first adjustment period.
- Periodic Adjustment Cap
A periodic adjustment cap limits how much your interest rate can change from one adjustment period to the next. Usually a six-month adjustable rate mortgage will have a one percent periodic adjustment cap while a one-year adjustable rate mortgage will have a two percent periodic adjustment cap.
If your loan has a 2% periodic adjustment cap, your interest rate may only increase or decrease by a maximum of 2% per adjustment period.
- Lifetime Cap
A lifetime cap sets the maximum and minimum interest rate that you may be charged for the life of the loan. Most ARMs have caps of 5% or 6% above the initial interest rate.
If your loan has a 6% lifetime cap, your interest rate may only increase or decrease by a maximum of 6% for the life of the loan.
Initial adjustment caps, periodic adjustment caps, and lifetime caps make up an adjustable rate mortgage’s cap structure, and are usually represented as three numbers:
1/2/6 — Initial adjustment cap is 1 %/ periodic cap is 2% / lifetime cap is 6%.
- Negatively Amortizing Loans
Because Negatively Amortizing Loans provide payments caps instead of interest rate caps, they limit the amount the monthly payment can increase. However, there is a risk interest rates could potentially escalate to a point where the monthly payment would not cover the interest being charged. If this scenario were to occur, the extra interest charges would be added to the principle of the loan, resulting in the borrower owing more than was initially borrowed. Borrowers are usually allowed to make payments over the loan amount to pay down the mortgage and guard against this scenario.
There are certain times when having a negatively amortizing mortgage could be beneficial. If a borrower were to lose a job or have an unexpected financial emergency a negative amortization option could ease cash flow situation. However, this should only be used as a short-term solution.
- Option ARM loans
Option ARM loans allow the borrower to choose the amount to pay toward the mortgage each month. Make a minimum payment, interest-only payment, 30-year amortized payment or 15-year amortized payment. Pay the minimum amount to free up funds for other uses, or make larger payments for faster equity build up. Option Arms offer much more cash flow flexibility but must be used wisely by the borrower. Always consult a qualified loan officer to learn about all of the risks associated with these types of loans. He or she will also be able to offer valuable advice on properly managing your monthly payments.
- Fixed-Period ARMs
Borrows often lock into 3 to 10 years of fixed rate payments before the initial interest rate change. At the end of the fixed period, the interest rate adjusts annually. Fixed-period ARMs are typically tied to the one-year Treasury securities index: 3/1, 5/1, 7/1 and 10/1.
ARMs with an initial fixed period beside of lifetime and adjustment caps usually have also first adjustment cap. It limits the interest rate you will pay the first time your rate is adjusted. First adjustment caps vary with type of loan program.
The advantage of these loans is that the interest rate is lower than for a 30-year fixed (the lender is not locked in for as long so their risk is lower and they can charge less) but you still get the advantage of a fixed rate for a period of time.
- Balloon Loan
Balloon Loans offer a fixed rate for a specified time period, typically 5 or 7 years, and then adjust to the current market rate. After the adjustment the mortgage stays at the new fixed rate for the remainder of the loan period.
- Graduated Payment ARMs
Graduated payment mortgages initially offer lower payments at the start of the loan that gradually increase at preset times. Lower initial payments allow borrowers to qualify for a larger loan amount. Loan amounts negatively amortize during the early years of the loan then pay off the principal at an accelerated rate through the later years.
GPM payment plans will vary by rate of payment increases and number of years over which payments will increase. The greater the rate of increase, or the longer the period of increase — the lower the initial mortgage payments.
- Convertible ARMs
If an adjustable rate mortgage is convertible, the borrower may convert to a fixed rate mortgage, when interest rates begin to rise, without refinancing. The new rate is established at the current market rate for fixed-rate mortgages. The terms of convertibility vary among lenders. Typically it involves a nominal fee and minimal paperwork. The downside is that the conversion interest rate is often a little higher than the market rate at the time of conversion.
A fixed rate loan with a rate reduction option allows borrowers, under predetermined conditions, to adjust to the current market rate for a nominal fee. The discount points or interest rates are often slightly higher for convertible loans.
- Buydown Mortgage
A temporary buydown initially offers a lower interest rate and lower monthly payments. In order to reduce monthly payments during the first years, borrowers make an initial lump sum payment or agree to a higher interest rate. Over the years, the interest rate gradually increases until it peaks at a fixed rate. Borrowers who chose this loan often expect a significant increase in their income.
Conforming loans are conventional loans that meet bank-funding criteria set by Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac (FHLMC). Both of these stock-holding companies buy mortgage loans from lending institutions and secure them for resale to the investment community. Every year, form October to October, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac establish limits on what constitutes a conforming loan in a mean home price.
Buying back mortgage loans allow these agencies to provide a continuous flow of affordable funding to banks that reinvest their money back into more mortgage loans. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac only buy loans that are conforming, to repackage into the secondary market – effectively decreasing the demand for non-conforming loans
Conventional mortgage loan is a “conforming” loan, which simply means that it meets the requirements for Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are government-sponsored enterprises that purchase mortgages from lenders and sell them to investors. This frees up lenders’ funds so they can get more qualified buyers into homes.One type of common non-conforming mortgage is a jumbo loan, which is a mortgage that exceeds conforming loan limits.
Because there are several different sets of guidelines that fall under the umbrella of “conventional loans,” there’s no single set of requirements for borrowers. However, in general, conventional loans have stricter credit requirements than government-backed loans like FHA loans
Conventional Loan Requirements
It’s possible for first-time home buyers to get a conventional mortgage with a down payment as low as 3%. However, the down payment requirement can vary based on your personal situation and the type of loan or property you’re getting:
- If you’re not a first-time home buyer or making no more than 80% of the median income in your area, the down payment requirement is 5%.
- If the house you’re buying is not a single-family home (i.e., it has more than one unit), you may need to put down 15%.
- If you’re buying a second home, you’ll need to put at least 10% down.
- If you’re getting an adjustable-rate mortgage, the minimum down payment requirement is 5%.
If you’re refinancing a conventional loan, you’ll need more than 3% equity. In all cases, you’ll need at least 5% equity. If you’re doing a cash-out refinance, you’ll need to leave at least 20% equity in the home.
A mortgage calculator can help you figure out how your down payment amount will affect your future monthly payments.
Private Mortgage Insurance
If you put down less than 20% on a conventional loan, you’ll be required to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI). PMI protects your mortgage investors in case you default on your loan. The cost for PMI varies based on your loan type, your credit score and the size of your down payment.
PMI is usually paid as part of your monthly mortgage payment, but there are other ways to cover the cost as well. Some buyers pay it as an upfront fee included in their closing costs. Others pay it in the form of a slightly higher interest rate. Choosing how to pay for PMI is a matter of running the numbers to figure out which option is the cheapest for you.
The nice thing about PMI is that it won’t be part of your loan forever – that is, you won’t have to refinance to get rid of it. When you reach 20% equity in the home on your regular mortgage payment schedule, you can ask your lender to remove the PMI from your mortgage payments.
If you reach 20% equity as a result of your home increasing in value, you can contact your lender for a new appraisal so they can use the new value to recalculate your PMI requirement. Once you reach 22% equity in the home, your lender will automatically remove PMI from your loan.
An FHA loan is a type of government-backed mortgage loan that can allow you to buy a home with looser financial requirements. You may qualify for an FHA loan if you have debt or a lower credit score. You might even be able to get an FHA loan with a bankruptcy or other financial issue on your record.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at FHA home loans, their requirements and whether an FHA loan might be right for you.
What Is An FHA Loan?
FHA loans are backed by the Federal Housing Administration, an agency under the jurisdiction of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. FHA loans are insured by the FHA, which simply means that this organization protects your lender against loss if you default on your loan.
FHA loans are available with low down payment options and lower minimum credit score limits, but you’ll also have to pay mortgage insurance.
The option of a low down payment and more lenient credit requirements can make FHA loans particularly attractive for first-time home buyers, although you don’t have to be a first-time home buyer in order to qualify. Here are some benefits of FHA loans:
- Credit score requirements are lower compared to other loans.
- Your lender can accept a lower down payment.
- You could still qualify for an FHA loan if you have a bankruptcy or other financial issues in your history.
- Closing costs can often be rolled into your loan.
Jumbo Loans exceed the maximum loan amounts established by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac conventional loan limits. Rates on jumbo loans are typically higher than conforming loans. Jumbo Loans are typically used to buy more expensive homes and high-end custom construction homes, and usually require a higher down payment than traditional loans.
In a word, a reverse mortgage is a loan. A homeowner who is 62 or older and has considerable home equity can borrow against the value of their home and receive funds as a lump sum, fixed monthly payment, or line of credit. Unlike a forward mortgage—the type used to buy a home—a reverse mortgage doesn’t require the homeowner to make any loan payments.
Down payment assistance (DPA) programs help home buyers with loans or grants that reduce the amount they need to save for a down payment. Provided you qualify, you could receive an outright grant or a low- or no-interest loan to cover your down payment. Some DPA funds can be used for closing costs, too. Most DPA programs are offered at the local level. And eligibility requirements vary from one program to the next. Many DPAs require that you be a first-time home buyer (meaning you haven’t owned a home in three years) with a decent credit score and a low or moderate income. But not all programs have these same rules.
Types of down payment assistance programs
There are four main types of down payment assistance:
- Grants: Gifted money that never has to be repaid
- Loans: Second mortgages that are paid monthly along with your primary mortgage
- Deferred loans: Second mortgages with deferred payments that only have to be paid when you move, sell, or refinance
- Forgivable loans: Second mortgages that are forgiven over a set number of years (often five, but maybe up to 15 or 20). These only need to be repaid if you move, sell, or refinance too early
Some DPA loans are interest-free, some have lower rates than your first mortgage, and others require the same or a higher rate than that.
A quick count of the programs listed below suggests all four types of DPA are widespread. Grants are the most common, but not by much.
- 100% financing without private mortgage insurance or 20% second mortgage.
- A VA funding fee of 0 to 3.3% (this fee may be financed) of the loan amount is paid to the VA.
- When purchasing a home, veterans may borrow up to 100% of the sales price or reasonable value of the home, whichever is less.
- When refinancing a home, veterans may borrow up to 90% of reasonable value in order to refinance where state law allows.
A Non-QM loan, or a non-qualified mortgage, is a type of mortgage loan that allows you to qualify based on alternative methods, instead of the traditional income verification required for most loans
- Alternative Income Verification
- Ideal for Self-Employed Borrowers
- Flexible Term Options Available
- LTVs up to 90%
- 12-month bank statement program
- Investment Property loans (DSCR)
- P&L only, 1099 only loans (Alt-Doc)
- Asset Utilization