What’s an adjustable-rate mortgage?
An adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) is a loan in which the interest rate may change periodically, usually based upon a pre-determined index. The ARM loan may include an initial fixed-rate period that is typically 3 to 10 years. The interest rate then may change (adjust) each year thereafter once the initial fixed period ends. For example, with a 5/1 ARM loan for a 30-year term, your interest rate would be fixed for the initial 5 years and could fluctuate up or down each subsequent year for the next 25 years.
ARM loans typically feature lower rates and monthly payments than comparable fixed-rate loans during the initial rate period, but rates could increase or decrease once the initial rate expires. While many home buyers prefer the security of a fixed-rate mortgage, an ARM can be a good choice, too - especially if you know you'll be moving within the next few years.
3- and 5-year ARMs
3/1 ARMs and 5/1 ARMs generally provide the lowest interest rates and monthly payments during the initial rate period - ideal for those who don't want a long-term mortgage.
10-year ARMs are an increasingly popular option because they combine significant savings for the initial rate period with longer protection from market-based interest-rate fluctuations.
Benefits and considerations
The best short-term rates
Conventional ARMs typically feature lower interest rates and APRs during the initial rate period.
Low monthly payments
An adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) lets you keep your monthly payments low during the initial term of your home loan, which gives you the option to pay down your mortgage faster.
Conventional ARMs are available for refinancing your existing mortgage, too.
Requirements and qualifications
Conforming loans (loans that conform to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidelines) are a good choice for borrowers with very good credit, which generally means a FICO score of 740 or higher. There are also established guidelines for income and other personal financial information.
The loan amount for a conforming ARM is generally up to $453,100 for a single-family home, though limits may be higher in regions where home prices are higher. Jumbo ARMs allow you to exceed the conforming loan limit to borrow for a higher-priced home.
Most conventional ARMs will require at least 5 percent (and optimally 20 percent or more) as a down payment. For loans with lower down-payment requirements, explore government-backed mortgages like VA loans and FHA loans.
Compare mortgage options to learn more on your own, or contact a mortgage officer to find out which mortgage option may be the best fit for you.