What is an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM)?


In most circumstances, you’ll have the option of keeping the interest rate set for the duration of the loan or allowing it to fluctuate. An ARM’s initial borrowing costs are usually locked at a lower rate than you’d get on a comparable fixed-rate mortgage. However, depending on the state of the economy and the general cost of borrowing, the interest rate that influences your monthly payments may rise higher or lower after that time.

Types of ARMs

Hybrid, interest-only (IO), and payment option are the three most common types of ARMs. Here’s a basic rundown of what each one entails.

Hybrid ARM

Hybrid ARMs have a fixed-rate period as well as an adjustable-rate period. The interest rate on this form of loan will be fixed at the start and then begin to float at a predetermined time.

This data is usually stated as a pair of numbers. In most circumstances, the first number relates to the length of time the fixed rate is applied to the loan, while the second number refers to the variable rate’s duration or modification frequency.

A 2/28 ARM, for example, has a fixed rate for two years and then a fluctuating rate for the next 28 years. A 5/1 ARM, on the other hand, has a fixed rate for the first five years and thereafter a variable rate that changes every year (as indicated by the number one after the slash). A 5/5 ARM, on the other hand, would begin with a fixed rate for the first five years and then adjust every five years.

Interest-only (I-O) ARM

It’s also possible to get an interest-only (I-O) ARM, which means you’ll only have to pay interest on the loan for a set period of time—usually three to ten years. After this time period has passed, you must pay both the interest and the principle on the loan. These plans appeal to people who want to save money on their mortgage in the first few years so they may put it toward something else, such as furniture for their new house. This benefit, of course, comes at a price: the longer the I-O period, the larger your payments will be when it ends.

Payment-option ARM

A method of payment as the name suggests, an ARM with several payment choices. Payments covering principal and interest, paying down only the interest or paying a minimal sum that does not even cover the interest are all common possibilities.

It may seem appealing to pay the bare minimum or only the interest. It’s important to remember, though, that you’ll have to repay the lender in full by the contract’s due date, and that interest rates are higher when the principal isn’t paid off. If you keep paying off little by little, your debt will continue to grow—possibly to untenable levels.

How the Variable Rate on ARMs Is Determined

ARM interest rates will become variable (adjustable) at the end of the initial fixed-rate term, fluctuating based on a reference interest rate (the ARM index) plus a defined amount of interest above that index rate (the ARM margin). The prime rate, LIBOR, Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR), or the rates on short-term U.S. Treasuries are all examples of ARM indexes.

Although the index rate may fluctuate, the margin remains constant. For example, if the index is 5% and the margin is 2%, the mortgage interest rate changes to 7%. If the index is just 2% the next time the interest rate adjusts, the rate falls to 4% due to the loan’s 2% margin.

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What Is an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM)?

A home loan with a variable interest rate is known as an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). The initial interest rate on an ARM is fixed for a set length of time. Following then, the interest rate on the outstanding debt is reset on a yearly or even monthly basis.

Variable-rate mortgages, or ARMs, are sometimes known as floating mortgages. The interest rate on ARMs is reset based on a benchmark or index, plus a spread known as the ARM margin. The London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) has been the most common index used in ARMs.

Understanding an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM)

When you receive a mortgage, you’ll have to repay the borrowed money over a predetermined period of time, as well as pay the lender a fee to compensate them for their hassles.