How to Determine If Adjustable-Rates Mortgage is Right for You

Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM): ARM Examples, Benefits, Risks

If you are a first-time home buyer, you might have encountered new terms related to your mortgage, like adjustable rate mortgage or fixed rate mortgage. But you might be confused about which is best while making a decision. In this guide, you will have everything cleared about adjustable rate mortgages vs fixed rate mortgages and the best adjustable rate mortgages.  

Key Highlights

  • In adjustable mortgage rates, interest rates fluctuate after being stable for the initial period according to the market condition.

  • In adjustable-rate mortgages, there are caps that limit how much the interest rate of payment can rise per year or over the lifetime of the loan.

  • They are good options for borrowers who want to keep the loan for a limited period of time and can afford the increase in the interest rate.

What Is an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM)?

An adjustable-rate mortgage is called a variable-rate mortgage, where a home loan with interest is adjusted over time based on the market rate. Typically, adjustable-rate mortgages have a lower interest rate initially than fixed mortgages. The interest rate you get initially won't last forever, and the monthly payment can fluctuate periodically, making it difficult to budget.

How Does an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage Work?

Adjustable read mortgage has a few components, like

  • Fix Period: It is a period with a low introductory rate of fix rate that can last for 3 to 10 years, based on your loan amount.

  • Adjustable Period: The period starts after the fixed period ends and continues until you repay the loan, refinance, or sell your house.

  • Rate of Adjustment: Adjustable rate mortgages are adjusted every six months to a year, and it is the second number in the name.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM) Examples

Example of an adjustable-rate mortgage-

Suppose you take out a 5/1 adjustable mortgage where the fixed interest rate is 3.5% for five years. The index finds the interest rate as the prime rate currently at 3%, and the margin is 2.5%.

After the first five years, the interest rate will adjust every year depending on the index and the marching. Therefore, the new rate will be the index sum, and the margin, which is 3% + 2.5%, equals 5.5%.

Here, mortgage payment depends on the new rate of 5.5%. Here, if you borrowed a loan of $200,000 with a 30-year term, the monthly payment would be $1136.

Now, the index goes up in interest. If the interest increases to four per cent, the new rate will be 4% + 2.5%, which is equal to 6.5%. Now your monthly payment goes to $1120

What Are the Benefits of an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage?

The major benefits of adjustable-rate mortgages are:

  • Lower Monthly Payment at the Beginning: You get a lower interest rate during the initial period, which makes your monthly payment lower, allowing you to allocate more money towards the principal.

  • It Is More Budget-Friendly: As you get lower monthly payments at the initial phase, you can choose to pay more with the extra cash and less when you need money for other things.

How Are Adjustable-Rate Mortgage Rates Calculated?

The adjustable-rate mortgage is determined by several factors, like a market index or benchmark the lender chooses. The lender also adds the margin to the benchmark index rate. The margin is the percentage point that increases the overall rate. It is calculated as index + margin = fully index ARM rate. While going for an adjustable-rate mortgage, asking the lender what margin to add is advisable because it varies from lender to lender.

What Are ARM Rate Caps?

As we know, mortgage rates are influenced by different factors like credit score or other economic conditions. In the beginning, you encounter an initial rate that is much lower than the interest rate you will have later on during your loan life. 

The benchmark named in an ARM contract is the basis of an ARM rate. The benchmark rate would be the US treasury or the secured overnight finance rate, where these rates are the starting point of any reset calculations. Also, they are the lowest rate possible for short-term loans to the most credit-worthy borrowers. Other loans are priced at a margin from that benchmark. 

Margin is applied to your adjustable rate mortgage based on your credit score and credit history. Creditworthy borrowers can pay close to the standard margin while the riskers will be further marked up. The rate caps are kept where maximum interest rates are adjusted during any particular period of the adjustable rate mortgage.

Are Adjustable Mortgage Rates a Good Idea?

An adjustable-rate mortgage can be a good idea when you get a significantly lower APR on the ARM than a fixed-rate mortgage. Moreover, when you want to move or refinance before the initial rate period, it can majorly benefit you.

What Happens at the End of an Adjustable Rates Mortgage?

At the end of the adjustable rate mortgage, the interest rate is reset to the interest rate prevailing in the market. Interest rates are adjusted on the current market rate for the life of the loan.

How Do 5-Year Adjustable Rates Mortgages Work?

Adjustable rate mortgages are also referred to as ARM and are offered for a 30-year term. A 5-year adjustable rate mortgage has a fixed rate for the first five years. After the rate becomes variable, it is adjusted every year for the remaining 25 years of the loan. Adjustable rate mortgages are also referred to as ARM and are offered for a 30-year term. A 5-year adjustable rate mortgage has a fixed rate for the first five years. After the rate becomes variable, it is adjusted every year for the remaining 25 years of the loan.

Is an Arm a Good Idea in 2024?

An adjustable-rate mortgage can be a good idea even with high-interest rates at the moment prevailing in 2024, as you can land a lower mortgage rate and afford your home. However, it may not be the best option for everyone. As the mortgage rates are going downward and the Federal Reserve is expecting to cut interest rates in 2024, adjustable-rate mortgages may not be a great choice. Plan to move or refinance before your adjustable mortgage fix rate introductory period. Then it can be a good choice.

What Are the Four Components of an ARM Loan?

Components of adjustable-rate mortgage loans are

  • Index rate: The index rate is the branch mark rate used to set the loan rate.

  • Margin: It is an additional spread added to the index to calculate the new interest rate after the initial interest rate period is over.

  • Interest rate cap structure: Interest rate caps limit how much the rate of the loan can be increased.

  • Introductory interest rate period: The initial rate period is a set number of years in which the borrower enjoys a low fixed interest rate.

What Is the Advantage of an ARM Mortgage?

Advantages of ARM:

  • You get a lower interest rate initially: The interest rate in adjustable-rate mortgages is typically lower than the fixed interest rates during the introductory period. It makes it easier for borrowers to qualify for mortgages where they get lower monthly payments.

  • Borrowers can get lower long-term interest costs: If the borrowers want to sell their home or refinance the mortgage before the interest rate changes, they may be able to take advantage of lower long-term interest costs.

What Are the Disadvantages of an ARM Mortgage?

Disadvantages of adjustable-rate mortgage:

  • Uncertainty: The monthly payments can change over time, which might make it difficult for borrowers to spend more according to their budget.

  • Risk of Higher Payments: If the index is used to determine the interest rate, the monthly payment of Warrior will increase. This might make it difficult for the borrower to afford their mortgage if they have a fixed income or limited budget.

  • Pre-Payment Penalties: Some adjustable mortgages may have pre-payment penalties where the borrower has to pay fees if they sell their home or refinance their mortgage before a specified date.

Fixed-Rate Vs. Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

As we know, adjustable-rate mortgages have variable interest over the life of the loan. A fixed-interest mortgage has the same rate for the years. They come with higher interest rates than average-rate mortgages, which makes adjustable-rate mortgages an attractive option for the short term. However, the best part is that fixed-rate mortgages assure stable monthly payments, which become more manageable for the borrower.


When you want to finance your home, you encounter many options. You might find a fixed rate or adjustable rate mortgage, which may confuse you when choosing. If we look at adjustable-rate mortgages, they have lower interest for a certain period, and after that period, the interest rate fluctuates with the market condition. This can be an opportunity for you to pay off most of your principal balance during the initial period of your fixed rate in an adjustable-rate mortgage. However, before going forward with it, it is good to look at your financial situation and other, more beneficial options.

Also Read:

  1. How to Buy a House with an LLC

  2. Which is more profitable rent or sell

  3. How To Market my house to sell fast?

29 Feb, 2024


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