Should You Refinance Your ARM, Or Let It Adjust Lower?

ARM adjustment schedule 2008-2010

If your adjustable rate mortgage is due to adjust this year, don’t go rushing to replace it just yet. Your soon-to-adjust mortgage rate may actually go lower. It’s related to the math behind the ARM.

Conventional, adjustable-rate mortgages share a common life cycle:

  1. There’s a “starter period” in which the interest rate remains fixed
  2. There’s an initial adjustment period after the starter period called the “first adjustment”
  3. There’s a subsequent annual adjustment until the loan’s term expires — usually at Year 30.

The starter period will vary from 1 to 10 years, but at the point of first adjustment, conventional ARMs become the same. A homeowner’s new, adjusted mortgage rate is determined by the sum of some constant, and a variable. The constant is most often 2.25% and the variable is most often the 12-month LIBOR.

As a formula, the math looks like this:

(Adjusted Mortgage Rates) = (12-Month LIBOR) + (2.250 Percent)

LIBOR is an acronym standing for London Interbank Offered Rate. It’s the rate at which banks borrow money from each other and, lately, LIBOR has been low. As a result, adjusting mortgage rates have been low, too.

Last year, 5-year ARMs were adjusting to 6 percent or higher. Today, they’re adjusting to 3.375%.

Based on the math, it may be wise to just let your ARM adjust this year. Or, depending on how long you plan to stay in your home, consider a refinance to a new ARM.  Starter rates on today’s adjustable rate mortgages are exceptionally low in Henderson , as are the rates for fixed rate loans.

Either way, talk to your loan officer about making a plan. With mortgage rates as low as they’ve ever been in history, homeowners have some interesting options. Just don’t wait too long. LIBOR — and mortgage rates in general — are known to change quickly.

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