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Did You Know?

FHA insures adjusted rate mortgages, or ARMs. Interest rates for these loans can change on specific anniversaries, after a fixed-rate introductory period.

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Adjustable Rate Mortgage

FHA Adjustable Rate Mortgage

An adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) has an interest rate that changes periodically through the life of the loan. ARMs come with an introductory period with a low, fixed rate. After this initial period, the interest rate applied to the outstanding balance varies based on the market index.

How the FHA ARM Works

The interest rate you get after the initial period is over is based on an index and your lender’s margin (which should be disclosed when you apply for the loan). The new interest rate is calculated by adding the margin to the index. As the index figure changes, so will your interest rate. The FHA accepts market index figures of the Constant Maturity Treasury (CMT) index or the 1-year London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR).

The idea of a large swing in the interest rates might make an ARM less appealing. That’s why the FHA places two types of caps, to provide a safeguard from astronomically high (or low) rates. There is an annual cap, which limits the points your interest rate can change year to year, and a “life-of-the-loan” cap that restricts the amount it can vary for the entire term of the loan.

FHA's ARM

The FHA has a few adjustable-rate mortgage options that can suit the needs of many borrowers. It offers a standard 1-year ARM and four "hybrid" ARM products, which have an initial interest rate that is fixed for the first 3, 5, 7, or 10 years. After that initial period, the interest rate adjusts annually.

The Pros

Choosing to finance a home with an ARM can work extremely well for some borrowers for a few reasons.

  • Borrowers who intend to move and sell their home within a few years can take advantage of the low interest rates that come with the initial period of an adjustable-rate mortgage.
  • Many homebuyers use the introductory period to save and budget for the future.
  • Some borrowers may be expecting a significant increase in their income.

The Cons

It’s important to remember the downsides that come with the uncertainty of ARMs in order to make the best decision.

  • There is always the chance that the index can go up drastically and your interest rate can skyrocket.
  • When there is an uncertainty of how much you’ll be spending on monthly mortgage payments, budgeting isn’t as easy to do.
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After an introductory period with a low, fixed rate, an adjustable-rate mortgage has an interest rate that changes periodically through the life of the loan.
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