Under what circumstances in today’s mortgage market would the fixed, ARM, or hybrid mortgage be best utilized? While the decision to purchase a home is no doubt a major step based on the importance and size of the item being purchased, as well as on the fact that it is one of the few items which requires borrowed money in order to complete the purchase, the decision you will make on the best way to finance this kind of purchase must also be one of the most important decisions you will make.
However, your decision regarding the mortgage type that best suits your home purchase may not be the same after you become a homeowner and you wish to re-finance your home. Whether you are purchasing or want to refinance, the list of available mortgage types you would most likely be selecting from includes a fixed rate mortgage, an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) or a hybrid mortgage which combines the two options.
The names are pretty much self explanatory but basically a fixed rate mortgage is a mortgage where the interest rate remains constant and an ARM is a mortgage where the interest rate varies. The ARM interest rate varies up and down based on an index such as the treasury 1-year, 3-year, 5-year or 7-year note or the 10-year T-Bill. However there are usually clauses which prevent the interest rate from rising or dropping dramatically during a specific period of time. This safety clause provides protection for both the homeowner and the lender.
Advantages of a Fixed Option
A fixed rate option is ideal for home buyers or refinancing homeowners with good credit who are able to lock in a favorable interest rate. For these homeowners the interest rate they are able to retain makes it worthwhile for the home buyer/homeowner to borrow at the newest, lowest interest rate. The major advantage to this type of financing option is stability. Home buyers/homeowners who finance with a fixed mortgage rate do not have to be concerned about payment variations during the life of the mortgage, thus the term “fixed rate”.
Disadvantages of a Fixed Option
Although the ability to lock in a favorable interest rate is an advantage it can also be considered a disadvantage. This is because home buyers who obtain a prevailing market interest rate at the time of purchase will not be able to take advantage of subsequent interest rate drops unless they re-finance. And every subsequent refinance will result in the homeowner incurring additional closing costs.
Advantages of an ARM Option
An ARM is favorable in situations where the interest rate is expected to drop in the near future. Home buyers and homeowners who are skilled at predicting trends in the economy and interest rates may consider financing with an ARM if they expect the rates to drop during the course of the loan period. However, interest rates are tied to a number of different factors and may rise unexpectedly at any time despite the predictions by industry experts.
A mortgage consumer who can reasonably predict the interest rate markets would be able to determine whether or not an ARM is the best financing option. However, since this is not possible for most home buyers and homeowners, they will have to either rely on their instincts and hope for the best or select a less risky option such as a fixed interest rate.
Disadvantages of an ARM Option
The most obvious disadvantage to financing with an ARM is that interest rates may rise significantly and unexpectedly. In these situations the homeowner may suddenly find themselves paying significantly more each month to compensate for the higher interest rates. While this is a disadvantage, there are some elements of protection for both the homeowner and the lender. This often comes in the form of a clause in the terms of the mortgage contract which prevents the interest rate from being raised or lowered by a certain percentage over a specific period of time.
Consider a Hybrid Financing Option
Home buyers and homeowners who are undecided and find certain aspects of fixed rate mortgages as well as certain aspects of ARMs to be appealing might consider a hybrid re-financing option. A hybrid loans is one which combines both fixed interest rate features and features of adjustable interest rates. This is often done by offering a fixed interest rate for an introductory period and then converting the mortgage to an ARM.
In this option, lenders typically offer introductory interest rates which are extremely enticing to encourage homeowners to choose this option. A hybrid loan may also work in the opposite way by offering an ARM for a certain amount of time and then converting the mortgage to a fixed rate mortgage. This version can be quite risky as the homeowner may find the interest rates at the conclusion of the introductory period are not favorable to the him/her.