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Pros and Cons of Refinancing an ARM to a Fixed-Rate Mortgage

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Should you go with an adjustable-rate mortgage, or ARM, for a lower initial interest rate or a fixed-rate mortgage for long-term security? That’s a question many ponder when buying a home. But for those who already have an ARM that may be adjusting soon, rising rates may trigger the need to explore a fixed-rate refinance option.

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ARMs are different from fixed-rate mortgages in that they offer a low initial, or “teaser,” interest rate for a period of time — typically three, five, seven or 10 years — that then adjusts to the current rate. Rates for ARMs are typically lower than fixed-rate loans, making them attractive to a range of borrowers, such as first-time buyers who need a lower rate to be able to purchase; borrowers who intend to live in their home for only a few years and to sell before their rate adjusts; and those who may be able to safely predict future salary increases to cover what likely amounts to a higher rate later on.

Mortgage rates are expected to rise throughout the next year, and that uncertainty may bring a desire for a little control. Freddie Mac has forecast 30-year fixed loans to climb above 5% in 2019 — a figure we haven’t seen since 2011 — and the Federal Reserve’s announcement that benchmark interest rates will go up again this year has those homeowners whose ARMs are adjusting soon taking note.

Advantages of refinancing from an ARM to a fixed-rate mortgage

A fixed-rate loan offers several benefits to borrowers and may be especially prudent for those who are looking for a more conservative option than their ARM.

Reduce interest rate risk. Yes, ARMs offer a low initial rate, but once they adjust, borrowers can be in for an unpleasant surprise. In fact, Fannie Mae has a specific policy designed to protect buyers from what it calls “payment shock — the impact on the borrower’s ability to continue making the mortgage payments once the introductory rate expires” by qualifying buyers not just on their payment during the introductory rate, but on an amount that better predicts the post-adjustment payment.

Allows you to create a stable budget. One of the advantages of knowing what your mortgage payment is going to be every month is that it allows you to create a long-term budget and financial plan. Budgeting is difficult enough if you don’t know your firm costs, and only estimating what your most significant expense will be can keep you from creating a stable budget and setting goals. Having a solid budget also allows you to be better prepared for surprises and emergencies.

“An ARM is adjustable, which means the rate can go up,” said Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at LendingTree, which owns MagnifyMoney. “With a fixed-rate mortgage, you know what the rate is going to be. You know what your payment is going to be. It’s not going to change.”

People who are planners also may have interest-rate anxiety if their rate is adjustable. All the “what ifs” related to potential future rate increases can be hard to endure. If your adjustment period is still far away and you’re already starting to panic, it may be a good time to review your options.

Potentially lower your interest rate

While there is the possibility that your interest rate will rise initially when you transition from an ARM to a fixed-rate loan, the advantage is in escaping the possibility of significant financial harm down the line. For many people, the jump from their current rate to the adjusted rate would be enough to hamper their finances. Not only is a fixed rate less risky, but it can also offer long-term savings by avoiding adjustments.

Of course, rates on ARMs can’t increase boundlessly; limits are in place that govern both annual increases and those over the life of the loan. For instance, on Federal Housing Administration one- and three-year ARMs, the rates can go up by 1 percentage point each year after the expiration of the initial rate period, and no more than 5 over the entire loan. But, even a 1-point increase can be enough to create affordability issues for those who are already financially stretched.

Downsides to refinancing your ARM

While there are many advantages to refinancing out of an ARM, doing so is not for everyone. If you tend to be more aggressive financially or are willing to take a gamble on rates staying stable, you may want to ride out your ARM until the last possible moment — and may even want to look into refinancing to another ARM at that point (more on that later).

For those who opt not to refinance at all, that decision is often due to a few potential drawbacks.

Upfront costs. As with almost any refinance, consider the fees involved because they can lower the cost benefit. You can expect to pay between 2% to 6% of the total amount you’re borrowing in closing costs. This covers things like application and origination fees, title insurance and inspection fees. You will most likely also need to pay for an appraisal, so the lender can determine the exact value of your home today. Total costs will vary, depending on where you live, and also can be different lender to lender, which might help you choose one over the other.

Interest-rate changes could be negligible. There are widespread predictions about interest rates rising in 2019, but, for now, they’re just predictions. “Some people play a game of predicting where they think rates are going to go, but I wouldn’t advise that,” Kapfidze said. “People on Wall Street are doing that every day. It’s about your personal risk profile and how comfortable you feel with interest-rate risk.”

A higher monthly payment. Borrowers who choose adjustable-rate loans often do so for the lower interest rate and lower payment, so the idea of a higher payment after switching to a fixed-rate mortgage won’t thrill them. But is the peace of mind of a fixed payment worth the higher amount? “Initially, the payment on a fixed loan may be higher than on an ARM, but, again, you’re eliminating the risk of your payment changing going forward,” Kapfidze said.

Breaking even. If you’re several years into paying your mortgage, you may not relish the idea of going backward. You can calculate your break-even time — the amount of time it will take to recover from the cost of refinancing — to help you decide whether this type of refinancing is a smart decision.

Refinancing to another adjustable-rate mortgage

The reasons you opted to go with an ARM — greater purchasing power with a lower rate, not planning to stay in the house long — might still be in play. In that case, it may make sense to refinance your soon-to-adjust loan to another ARM.

The most recent data from Freddie Mac shows 30-year fixed mortgage rates at 4.45% and a 5/1 ARM at 3.83%. An ARM could save you a considerable amount of money, but in a few years, you may find yourself in the same position again, looking to refinance into a more stable loan with fixed payment for a longer term. And there’s no telling what could happen to rates in the meantime.

Conclusion

Take your chances, or take control of your finances and your future in an uncertain time? For many, that’s the question posed by their adjustable mortgage. With a number of options for refinancing, from an ARM to a fixed-rate loan or to another ARM, buyers have a number of factors to consider, not the least of which is whether they want to refinance at all.

This article contains links to LendingTree, our parent company.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

By clicking “See Rates”, you will be directed to LendingTree. Based on your creditworthiness, you may be matched with up to five different lenders in our partner network.

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Here are the Best Low- or No-Down-Payment Mortgages

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Should you refinance with your current lender?
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It’s an often-cited rule of thumb, but you don’t actually need a 20% down payment to get a mortgage. In fact, you can get a home loan with little money down, and even a no-down-payment mortgage.

Assuming you’re financially prepared for all of the other responsibilities of homeownership, consider the following mortgage programs.

No-down-payment mortgage options

USDA loans

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) insures home loans made by approved lenders to eligible homebuyers in designated rural areas. As the program states, USDA loans were created to improve the quality of life in rural areas by giving families the opportunity to own a “modest, decent, safe and sanitary” home as their primary residence.

There’s no required minimum down payment or mortgage insurance, but there are guarantee fees. A portion of the fee is paid upfront and is 1% of the loan amount; the other portion is 0.35% of the loan amount and is paid annually.

To be eligible, you must:

  • Have a low-to-moderate income for your area
  • Buy a home in a designated rural area
  • Have a preferred minimum 640 credit score
  • Have a maximum 41% debt-to-income (DTI) ratio

VA loans

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) also offers a no-down-payment mortgage option guaranteed through its VA loan program. These loans cater to active-duty military service members, veterans and eligible spouses, and are offered by private lenders.

Borrowers aren’t required to make a down payment, but there is an upfront funding fee — which ranges from 1.4% to 3.6% of the loan amount — to help offset the program’s costs to taxpayers. The loan must be used to purchase a primary residence.

To be eligible, you must:

  • Have a certificate of eligibility from the VA
  • Have a preferred minimum 620 credit score
  • Show proof of stable income
  • Have a maximum 41% DTI ratio

Low-down-payment mortgage options

Fannie Mae HomeReady® and Standard 97% LTV

Fannie Mae has two low down payment conventional loans: HomeReady® and Standard 97% LTV. The HomeReady® mortgage program is open to both first-time and repeat homebuyers, while the Standard option requires at least one borrower to be a first-time buyer.

Borrowers can’t earn more than 80% of their area median income (AMI) if applying for a HomeReady loan. Additionally, if all borrowers on either a HomeReady or Standard loan are first-timers, at least one of them must complete an online homebuyer education course.

Both programs also require private mortgage insurance (PMI) if you make a down payment of less than 20%, though PMI can be removed after you reach 20% equity.

To be eligible, you must:

  • Have a 620 credit score
  • Have a 3% minimum down payment
  • Have a maximum 50% DTI ratio

Freddie Mac HomeOne and Home Possible

Freddie Mac’s HomeOne mortgage is reserved for first-time homebuyers and doesn’t include any income restrictions. The Home Possible® loan is an option for first-time and repeat buyers with a low to moderate income.

Your income must not exceed 80% of the AMI for a Home Possible® loan. You may qualify without a credit score, but your minimum down payment rises from 3% to 5%. Cancellable PMI is required for borrowers who put down less than 20%.

There’s a homebuyer education requirement for both HomeOne and Home Possible® programs when all borrowers on the loan are first-timers.

To be eligible, you must:

  • Have a 3% minimum down payment
  • Have a minimum 660 credit score
  • Have a maximum 50% DTI ratio

FHA loans

The Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA) low down payment home loans require just a 3.5% contribution and a 580 credit score. You can also qualify for an FHA loan with a credit score of 500 to 579 if you have at least a 10% down payment. Other FHA loans, such as construction-to-permanent loans and 203(k) loans, have the same credit score and down payment requirements.

FHA loans require upfront and annual mortgage insurance premiums (MIP). The upfront premium is 1.75% of the loan amount; the annual premium ranges from 0.45% to 1.05%, is divided by 12 and paid in monthly installments as an addition to your mortgage payment. Borrowers who put down at least 10% only pay mortgage insurance for 11 years; putting down less means you’ll pay MIP for the life of your loan.

To be eligible, you must:

  • Have a 580 credit score and 3.5% down payment
  • Have a 500 to 579 credit score and 10% down payment
  • Borrow within your county’s FHA loan limits
  • Have a maximum 43% DTI ratio

Good Neighbor Next Door

The Good Neighbor Next Door program from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) allows homebuyers in certain public service professions to buy a home at a 50% discount. If you qualify for and use an FHA loan to buy a home, the down payment is only $100, instead of the minimum 3.5% that’s usually required.

Eligible borrowers must buy a home located in a HUD revitalization area and commit to live in the home for at least three years. They must also sign a silent second mortgage for the discounted amount, though no payments are required if all program requirements are met.

To be eligible, you must:

  • Be a full-time pre-K through 12th grade educator, emergency medical technician, firefighter or law enforcement officer
  • Buy a home in a HUD revitalization area
  • Qualify for a conventional, FHA or VA loan
  • Live in the home for at least three years

Pros and cons of no or low down payment

Pros

Cons

  • Buy a home sooner. It can take years to save up for a larger down payment. By contributing 0% down or the lowest possible amount, you can reach your homeownership goal in less time.

  • Avoid depleting your savings. If you limit how much money you contribute to your home purchase, you can leave some of your emergency savings intact. Lenders want to know that you can weather financial hiccups, such as a job loss or income reduction.

  • Start out with less equity. The less money you put down, the less home equity you’ll have initially. This means your ownership stake in your home is much smaller, which may lead to pocketing less money if you need to sell in a few years.

  • Take out a larger mortgage. A no- or low-down-payment mortgage means you’ll be close to financing 100% of your home’s purchase price. A larger mortgage means a higher monthly payment amount.

  • Pay more in interest over time. The more money you borrow, the higher your interest rate typically will be. This also means you’ll pay more in interest over the life of your loan.

FAQs about mortgage down payments

Yes, there will be closing costs to pay on your home loan. Mortgage closing costs can range from 2% to 6% of your loan amount. You can pay these costs out of pocket at the closing table, or ask your lender about a no-closing-cost mortgage. With this type of loan, your lender will either increase your mortgage rate or add the closing costs to your loan amount, instead of having you pay those costs upfront.

It depends on the type of mortgage. Conventional loans require private mortgage insurance when you put down less than 20%, and it can be canceled after you’ve built at least 20% equity in your home. All FHA loans require mortgage insurance premiums, but if you put down 10% or more, you can get rid of MIP after 11 years.

Reach out to your loan officer and real estate agent for help identifying any down payment assistance programs you might qualify for. You should also check with your state’s housing finance agency.

Many loan programs let you use monetary gifts from family members, friends and others to help cover your down payment, but there must be a specific paper trail for the gift. The donor will need to submit a gift letter to show that you won’t have to repay the money being gifted to you. Consult your lender for specific guidelines.

Yes, your down payment amount can affect your mortgage rate. The less money you put down, the riskier you can appear to lenders, and they can account for this risk by raising your mortgage rate.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

By clicking “See Rates”, you will be directed to LendingTree. Based on your creditworthiness, you may be matched with up to five different lenders in our partner network.

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Mortgage

5 Home Loans for People With Bad Credit

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

You don’t need a perfect credit score to get a mortgage — there are home loans for people with bad credit. But before getting this type of mortgage, find out how a lower credit score affects your overall borrowing costs.

Buying a home with bad credit

It’s possible to buy a home with bad credit — you could have a credit score as low as 500 and still qualify for a mortgage. The lower your credit score, though, the fewer lending options you’ll have and the higher your mortgage rate will be.

FICO scores, the credit scores used by most lenders, typically range from 300 to 850. Having a lower credit score translates to higher risk for a lender, and vice versa. Any score 669 or lower is considered “fair” or “poor.” Here’s a breakdown:

  • Exceptional: 800 and higher 
  • Very Good: 740-799
  • Good: 670-739
  • Fair: 580-669
  • Poor: 580 and lower 

Lenders like to see high credit scores because it exhibits an ability to manage debt, make on-time payments and use credit responsibly. Your creditworthiness will come into question if you plan on buying a home with bad credit, but it doesn’t have to hold you back from homeownership.

5 home loans for bad credit

Consider one of the following home loans for bad credit.

Fannie MaeHomeReady

Fannie Mae’s HomeReady mortgage program is an option for both first-time homebuyers and repeat buyers with limited access to down payment funds and a fair credit score. This conventional home loan has cancellable mortgage insurance for those who put down less than 20%, and gives borrowers the option to use boarder or rental income to help them qualify. If all borrowers on a loan are first-timers, at least one borrower is required to complete a homeownership education course.

Eligibility requirements include:

  • A minimum 620credit score
  • A minimum 3% down payment
  • A low- to moderate income

FHA Loans

Mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) could be considered bad credit home loans because they make it easier for low-credit-score homebuyers to get a mortgage. FHA loans have a low down payment requirement, but you’ll pay mortgage insurance premiums (both upfront and annual) for the life of your loan. If you put down at least 10%, you can get rid of mortgage insurance after 11 years.

Eligibility requirements include:

  • A minimum 10% down payment for a 500-579 credit score
  • A minimum 3.5% down for a 580+ credit score
  • Borrowing within your county’s FHA loan limits

USDA loans

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) insures mortgages funded by approved lenders through the USDA home loan program. There’s no minimum required credit score, but a 640 score could help you get approved automatically if you meet employment and income requirements.

Eligibility requirements include:

  • No minimum required down payment
  • Meeting local income limits
  • Buying a home in a designated rural area

VA Loans

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) also offers bad credit home loans through approved lenders for active-duty service members, veterans and eligible spouses. The VA doesn’t have a specific credit score requirement, but lenders may require a minimum 620score. No down payment is required. Additionally, most borrowers will have to pay an upfront funding fee to offset the cost of VA loans to taxpayers.

Eligibility requirements include:

Non-qualified mortgage loans

The loans discussed above are all qualified mortgages, meaning they meet certain requirements that establish a borrower’s ability to repay a loan. There are also non-qualified mortgage (non-QM) loans, which have more wiggle room for high-risk borrowers, such as accepting credit scores below 500.

Eligibility requirements include:

  • Demonstrating your ability to repay the loan
  • A minimum down payment up to 20%
  • A maximum debt-to-income ratio of up to 55%

How to get a home loan with bad credit

Use the following list of tips as a resource to help you get a bad credit home loan.

  • Avoid applying for new credit. A new auto loan, credit card or personal loan application means you’ll have new inquiries on your credit reports, which can drop your credit score.
  • Dispute any credit report errors. Finding and disputing inaccurate information on your credit reports could improve your credit score and help lenders see you as a less risky borrower.
  • Pay your bills on time. Your payment history makes up the biggest chunk of your credit score at 35%, according to FICO. Making on-time payments can help boost your score and demonstrate your creditworthiness as a borrower.
  • Lower your outstanding debt load. Pay down your credit card and loan balances. Lenders don’t want to see that your income is stretched too thin to afford a mortgage. Keep your credit usage below 30% of your maximum credit limit across each of your accounts.
  • Don’t close any accounts. Closing old accounts, especially credit cards, shortens your overall credit history and can negatively impact your credit score.
  • Have your rent payments reported to the credit bureaus. As long as you’ve been maintaining an on-time rental payment history, having your rent payments reported to the bureaus may boost your score.
  • Make a larger down payment. A larger down payment can compensate for a lower credit score. Don’t completely drain your cash reserves, though. Keep three to six months’ worth of living expenses in a savings account for emergencies.
  • Pay for mortgage points. If you have the extra cash, consider buying mortgage points to lower your interest rate and overall loan costs. One point is equal 1% of your loan amount and can lower your rate by up to 0.25%.

Should you get a bad credit home loan?

Home loans for bad credit come with more risk for lenders, so you can expect to pay more as a borrower. Crunch the numbers with a mortgage calculator to help you determine whether to move forward with a bad credit mortgage or wait until your credit profile improves.

Here’s an example of how your credit score can affect your costs on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage:

 620 credit score760 credit score
Mortgage rate4.84%3.25%
Loan amount$200,000$200,000
Monthly payment
(Principal and interest)
$1,054.17$870.41
Total interest cost$179,501.82$113,348.55

As you can see, improving your score from “fair” to “very good” could amount to a mortgage payment that is nearly $184 less each month, saving you more than $2,200 each year and more than $66,000 in interest over the term of your mortgage.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

By clicking “See Rates”, you will be directed to LendingTree. Based on your creditworthiness, you may be matched with up to five different lenders in our partner network.