Adjustable-Rate Mortgages Are Back, but Aren’t Like You Remember

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Increase in interest rates increased the demand for ARMs; But the ultralow teaser rates and loose lending requirements have been decimated.

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ARMs still make up a small portion of the mortgage market—2.1% in March, According to Urban Institute, up from 0.6% a year ago. He took half of all hostages at the peak of his crisis.

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Their nascent resurgence is another sign that rising rates are squeezing home buyers. But mortgage-industry executives said there is no reason to fear a repeat of the recession. Today’s loans – and borrowers – are more secure than in crisis years, when lenders gave loans with ultralow teaser rates to subprime borrowers at little more than their word.

“The type of borrower who qualify for these ARMs today is very different from the borrower profile that we qualified for in 2006, 2007, 2008,” said Pat Sheahy, chief executive of Hamilton Home Loans.

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Mr Sheaey began offering five-, seven- and 10-year ARMs earlier this year, when the cost of variable-rate loans dropped significantly below the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.

Mr Sheahy said the average credit score of Hamilton customers approved for variable-rate loans is around 750, compared to 730 for applicants approved for 30-year mortgages.

About 11% of mortgages made by the Hamilton, Fla.-based lender have started offering ARMs in the six weeks since Sunrise, Mr Sheahy said. He expects the stock to reach 15% to 20% this year.

Adjustable-rate mortgages became popular in the years leading up to the 2008-09 crisis, when home prices continued to rise and lending standards were lax.

Lenders lured borrowers with extraordinarily low introductory rates, which significantly reduced mortgage payments in the first place, allowing home buyers to stretch their budgets. Some borrowers easily qualify for interest-only loans, so even if their income made this impossible, they could pay off larger principal down the line.

When the loans were later reset, many borrowers were unable to pay more and were forced to sell. Home prices fell, leaving many Americans underwater on their mortgages. Foreclosure jumped. Banks, mortgage lenders and investors holding mortgage-linked securities suffered heavy losses.

Post-crisis regulations dramatically reduced ARM’s offerings and increased borrower protection. Short-term teaser rates were banned, and annual growth was limited. Lenders and servicers must notify borrowers in writing of impending rate changes. And lenders can no longer penalize borrowers who refinance an ARM or pay it off early.

Borrowers applying for an ARM should be able to make monthly payments significantly higher than the introductory rate. And it has become very difficult for subprime borrowers to obtain any type of mortgage. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, about 2% of mortgages issued in the first quarter of 2022 went to borrowers with credit scores below 620, down from about 13% in the first three months of 2005.

These days, banks tend to keep ARMs in their accounts. In the years before the financial crisis, they were often packaged and sold to investors.

According to, average rates on adjustable mortgages ranged from 3.63% to 5.24% last week, depending on loan terms. The website averaged 5.45% on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages during the same period.

Higher rates on 30-year mortgages helped raise mortgage payments by more than $300 in 2022, According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, An average American household needs 38.6% of their income to cover payments on a median-priced home in March. This is up from 32.6% at the end of 2021 and the highest level since August 2007.

Potential savings borrowers can get by opting for an ARM that has reached an all-time high of at least May 2015, According to Redfin Corp.A real estate brokerage.

Lenders make about $15,600 less payments over five years — or $260 per month — known as a 5/1 ARM. This type of adjustable-rate loan offers a discounted interest rate for five years before resetting annually.

Write to Orla McCaffrey at [email protected]

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