Mortgage Daily

Published On: December 15, 2022

Low Arm Rates Are Available for Purchase and Refinance

Adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMs, have been mostly overlooked for years. But house purchasers are changing their tune. Borrowers who purchase or relocate shortly might benefit from an ARM’s low rates and lower monthly payments.

As fixed-rate mortgages grow more costly and property values continue to climb, you can anticipate an increase in the popularity of adjustable-rate mortgages. Here is how ARM rates operate and affect your ability to purchase a property.

What Is a Mortgage With an Adjustable Rate?

A variable-rate mortgage is a loan with an interest rate that fluctuates in response to broader financial market conditions. The monthly payment increases when an adjustable-rate mortgage changes to a higher rate. When the loan changes to a lower rate, your payment will reduce.

Today, nearly all ARM loans are “hybrid ARMs.” These have an initial fixed-interest rate duration of three to ten years. These introductory rates, referred to as “teaser rates,” are frequently lower than fixed-rate loans.

However, once the initial fixed-rate term expires, ARM interest rates continue to fluctuate until the loan is refinanced or paid in full. These rate modifications follow a fixed timetable, with most ARM rates changing once per year. However, some adjustable-rate mortgages reset every six months or once every five years.

In this regard, an adjustable-rate mortgage operates differently than a fixed-rate mortgage. The interest rate on a fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) remains constant for the loan term. Its rate will never grow or decrease, and as a result, neither will your mortgage payment.

How ARM Loans Function

Adjustable-rate mortgages derive their name from how they operate or, more precisely, from when their interest rates vary. For example, the most prevalent loan is a 5/1 ARM.

  • A 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage has a fixed rate for the first five years. That is what the number 5 implies.
  • After then, the interest rate fluctuates annually. This is what the “1” signifies.

Remember that a 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage (and the majority of other ARM loans) still have a 30-year total loan duration. Consequently, after the first 5-year fixed-rate period, your rate may fluctuate annually for the following 25 years or until you refinance or sell the property, whichever comes first.

Similar to a 5/1 ARM, the rates of a 10/1 ARM are set for the first ten years and vary yearly after that. The interest rate on a 5/6 ARM is set for the first five years but changes every six months thereafter.

Lenders often provide 3/1, 5/1, 7/1, and 10/1 adjustable-rate mortgages.

How ARM Rates Function

Several variables determine the variable interest rate of an ARM; therefore, it is crucial to understand what they are.

Initial Rate

Also known as a “teaser rate” or “intro rate,” the start rate is the initial interest rate of the ARM. This is generally for 3, 5, 7, or 10 years, with a 5-year fixed introductory rate being the most prevalent. ARM initial rates are often lower than fixed-rate loan introductory rates.

These low-interest introductory rates lure purchasers with cheaper monthly payments during the initial period. Without these introductory rates, few individuals would pick an ARM over an FRM. You would incur additional danger with no further profit.

The ARM’s lower initial interest rate is your compensation for assuming a portion of the risk ordinarily held by the lender, namely the possibility that mortgage interest rates may climb in a few years.


An adjustable mortgage’s interest rate is often related to the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR). The amount added to the index rate to get your actual rate is your “margin.” For example, if the SOFR rate is 2% and your margin is 2.5%, your ARM’s interest rate would be 5%. At each rate adjustment, the lender will combine your margin with the index rate to calculate your new mortgage rate.

Multiple criteria will determine your margin, including your credit score and credit history, the lender’s average margin, and broader real estate market conditions.

Standardized Rate

The “fully-indexed rate” on an adjustable-rate mortgage is the maximum rate your loan might reach when it changes. Lenders establish an ARM rate limit that specifies the maximum amount your fully-indexed rate might increase if interest rates were to climb significantly.

Lenders often utilize the fully-indexed rate rather than the lower introductory rate when determining your eligibility for an ARM loan. This helps ensure you can afford your mortgage even if the rate swings upward after the first fixed period.

ARM Rate Caps

ARM interest rate limitations limit your interest rate’s potential rise. There are several types of caps:

  • One limit only applies to the initial interest rate modification. This restricts the rate growth once the initial fixed rate has expired.
  • Every future rate change is subject to one limit. This restricts the amount your rate can increase each time it is adjusted.
  • The ultimate ceiling is a lifelong interest rate ceiling. This defines the maximum interest rate increase allowed during the life of the loan. Even if rates continue to rise, your ARM rate cannot exceed its lifetime maximum.

Lifetime limits might be specified as a specific interest rate, such as 7.5%. They may also be characterized as a percentage point above the beginning rate, for example, five percentage points above the beginning rate.

ARM Rate Floors

In the same way, that rate limits are implemented to protect borrowers; rate floors exist to safeguard lenders. The floor restricts how much your ARM rate may decline if the market for interest rates falls and your rate moves downward.

If your home loan includes a three-point floor, your interest rate will stay below 3 percent, even if the fully-indexed rate is lower.

Various ARMs

There are typically three sorts of ARMs. Here’s how they function:

  • The most prevalent kind of variable-rate mortgage is the hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage. It begins with a fixed-rate term, often between three and ten years, followed by six-monthly or annual rate adjustments.
  • Interest-only adjustable-rate mortgage: With this loan, only interest is paid for an initial specified period. Even though the interest-only term has reduced monthly payments, no principal is paid down, and no equity is generated until the original period expires. After then, debtors will start making principal and interest payments in full.
  • Payment-option ARM: Borrowers select their repayment schedule. Common alternatives include: making principal and interest payments, paying interest solely, and creating an alternative minimum payment.

The majority of current ARM loans are hybrids. This sort of loan provides reduced initial rates and payments, along with the security of a fully amortized repayment plan that begins paying down your loan debt on day one.

Compare ARM Rates

The shorter your fixed-rate term, the lower your interest rate will be. This is because shorter introductory periods minimize a lender’s risk should interest rates abruptly increase. Less risk typically results in lower interest rates for borrowers.

5/1 versus 3/1 ARM Rates

The 5/1 ARM will have a fixed rate for the first five years, whereas the 3/1 ARM will only have a fixed rate for the first three years. After these promotional rates expire, the ARM will be reset and subject to interest rate changes for the remaining 25 or 27 years of the 30-year loan.

A 3/1 adjustable-rate mortgage should have a lower beginning rate than a 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage owing to the shorter introductory term.

5/1 versus 7/1 ARM Rates

The 5/1 ARM is nearly identical to the 7/1 ARM, except that the initial rate adjusts after five years instead of seven. In addition, the introductory rate on a 7/1 ARM will be greater than on a 5/1 ARM since the fixed rate will be held for a more extended period.

5/1 versus 10/1 ARM Rates

The difference between 5-year and 10-year ARMs is considerable. The 10/1 ARM provides a low fixed interest rate for ten years and 20 potential rate changes, but the 5/1 ARM only fixes your interest rate for five years and includes 25 possible rate adjustments.

A 10/1 ARM will have a higher fixed rate than a 5/1 ARM. However, it will give an extra sixty monthly mortgage payments. Therefore, the 10/1 may be preferable for borrowers who want to remain in their houses longer.

ARMs Can Impair Your Purchasing Capacity.

If you plan to purchase a home or refinance a mortgage shortly, you should consider adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs). When home prices rise, the correct ARM might boost the loan amount for which you qualify or make it simpler to purchase a home.

However, consider that lenders classify ARM borrowers differently than fixed-rate borrowers.

Typically, lenders determine your eligibility for an ARM-based on the loan’s fully-indexed rate, which is the maximum it may reach after adjusting. This protects you as a borrower by ensuring you can afford your payments if the interest rate increases. However, this also prevents you from qualifying for the introductory pricing.

However, this low-interest rate will result in lower mortgage payments for your loan’s first three to ten years. If fixed interest rates climb, many borrowers might benefit from an ARM’s modest initial payment.

How to Get an Arm

ARM rates are more intricate than fixed-rate mortgage rates; therefore, searching for them differs slightly.

The simplest method to look for an ARM loan is to select one with a start rate period close to the time you anticipate owning the property or having the loan. If you do so, you may compare adjustable-rate mortgages in the same manner as fixed-rate mortgages.

Consider 3/1 and 5/1 ARMs if you anticipate owning your home for only three to five years. However, if you are uncertain about how long you will remain in the property, a 7/1 or 10/1 ARM may be a safer option. Apply with several mortgage lenders to see which gives the lowest rate for the desired loan type.

ARM and APR Computations

Even the best-laid plans may go wrong, so it makes sense to examine the performance of your ARM if you must hang onto it for an additional year or two. APRs, or annual percentage rates, can help you determine a “worst-case” scenario for your mortgage.

For instance, the APR calculation for a 3/1 ARM implies that after the initial three years, the loan will grow to its fully-indexed rate or as high as permitted under the loan conditions. It also means that you will maintain this rate for the remaining 27 years of the loan’s duration.

This helps you comprehend what your ARM would look like if interest rates spiked and remained up. However, keep in mind that this scenario is unusual, and you will likely not pay the maximum feasible interest rate during the life of your loan. In addition, many borrowers relocate or refinance before the end of the ARM’s fixed-rate period, so avoiding the increased payments that accompany a fully-indexed rate.

What Are the Current ARM Rates?

ARM introductory rates are often substantially cheaper than fixed rates. As interest rates increase from their record lows, ARMs become more appealing to homebuyers and homeowners. Discuss your home-buying intentions with a mortgage provider to see if a low-rate ARM is the best option.



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