Mortgage Daily

Published On: December 20, 2022

Resetting ARMs to Their Highest Rate Since 2008

Your adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) may soon change. You might not choose to permit that.

At current mortgage rates, today’s adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) are resetting at 5%, the highest since 2008. No longer can you obtain a lower rate by allowing your ARM to adjust than by refinancing.

Before 2016, it was advantageous to hold a standard adjustable-rate mortgage. Currently, not so much.

If you have been riding your ARM through its changes, you have benefited from historically low-interest rates. In light of the changing market mood, however, it is time to consider refinancing into a new ARM or fixed-rate loan.

In 2022 and 2023, ARMs will likely shift upward.

How Does a Mortgage With an Adjustable Rate Work?

The interest rate on an adjustable-rate mortgage can fluctuate (i.e., adjust) over time-based on “market circumstances.”

Occasionally, ARM mortgage rates increase. Occasionally, ARM mortgage rates shift downward. And adjustable-rate mortgages can be a fantastic alternative for first-time buyers.

However, because the interest rates on ARMs fluctuate, ARMs pose a financial risk that is not present with fixed-rate loans. For instance, if you finance your house with an ARM, you cannot predict your mortgage rate in 10 years.

Uncertainty can induce fear. It may also be quite lucrative.

Consider that, since 2003, practically every U.S. homeowner with a standard ARM mortgage has “beaten the bank” This is because, between 2003 and late 2015, adjustable-rate mortgages adjusted below the rates available for “new” loans (with no closing costs necessary!).

However, this trend halted in December 2015 when the Federal Reserve lifted the Fed Funds Rate from its near-zero target range. When the Fed raises the Fed Funds Rate, it can affect the determinants of an ARM.

Here is a basic review of how adjustable-rate mortgages operate.

  • Your mortgage rate is fixed for a certain amount of time, often 5 or 7 years.
  • When the fixed time expires, your interest rate changes based on a predetermined calculation.
  • Your rate subsequently varies yearly using the same predetermined algorithm.

The preset formula is straightforward. The new rate for an adjustable-rate mortgage is the sum of a variable market rate — often the 12-month LIBOR — and a constant rate, normally 2.25 percent.

Combining the constant and variable yields the new rate. For example, if the LIBOR was 2.8%, the total would be 2.25 + 2.8, or 5.05%.

5.05 percent is a low mortgage rate, but it is greater than what an authorized mortgage lender may provide for a new 5-year adjustable-rate mortgage. According to Freddie Mac, the national average for new 5-year ARMs at this writing is 3.80 percent.

Nevertheless, there are closing fees associated with a new ARM.

For instance, to lock in the 3.80 percent 5-year ARM rate displayed by Freddie Mac, borrowers are anticipated to pay 0.50 discount points to the lender. Additionally, closing expenses apply.

If you let your loan adjust, you will not have access to the 3.80% rate, but you will not be required to pay closing fees. This is because an adjustment loan requires no appraisals, income verifications, or credit checks.

In addition, an adjustment loan does not involve underwriting or title company costs. You are not even obligated to work.

Therefore, there are reasons to refinance away from an adjustable-rate mortgage, but permitting an adjustment may also make sense from a cash flow perspective.

Should You Refinance From an Arm to a Fixed-Rate Mortgage?

If your existing loan is an adjustable-rate mortgage that will adjust, as a homeowner, you must decide whether to refinance or allow the loan to fluctuate.

There are three choices for ARM adjustment in total:

  • Do absolutely nothing. Allow your loan to change; reevaluate mortgage rates next year
  • Refinance your adjustable-rate mortgage to a new adjustable-rate mortgage at the current ARM mortgage rates.
  • Refinance your ARM into a new fixed-rate loan at the current interest rate.

Each alternative has benefits.

Option 1 

If you let your adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) change (Option 1), your lender will assign a new mortgage rate based on a standard index. The annual rate awarded to the majority of homeowners will be close to 5.05 percent. The payment for a mortgage at a rate of 5.05% is $540 per $100,000 owed.

Option 2 

You may also refinance your ARM into a new loan with an adjustable interest rate.

Depending on your demands, you may lock your rate for 5 or 7 years or longer with a new ARM. You will delay the adjustments of a recasting adjustable-rate mortgage and, according to Freddie Mac’s most recent mortgage rate survey, will receive an average rate of 3.80% for a 5-year adjustable-rate mortgage for an accompanying, one-time fee of 0.5 discount points plus your lender’s closing costs.

The payment on a new ARM is $465 per $100,000, representing a savings of $75 per month. However, depending on the state where you reside, the closing expenses might be in the thousands.

Option 3

Is to convert your adjustable-rate mortgage to a fixed-rate mortgage.

According to quarterly government refinancing statistics, more than half of homeowners with adjustable-rate mortgages choose this option.

Refinancing your adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) into a fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) might be advantageous for several reasons, particularly if you expect the economy to improve this year or next and if you want to remain in your home for several more years.

A strengthening economy causes LIBOR rates to rise, and LIBOR serves as the foundation for your adjustable-rate mortgage rate. With a fixed-rate mortgage, you will have a predictable monthly payment due to the fixed interest rate and payment amount.

Fixed-rate mortgages are around 100 basis points (1.00%) more than similar ARM mortgage rates, so your “stable payment” might be larger than your adjusted one.

Refinancing Your ARM With a New ARM

Before you refinance your ARM, you must consider the following:

  • How long do you anticipate keeping this loan?
  • What are your expected ARM interest rate and payment?
  • Will you save money by refinancing your mortgage?
  • Can you rest without a fixed-rate loan?

If the answer to the previous question is a loud “no,” visit a lender and obtain a fixed-rate refinancing.

However, if you anticipate keeping your house and mortgage for a few more years, you may save a ton with a new 3/1, 5/1, 7/1, or 10/1 ARM.

Your first step is to determine what would happen to your adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) if it were to adjust today and what is anticipated to occur shortly.

To accomplish this, you must examine your loan documentation and locate your loan’s index, margin, and limits.

Consider an ARM with a 2-percent-per-year cap, a 2.25-percent margin, and a 5% lifetime maximum. The LIBOR index for today is close to 2.8%, so if your loan were to reset today, the new rate would be 5.05 percent. If your current interest rate is 3%, your increase will be 2% (not 2.05% due to the 2.0% cap). This new rate of 5% is valid for another year.

What about later years, though? Here are some additional numbers for you.

  • Currently, the median value of the 1-Year LIBOR is 2.8%. If your loan were to reset based on this amount, your new rate would be 5% (note that your current rate is 3%, and there is an annual maximum of 2.0%).
  • The maximum rate that might be applied to your loan at its next adjustment is 7% because your annual adjustment ceiling is 2%.
  • The maximum rate your loan might reach during its lifespan is 8.0 percent, given its lifetime ceiling of 5%.
  • By the end of 2019, housing officials anticipate that the typical 30-year fixed-rate mortgage will increase to around 5%.

Currently, ARMs don’t appear to be that terrifying.

ARM Caps Explanation

There is a significant probability that your loan agreement has up to three types of limits that limit the amount your interest rate (and, consequently, your payments) may increase.

These limitations differ from mortgage to mortgage, so you’ll need to research to see what safeguards yours offers.

Periodic Adjustment Caps

The first kind is meant to prevent abrupt increases that might be difficult for a family’s budget to sustain. It limits the amount your mortgage rate can increase yearly (typically to two percent).

These mortgages are likely labeled as 3/1 ARMs, 5/1 ARMs, 7/1 ARMs, and similar terms. The first number determines the initial fixed-rate period in years, while the second indicates (again in years) the maximum frequency of subsequent rate increases. Therefore, a 5/1 ARM has five years of fixed rates, followed by annual rate adjustments.

Payment Caps

The second restriction pertains to monthly payments as opposed to interest rates. It may state, for instance, that these monthly payments can only increase by a specific sum at any moment.

Suppose that this particular cap is set at 7.5% in your loan agreement and that your current monthly payment is $1,000. When the next increase is imposed, you’ll spend an additional $75 per month.

Lifetime Caps

The third type of cap restricts the total amount that your interest rate may increase during the life of your loan.

Check your limits and use The Mortgage Reports mortgage calculator to simulate the impact of various rate rises on your payments.

These three forms of caps imply that your exposure will not increase even if interest rates unexpectedly increase. That does not imply you won’t experience pain, but it will likely be less frightening than anticipated.

How Long Do You Plan to Retain Your Mortgage and Home?

The initial inquiry may be the most crucial. If your present residence is your “forever home,” a fixed-rate mortgage may be your best option, as it provides you with the assurance and comfort of knowing that your first monthly payment will be the same as your last: You know, the one when you are mortgage-free.

However, if you anticipate moving or refinancing again within the next few years, paying the higher rates that normally accompany fixed rates may not be worthwhile.

How probable is it that you will relocate to a new job? A larger location to accommodate extra children or aging parents. Or to a smaller dwelling? A better neighborhood? Or, Lord forbid, to a home after a divorce?

Rarely can these issues be answered with absolute clarity. Your best estimate might save you from overpaying for an FRM or a longer-than-necessary fixed-rate period on your new ARM.

Mortgages With Variable Rates Can Be “Safe”

The interest rate on an adjustable-rate mortgage is subject to alter over time. The adjustable rate mortgage, sometimes abbreviated as “ARM,” is the reverse of the fixed rate mortgage.

Adjustable-rate mortgages are available for most major loan types. ARMs are available for conventional financing through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as FHA and VA loans.

Only USDA loans ban variable-interest financing.

The laws governing a mortgage with an adjustable rate contain two extremely essential factors. First, because the mortgage rate of an ARM does not fluctuate during its first “teaser” period, an ARM operates identically to a fixed-rate mortgage for the first few years.

Second, when an ARM starts its adjustment phase, there are restrictions governing the amount it can adjust each year. 5-year ARMs, for instance, are limited to increases of 2% every year, with the rate never permitted to exceed 6% of the initial rate.

Using a 5-year ARM as an example, the ARM mortgage rate remains stable for the first 60 months, after which it may fluctuate. The new mortgage rate is equivalent to the then-current 1-Year LIBOR + 225 basis points (2.25%) after 60 months.

Today’s ARMs are adjusting to a rate close to 5.05 percent, with LIBOR approaching 2.8.

Keep in mind, though, that the rate may only increase so far.

A loan with an initial rate of 3.25 percent and a lifetime ceiling of 6 percent cannot exceed 9.25 percent (3.25 percent plus 6 percent equals 9.25 percent).

An ARM’s interest rate cannot exceed 20%, nor may it go below zero. They are restricted to six percentage points around the initial beginning rate. You always know the maximum amount by which your rate can fluctuate on its adjustment dates with today’s ARMs.

Today’s Current Mortgage Rates

The wisest “refinance move” for U.S. homeowners with adjusting adjustable-rate mortgages may be not to refinance. You must compare mortgage rates to choose the best option.

Compare fixed and adjustable refinancing rates from reputable lenders to obtain your best deal.


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