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16 | Consumer Handbook on Adjustable-Rate Mortgages For some I-O loans, the interest rate adjusts during the I-O period as well.
For example, if you take out a 30-year mortgage loan with a 5-year I-O payment period, you can pay only interest for 5 years and then you must pay both the principal and interest over the next 25 years. Because you begin to pay back the principal, your payments increase after year 5, even if the rate stays the same.
Keep in mind that the longer the I-O period, the higher your monthly payments will be after the I-O period ends.
an interest-only payment, which pays the interest but does not reduce the amount you owe on your mortgage as you make your payments.
a minimum (or limited) payment that may be less than the amount of interest due that month and may not reduce the amount you owe on your mortgage. If you choose this option, the amount of any interest you do not pay will be added to the principal of the loan, increasing the amount you owe and your future monthly payments, and increasing the amount of interest you will pay over the life of the loan. In addition, if you pay only the minimum payment in the last few years of the loan, you may owe a larger payment at the end of the loan term, called a balloon payment.
The interest rate on a payment-option ARM is typically very low for the first few months (for example, 2% for the first 1 to 3 months). After that, the interest rate usually rises to a rate closer to that of other mortgage loans. Your payments during the first year are based on the initial low rate, meaning that if you only make the minimum payment each month, it will not reduce the amount you owe and it may not cover the interest due. The unpaid interest is added to the amount you owe on the mortgage, and your loan balance increases. This is called negative amortization. This means that even after making many payments, you could owe more than you did at the beginning of the loan. Also, as interest rates go up, your payments are likely to go up.
Payment-option ARMs have a built-in recalculation period, usually every 5 years. At this point, your payment will be recalculated (or “recast”) based on the remaining term of the loan. If you have a 30-year loan and you are at the end of year 5, your payment will be recalculated for the remaining 25 years. If your 18 | Consumer Handbook on Adjustable-Rate Mortgages loan balance has increased because you have made only minimum payments, or if interest rates have risen faster than your payments, your payments will increase each time your loan is recast. At each recast, your new minimum payment will be a fully amortizing payment and any payment cap will not apply.
This means that your monthly payment can increase a lot at each recast.
Lenders may recalculate your loan payments before the recast period if the amount of principal you owe grows beyond a set limit, say 110% or 125% of your original mortgage amount. For example, suppose you made only minimum payments on your $200,000 mortgage and had any unpaid interest added to your balance. If the balance grew to $250,000 (125% of $200,000), your lender would recalculate your payments so that you would pay off the loan over the remaining term. It is likely that your payments would go up substantially.
Consumer cautions Discounted interest rates Many lenders offer more than one type of ARM. Some lenders offer an ARM with an initial rate that is lower than their fully indexed ARM rate (that is, lower than the sum of the index plus the margin). Such rates—called discounted rates, start rates, or teaser rates—are often combined with large initial loan fees, sometimes called points, and with higher rates after the initial discounted rate expires.
Your lender or broker may offer you a choice of loans that may include “discount points” or a “discount fee.” You may choose to pay these points or fees in return for a lower interest rate. But keep in mind that the lower interest rate may only last until the first adjustment.
If a lender offers you a loan with a discount rate, don’t assume that means that the loan is a good one for you. You should carefully consider whether you will be able to afford higher payments in later years when the discount expires and the rate is adjusted.
Here is an example of how a discounted initial rate might work.
Let’s assume that the lender’s fully indexed 1-year ARM rate (index rate plus margin) is currently 6%; the monthly payment for the first year would be $1,199.10. But your lender is offering an ARM with a discounted initial rate of 4% for the first year.
With the 4% rate, your first-year’s monthly payment would be $954.83.
20 | Consumer Handbook on Adjustable-Rate Mortgages With a discounted ARM, your initial payment will probably remain at $954.83 for only a limited time—and any savings during the discount period may be offset by higher payments over the remaining life of the mortgage. If you are considering a discount ARM, be sure to compare future payments with those for a fully indexed ARM. In fact, if you buy a home or refinance using a deeply discounted initial rate, you run the risk of payment shock, negative amortization, or prepayment penalties or conversion fees.
Payment shock Payment shock may occur if your mortgage payment rises sharply at a rate adjustment. Let’s see what would happen in the second year if the rate on your discounted 4% ARM were to rise to the 6% fully indexed rate.
Suppose that the index rate increases 1% in 1 year and the ARM rate rises to 7%. Your payment in the second year would be $1,320.59.
That’s an increase of $365.76 in your monthly payment. You can see what might happen if you choose an ARM because of a low initial rate without considering whether you will be able to afford future payments.
If you have an interest-only ARM, payment shock can also occur when the interest-only period ends. Or, if you have a paymentoption ARM, payment shock can happen when the loan is recast.
The following example compares several different loans over the first 7 years of their terms; the payments shown are for years 1, 6, and 7 of the mortgage, assuming you make interest-only payments or minimum payments. The main point is that, depending on the terms and conditions of your mortgage and changes in interest rates, ARM payments can change quite a bit over the life of the loan—so while you could save money in the first few years of an ARM, you could also face much higher payments in the future.
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Negative amortization—When you owemore money than you borrowed
Negative amortization means that the amount you owe increases even when you make all your required payments on time. It occurs whenever your monthly mortgage payments are not large enough to pay all of the interest due on your mortgage—meaning the unpaid interest is added to the principal on your mortgage and you will owe more than you originally borrowed. This can happen because you are making only minimum payments on a paymentoption mortgage or because your loan has a payment cap.
For example, suppose you have a $200,000, 30-year paymentoption ARM with a 2% rate for the first 3 months and a 6% rate for the remaining 9 months of the year. Your minimum payment for the year is $739.24, as shown in the previous graph. However, once the 6% rate is applied to your loan balance, you are no longer covering the interest costs. If you continue to make minimum payments on this loan, your loan balance at the end of the first year of your mortgage would be $201,118—or $1,118 more than you originally borrowed.
Because payment caps limit only the amount of payment increases, and not interest-rate increases, payments sometimes do not cover all the interest due on your loan. This means that the unpaid interest is automatically added to your debt, and interest may be charged on that amount. You might owe the lender more later in the loan term than you did at the beginning.
repay the higher remaining loan balance at the interest rate then in effect. When this happens, there may be a substantial increase in your monthly payment.
Some mortgages include a cap on negative amortization. The cap typically limits the total amount you can owe to 110% to 125% of the original loan amount. When you reach that point, the lender will set the monthly payment amounts to fully repay the loan over the remaining term. Your payment cap will not apply, and your payments could be substantially higher. You may limit negative amortization by voluntarily increasing your monthly payment.
Be sure you know whether the ARM you are considering can have negative amortization.
Home Prices, Home Equity, and ARMs Sometimes home prices rise rapidly, allowing people to quickly build equity in their homes. This can make some people think that even if the rate and payments on their ARM get too high, they can avoid those higher payments by refinancing their loan or, in the worst case, selling their home. It’s important to remember that home prices do not always go up quickly—they may increase a little or remain the same, and sometimes they fall. If housing prices fall, your home may not be worth as much as you owe on the mortgage. Also, you may find it difficult to refinance your loan to get a lower monthly payment or rate. Even if home prices stay the same, if your loan lets you make minimum payments (see payment-option ARMs on page 16), you may owe your lender more on your mortgage than you could get from selling your home.
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Prepayment penalties and conversion
If you get an ARM, you may decide later that you don’t want to risk any increases in the interest rate and payment amount.
When you are considering an ARM, ask for information about any extra fees you would have to pay if you pay off the loan early by refinancing or selling your home, and whether you would be able to convert your ARM to a fixed-rate mortgage.
Prepayment penalties Some ARMs, including interest-only and payment-option ARMs, may require you to pay special fees or penalties if you refinance or pay off the ARM early (usually within the first 3 to 5 years of the loan). Some loans have hard prepayment penalties, meaning that you will pay an extra fee or penalty if you pay off the loan during the penalty period for any reason (because you refinance or sell your home, for example). Other loans have soft prepayment penalties, meaning that you will pay an extra fee or penalty only if you refinance the loan, but you will not pay a penalty if you sell your home. Also, some loans may have prepayment penalties even if you make only a partial prepayment.
Prepayment penalties can be several thousand dollars. For example, suppose you have a 3/1 ARM with an initial rate of 6%. At the end of year 2 you decide to refinance and pay off your original loan. At the time of refinancing, your balance is $194,936. If your loan has a prepayment penalty of 6 months’ interest on the remaining balance, you would owe about $5,850.
The lender may be willing to reduce or eliminate a prepayment penalty based on the amount you pay in loan fees or on the interest rate in the loan contract.
If you have a hybrid ARM—such as a 2/28 or 3/27 ARM—be sure to compare the prepayment penalty period with the ARM’s first adjustment period. For example, if you have a 2/28 ARM that has a rate and payment adjustment after the second year, but the prepayment penalty is in effect for the first 5 years of the loan, it may be costly to refinance when the first adjustment is made.
Most mortgages let you make additional principal payments with your monthly payment. In most cases, this is not considered prepayment, and there usually is no penalty for these extra amounts. Check with your lender to make sure there is no penalty if you think you might want to make this type of additional principal prepayment.
Conversion fees Your agreement with the lender may include a clause that lets you convert the ARM to a fixed-rate mortgage at designated times. When you convert, the new rate is generally set using a formula given in your loan documents.
The interest rate or up-front fees may be somewhat higher for a convertible ARM. Also, a convertible ARM may require a fee at the time of conversion.
Graduated-payment or stepped-rate loans Some fixed-rate loans start with one rate for 1 or 2 years and then change to another rate for the remaining term of the loan.
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Where to get information Disclosures from lenders You should receive information in writing about each ARM program you are interested in before you have paid a nonrefundable fee. It is important that you read this information and ask the lender or broker about anything you don’t understand—index rates, margins, caps, and other ARM features such as negative amortization. After you have applied for a loan, you will get more information from the lender about your loan, including the APR, a payment schedule, and whether the loan has a prepayment penalty.
The APR is the cost of your credit as a yearly rate. It takes into account interest, points paid on the loan, any fees paid to the lender for making the loan, and any mortgage insurance premiums you may have to pay. You can compare APRs on similar ARMs (for example, compare APRs on a 5/1 and a 3/1 ARM) to determine which loan will cost you less in the long term, but you should keep in mind that because the interest rate for an ARM can change, APRs on ARMs cannot be compared directly to APRs for fixed-rate mortgages.
You may want to talk with financial advisers, housing counselors, and other trusted advisers. Contact a local housing counseling agency, call the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development toll-free at 800-569-4287, or visit www.hud.gov/ offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/hccprof14.cfm to find an agency near you.
28 | Consumer Handbook on Adjustable-Rate Mortgages Also, see our Where to go for help on page A6, for a list of federal agencies that can provide more information and assistance.