Adjustable versus fixed rate loans

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With a fixed-rate loan, your monthly payment doesn't change for the entire duration of your mortgage. The longer you pay, the more of your payment goes toward principal. The property taxes and homeowners insurance will go up over time, but in general, payments on these types of loans don't increase much.

During the early amortization period of a fixed-rate loan, a large percentage of your payment goes toward interest, and a significantly smaller percentage toward principal. The amount applied to principal increases up slowly each month.

Borrowers can choose a fixed-rate loan in order to lock in a low rate. People select fixed-rate loans when interest rates are low and they wish to lock in this low rate. For homeowners who have an ARM now, refinancing with a fixed-rate loan can offer more monthly payment stability. If you have an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) now, we'd love to assist you in locking a fixed-rate at the best rate currently available. Call North Star Mortgage Realty at 408-402-5936 for details.

Adjustable Rate Mortgages — ARMs, come in many varieties. Generally, interest for ARMs are determined by an outside index. A few of these are: the 6-month Certificate of Deposit (CD) rate, the 1 year rate on Treasure Securities, the Federal Home Loan Bank's 11th District Cost of Funds Index (COFI), or others.

The majority of Adjustable Rate Mortgages are capped, which means they won't increase over a specified amount in a given period. Some ARMs won't increase more than 2% per year, regardless of the underlying interest rate. Sometimes an ARM features a "payment cap" that ensures that your payment can't increase beyond a fixed amount in a given year. In addition, almost all ARMs have a "lifetime cap" — this means that your rate won't go over the capped percentage.

ARMs usually start at a very low rate that may increase over time. You've probably read about 5/1 or 3/1 ARMs. In these loans, the initial rate is set for three or five years. After this period it adjusts every year. These kinds of loans are fixed for 3 or 5 years, then they adjust after the initial period. Loans like this are usually best for people who expect to move within three or five years. These types of adjustable rate programs benefit borrowers who plan to sell their house or refinance before the initial lock expires.

Most people who choose ARMs do so when they want to get lower introductory rates and don't plan to remain in the house longer than the introductory low-rate period. ARMs can be risky when housing prices go down because homeowners could be stuck with rates that go up if they cannot sell or refinance at the lower property value.

Have questions about mortgage loans? Call us at 408-402-5936. We answer questions about different types of loans every day.

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