Demand for adjustable-rate mortgages is soaring. The share of mortgage applications with ARMs more than doubled last week compared to three months ago, according to a report by the Mortgage Bankers Association.
Unlike the more popular fixed-rate mortgage, ARMs start at one rate and then fluctuate after a set period of time. Buyers can lock in a lower initial interest rate and hope that it will not become too high later in the life of the mortgage.
According to the MBA, ARMs comprised more than 9% of all home loans and 17% of the total dollar volume.
ARMs were blamed for contributing to the housing bubble of the mid-2000s, offering teaser low rates to borrowers that, once they reset, led to some homeowners no longer being able to afford their mortgage. Lenders say they’re stricter about who qualifies for ARMs nowadays.
The latest lower introductory rates from ARMs may grow more enticing as home buyers watch other rates quickly climb. The average contract interest rate for the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with conforming loan balances ($647,200 or less) rose to 5.37% last week. That is up from 3.17% just a year ago, the MBA said. The average rate on a 5-year ARM, however, was 4.28% last week.
The doubled share of ARM applications compared to three months ago coincides with the 1.5 percentage point increase in the 30-year fixed rate, said Joel Kan, an MBA economist.
“As buyers continue to navigate today’s housing market and rising interest rates, many are considering adjustable-rate mortgages,” explained Glenn Brunker, president of Ally Home. “ARMs can help buyers save money over a fixed rate because they often offer a lower monthly mortgage payment for the initial period of the loan, typically 5, 7, or 10 years.”
When determining whether to choose a fixed or ARM mortgage, borrowers likely will want to make two main considerations, Brunker said, namely how long they’ll be in the home and their personal finances and affordability.
“The interest rate on a fixed-rate mortgage is locked in for the life of the loan—whether it’s 15, 20, or 30 years,” Brunker said. “So if a buyer is planning to stay in their home for an extended period of time, the peace of mind that comes with a fixed-rate mortgage is beneficial.”