Fixed versus adjustable loans

A fixed-rate loan features a fixed payment amount over the life of the mortgage. Your property taxes increase, or rarely, decrease, and so might the homeowner's insurance in your monthly payment. But generally payments on a fixed-rate loan will be very stable.

When you first take out a fixed-rate loan, the majority your payment goes toward interest. That reverses itself as the loan ages.

You can choose a fixed-rate loan in order to lock in a low rate. Borrowers choose fixed-rate loans because interest rates are low and they want to lock in at this lower rate. If you have an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) now, refinancing into a fixed-rate loan can provide more consistency in monthly payments. If you currently have an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM), we'll be glad to assist you in locking a fixed-rate at a favorable rate. Call Hawk Mortgage Group at (443) 619-7900 for details.

Adjustable Rate Mortgages — ARMs, come in a great number of varieties. Generally, interest rates on ARMs are based on a federal index. A few of these are: the 6-month Certificate of Deposit (CD) rate, the one-year rate on Treasure Securities, the Federal Home Loan Bank's 11th District Cost of Funds Index (COFI), or others.

Most programs have a cap that protects you from sudden monthly payment increases. Some ARMs won't adjust more than 2% per year, regardless of the underlying interest rate. Your loan may have a "payment cap" that instead of capping the interest rate directly, caps the amount that your payment can go up in one period. Additionally, almost all adjustable programs feature a "lifetime cap" — this means that your rate can't exceed the capped percentage.

ARMs most often have their lowest, most attractive rates at the beginning of the loan. They provide that rate for an initial period that varies greatly. You've likely heard of 5/1 or 3/1 ARMs. For these loans, the introductory rate is set for three or five years. It then adjusts every year. These kinds of loans are fixed for a number of years (3 or 5), then adjust after the initial period. Loans like this are usually best for people who anticipate moving in three or five years. These types of ARMs most benefit people who will move before the loan adjusts.

Most borrowers who choose ARMs do so because they want to get lower introductory rates and don't plan to stay in the house for any longer than the initial low-rate period. ARMs can be risky when housing prices go down because homeowners could be stuck with rates that go up when they can't sell their home or refinance with a lower property value.

Have questions about mortgage loans? Call us at (443) 619-7900. It's our job to answer these questions and many others, so we're happy to help!

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