Friday, March 16, 2012

Arms, Not a Good Idea

With mortgage rates as low as they are at the moment, you may be looking beyond fixed-rate options if you’re in the market to purchase a home or refinance your existing loan.
After all, while 30-year fixed mortgage rates are hovering around 4%, some 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgages are in the 2% range. This can certainly push your monthly mortgage payment lower.
And the interest rate on a 5/1 ARM is fixed for the first five years before becoming annually adjustable, so there’s relative safety there if you don’t plan on sticking around for long.
Let’s look at a quick example to illustrate:
30-year fixed @ 4%: $1432.25
5/1 ARM @ 2.75%: $1224.72
On a $300,000 loan amount, the difference in monthly mortgage payment is roughly $200 a month. Over five years, that’s $12,000.
Not an incidental amount by any stretch, but there has to be a catch, right?

Well, we’re in a unique spot at the moment. Mortgage rates are pretty much in unprecedented territory.
They’re not rock-bottom, as they’ve risen in the past few weeks, but they’re still at lows not seen pretty much ever in our lifetimes.
Mortgage Rates Have Nowhere To Go But Up
Unfortunately, the general consensus is that mortgage rates have nowhere to go but up. That’s pretty much not debatable, but the big question is when?
They could rise quite quickly if the economy gets back on track, which is a must eventually, right?
So if you reside in a home that you plan on living in for the foreseeable future, gambling on an ARM right now may burn you in the future.
Sure, you may save money over the next 5+ years, but after that, you may find that mortgage rates have surged.
At that point, when your ARM is set for its first adjustment, it will adjust higher. And potentially a lot higher.
Don’t Choose an ARM If You Can’t Handle the Higher Payment
If you can’t handle that interest rate uncertainty, and don’t know if you’ll be selling before the adjustable period ends, an ARM isn’t a good choice right now.
Once interest rates rise, you’ll be stuck with a larger payment, or forced to refinance to stop the bleeding.
And even refinancing may be out of the question if you’ve got income restraints (debt-to-income ratio).
Think of it this way. At the moment, affordability is a lot higher because interest rates are really low and home prices have fallen from their highs.
In the future, assuming both home prices and interest rates rise, you may not qualify for a new mortgage. So you’ll be stuck with what you’ve got.
Would you rather be stuck in an ARM that’s constantly rising, or a fixed mortgage in the low 4% range?