Quick Introduction to 3/1 ARM Mortgages
If you take on a 3/1 adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), you’ll have three years of fixed mortgage payments and a fixed interest rate followed by 27 years of interest rates that adjust on an annual basis. Once the three-year introductory period ends, interest rates can either go up or down depending on what’s happening to the major mortgage index that the mortgage is connected to.
National Mortgage Rates
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3/1 Adjustable-Rate Mortgage Rates
Hybrid mortgages like 3/1 ARMs provide a variety of benefits. For one, borrowers initially have access to mortgage rates that are usually lower than the ones available to people interested in 15-year or 30-year fixed-rate mortgages. At the same time, 3/1 ARMs can be considered risky home loans because homeowners don’t know exactly how much their interest rates will rise after the initial fixed-rate period ends.
Historical 3/1 ARM Rates
3/1 ARM rates have fallen over the years. In late December 2007, the average mortgage rate for the 3/1 ARM was around 6.09%. In late July 2016, the national mortgage rate for the 3/1 ARM was around 3.02%, on average.
3/1 Adjustable-Rate Mortgage Rates
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Lenders offer homebuyers who want 3/1 ARMs an initial interest rate for three years. After 36 months have passed, the homebuyer’s initial rate becomes a fully indexed interest rate that’s equal to an index rate (which changes) plus a margin (a fixed percentage).
ARMs are often tied to mortgage index rates such as the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), which is the most common benchmark that banks around the globe use to set short-term interest rates.
How 3/1 ARM Rates Stack Up Against Other Mortgage Rates
The initial mortgage rates associated with 3/1 ARMs are usually lower than those offered for fixed-rate mortgages. But after the 36-month introductory period comes to an end, homeowners with 3/1 ARMs can get stuck with interest rates that are as much as 6% higher than their initial rates.
If you have a fixed-rate mortgage, such as a 30-year fixed-rate home loan, your interest rate and mortgage payment will always remain the same. But if you have a hybrid mortgage loan like a 3/1 ARM, your mortgage payments could drastically change every year once the three-year introductory period is over.
In most cases, folks with 3/1 ARMs have 30-year loan terms. That means that for 27 years, these homeowners have to deal with fluctuating interest rates that could make their mortgage payments expensive if rates climb.
3/1 ARM Rate Caps
Interest rate caps save many homeowners with 3/1 ARMs from having to deal with sky high rates. These caps limit how much interest rates can increase once interest rates adjust. There are interest rate caps that limit how high interest rates can climb each year as well as ones that prevent interest rates from rising too much over the course of the entire loan term.
Even with an interest rate cap in place, managing your money and sticking to a budget can be difficult when you’re not sure how much your mortgage will cost you. That’s the biggest drawback of having an adjustable-rate mortgage.
3/1 Adjustable-Rate Mortgage Quotes
Before you apply for an adjustable-rate mortgage, it’s best to compare 3/1 ARM mortgage rates. That way you can make sure you’re getting the best deal on your mortgage.
You can easily find free 3/1 ARM mortgage rate quotes online. Each rate quote will give you an idea of what the mortgage payments for your 3/1 ARM might cost, based on factors like your credit score, your down payment and the price you’re willing to pay for the home you’re buying.
It’s a good idea to look for mortgage rates have low APRs and zero prepayment penalties for people who want to pay off their mortgage loans early. The APR (or the annual percentage rate) not only considers how much interest borrowers owe within a year, but it also considers the fees and other charges that they’re responsible for covering. Not having a prepayment penalty allows you to pay off your mortgage early if you are ever able.
How to Get the Lowest 3/1 ARM Rates
The lowest 3/1 ARM mortgage rates are typically reserved for the folks with the best financial track records. In other words, these folks have income stability, plenty of cash savings and high credit scores. And they don’t have a ton of debt.
The minimum credit score and the maximum debt-to-income ratio that you’re required to have will vary depending on your mortgage lender. But if your FICO credit score is below 620, you might not be able to qualify for a conventional loan. That means that you might only be able to get a mortgage that’s backed by the FHA or the USDA.
When it comes to buying a home, cash is king to keep your monthly payments lower. If you can’t afford to put down at least 20%, you’ll have to pay for private mortgage insurance. Plus, you might not get the best interest rate since you’ll need a bigger mortgage and the lender will have more to lose if you default.
On the other hand, if you have a lot of cash on-hand, you can make a big down payment and buy mortgage points. Both of these actions can reduce your mortgage rate.
Bottom line: If you’re planning to buy a house in the future and you want to save on interest, it’s a good idea to put effort into boosting your credit score, increasing your savings and paying down debt.
Taxes and 3/1 ARMs
The mortgage interest deduction is just one tax break that homeowners can qualify for. Some states let homeowners claim a double deduction, meaning that they can claim the mortgage interest deduction when they file both their state and federal income tax returns. Generally, if you want to take advantage of the tax write-off, you’ll have to itemize your deductions.
If you claim the mortgage interest deduction with a 3/1 ARM, don’t be surprised if your tax savings are relatively low, at least for the first three years of your loan term. Because you’ll have a lower interest rate than your neighbors with fixed-rate mortgages, you won’t be paying very much interest in the beginning.
If you’re buying a house, keep in mind that you might have to pay a real estate title transfer tax in addition to property taxes. If you decide to sell your home later on, doing so could increase your tax bill.
Refinancing Your 3/1 ARM
If you’re afraid that you’ll get stuck with a high interest rate beginning with the 37th month of your loan term, you can always try to refinance. That means that you’ll have to pay for closing costs and go through the process of convincing your existing mortgage lender (or another lender) that you deserve a loan with a lower mortgage rate. But if rates are falling, refinancing might be worth it to save you money in the long term.
Some homeowners with fixed-rate mortgages decide to refinance and take on 3/1 ARMs. That might be a good move if you want a lower interest rate and you plan on moving within several years. But if you’re refinancing and you want to stay in your house for the remainder of your loan term, getting a 3/1 ARM might not make sense. It’s important to run the numbers to see both the costs and the potential savings of either option.
If you’re not sure whether you can pay for extra interest when the mortgage rate adjusts after three years, you might be better off refinancing and getting another fixed-rate home loan.