The Pros and Cons of Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

  • May-16-2023

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) are a type of home loan that offers a variable interest rate that can change over the life of the loan. Unlike fixed-rate mortgages, the interest rate on an ARM can increase or decrease based on market conditions. ARMs are popular among homebuyers who are looking for a lower initial interest rate, but they come with risks and rewards that borrowers should carefully consider before deciding to take out an ARM. In this article, we'll look at the 10 pros and 10 cons of adjustable-rate mortgages.

Pros of Adjustable-Rate Mortgages:

1. Lower Initial Interest Rates: ARMs typically offer lower initial interest rates compared to fixed-rate mortgages. This means that you'll have lower monthly mortgage payments in the first few years of the loan, which can be a significant advantage for homebuyers who are on a tight budget.

2. Flexible Payment Options: With an ARM, you can choose from a variety of payment options, including interest-only payments and fully amortizing payments. This gives you the flexibility to choose a payment plan that suits your financial situation.

3. Lower Total Interest Payments: If you plan to sell your home within a few years, an ARM can help you save money on total interest payments. This is because you'll only pay interest on the loan for the period that you have it, which can be significantly less than the total interest payments on a fixed-rate mortgage.

4. Potential to Refinance: If interest rates drop after you've taken out an ARM, you may be able to refinance your mortgage at a lower interest rate. This can help you save money on monthly mortgage payments and total interest payments over the life of the loan.

5. Caps on Interest Rate Increases: Most ARMs have caps on the amount that the interest rate can increase over the life of the loan. This can help protect you from sudden and significant increases in your monthly mortgage payments.

6. More Affordable Homes: With lower initial interest rates, ARMs can help make homes more affordable for first-time homebuyers or those on a tight budget.

7. Faster Equity Building: Because your initial payments are lower, more of your payment goes towards the principal of the loan. This means you may build equity in your home faster than you would with a fixed-rate mortgage.

8. Great for Short-Term Homeowners: If you don't plan to stay in your home for a long time, an ARM can be a smart choice. You can take advantage of the lower interest rate in the early years of the loan and sell your home before the interest rate increases.

9. More Predictable Payments: Some ARMs come with a fixed-rate period at the beginning of the loan, which gives you a set number of years with a fixed interest rate and predictable payments. This can help you budget and plan for your monthly expenses.

10. Interest Savings: If interest rates stay low or decrease over the life of the loan, an ARM can help you save money on total interest payments compared to a fixed-rate mortgage.

Cons of Adjustable-Rate Mortgages:

1. Higher Risk: ARMs are riskier than fixed-rate mortgages because your interest rate can increase over time. This can make your monthly mortgage payments unaffordable, especially if you don't have a stable source of income.

2. Fluctuating Monthly Payments: With an ARM, your monthly mortgage payments can fluctuate over the life of the loan. This can make it difficult to budget and plan for your monthly expenses.

3. Negative Amortization: Some ARMs allow for negative amortization, which means that your monthly payments may not cover the full amount of interest due. This can result in your loan balance increasing over time, rather than decreasing.

4. Complex Loan Structures: ARMs can have complex loan structures, which 

Adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMs, have become increasingly popular among homebuyers in recent years. Unlike fixed-rate mortgages, which have the same interest rate for the entire life of the loan, ARMs have an interest rate that can change periodically. While ARMs offer some advantages over fixed-rate mortgages, they also come with some risks. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of adjustable-rate mortgages to help you decide whether an ARM is the right choice for you.

Pros of Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

1. Lower initial interest rate

One of the primary benefits of an ARM is that it typically has a lower initial interest rate than a fixed-rate mortgage. This lower interest rate can make the monthly payments more affordable, which can be particularly helpful for borrowers who are stretching their budgets to buy a home.

2. Potential for lower payments in the future

ARMs have interest rates that can adjust up or down over time, based on changes in market conditions. While this means that your payments could increase in the future, it also means that they could decrease if interest rates fall. This potential for lower payments in the future can be attractive to borrowers who expect their income to increase over time, or who are only planning to stay in the home for a short period of time.

3. More flexibility

Unlike fixed-rate mortgages, ARMs offer more flexibility in terms of repayment. For example, some ARMs allow borrowers to make interest-only payments for a period of time, which can be helpful if you need to lower your monthly payments in the short term. Additionally, some ARMs allow borrowers to make extra payments without penalty, which can help you pay off your loan more quickly.

4. Potential for savings

If interest rates remain low or decrease over time, an ARM can save you money in interest payments compared to a fixed-rate mortgage. This is particularly true if you plan to sell the home or refinance the mortgage before the interest rate adjusts upward.

Cons of Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

1. Uncertainty

One of the biggest downsides of an ARM is the uncertainty it creates. Because the interest rate can change over time, it can be difficult to predict exactly how much your monthly payment will be in the future. This can make it challenging to budget for your mortgage payments and can create financial stress.

2. Risk of higher payments

While ARMs have the potential for lower payments in the future, they also come with the risk of higher payments. If interest rates rise, your monthly payment could increase significantly, which can make it difficult to keep up with your mortgage payments. Additionally, if you are on a tight budget, a sudden increase in your monthly payment could put a strain on your finances.

3. Longer-term costs

While an ARM may save you money in interest payments in the short term, it can end up costing you more in the long run. If interest rates rise significantly, you could end up paying more in interest over the life of the loan than you would with a fixed-rate mortgage. Additionally, if you plan to stay in the home for a long period of time, an ARM may not be the best choice, as the potential for higher payments in the future could make it difficult to afford your mortgage over the long term.

4. Complexity

Adjustable-rate mortgages can be more complex than fixed-rate mortgages, as they involve calculating interest rates based on various indexes, such as the prime rate or LIBOR. This complexity can make it more difficult to understand how your monthly payment is calculated and can make it challenging to compare different mortgage products.

Who Should Consider an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage?

An adjustable-rate mortgage can be a good option for borrowers who:

- Plan to stay in the home for a short period of time and don't expect interest rates to rise significantly during that