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U.S. Mortgage Market Statistics: 2018

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Homeownership rates in the United States have increased steadily since the height of the 2007-2010 housing crisis. Despite this, increasing interest rates and high home prices have kept the homeownership rate much lower throughout 2018 than it was during the era before the crisis.

Housing prices have recently begun to cool, however, which may create opportunities for some would-be buyers to be able to afford a home. But this does not mean that the homeownership rate will approach its previous peak levels anytime soon. Nonetheless, the overall housing market is in a healthy state, with very low levels of distressed loans.

Throughout this piece, we dig into a broad range of housing metrics to help paint a picture of the current state of the housing market, explain who gets home financing, how mortgages are structured and how Americans are managing our debt.

Summary:

  • Total mortgage debt: $10.3 trillion1
  • Average mortgage balance: $148,0602
  • Average new mortgage balance: $260,3863
  • Homeownership rate (share of owner-occupied homes): 64.4%4
  • Homeowners with a mortgage: 63%5
  • Median credit score for a new mortgage: 7586
  • Average down payment required: $28,9327
  • Mortgages originated in 2017: $1.75 trillion8
  • Share of mortgages originated by banks: 40%9
  • Share of mortgages originated by credit unions: 9%9
  • Share of mortgages originated by nonbank lenders: 51%9
  • Share of mortgages with a delinquency rate of 30 days or more: 3%20

Key insights:

  • While credit score requirements are still more lax than they were in 2012, the median credit score for a new mortgage in 2017 was 758, four points higher than it was in 20166
  • 3% of mortgages on single family homes are in delinquency, or at least 30 days past due. In 2010, mortgage delinquency reached 11.54%20

Homeownership and equity levels

In the second quarter of 2017, real estate values in the United States surpassed their pre-housing-crisis levels. As of the third quarter of 2018, the total value of real estate owned by individuals in the United States is nearly $25.6 trillion19, and total mortgages clock in at $10.3 trillion.1 This means that Americans have $15.2 trillion in home equity.12 This is the highest value of home equity Americans have ever seen.

However, real estate wealth is becoming increasingly concentrated as overall homeownership rates fall. In 2004, 69% of all Americans owned homes. Today, that number is down to 64.4%.4 While home affordability remains a question for many Americans, the downward trend in homeownership also corresponds to banks’ tighter credit standards following the Great Recession.

New mortgage originations

Mortgage origination levels have recovered from their housing crisis lows. In 2008, financial institutions issued just $1.4 trillion of new mortgages. In 2016, new first lien mortgages topped $2 trillion for the first time since the end of the housing crisis, but mortgage originations were still 25% lower than their pre-recession average.8 New first lien mortgages fell to $1.8 trillion in 2017. Through the second quarter of 2018, banks originated just $820 billion in new mortgages, which is $20 billion lower than it was at the same point in 2017.

As recently as 2010, three banks (Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Chase) originated 56% of all mortgages.13 But in 2017, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Chase and all banks put together originated just 40% of all loans.9

“Nonbank” lending, both credit unions and nondepository lenders have continued to cut into banks’ share of the mortgage market. In 2017, credit unions issued 9% of all mortgages. Additionally, 51% of all mortgages in 2017 came from non-depository lending institutions like Quicken Loans and PennyMac. Behind Wells Fargo ($212 billion) and Chase ($108 billion), Quicken ($86 billion) was the third-largest mortgage issuer in 2017. In the fourth quarter of 2017, PennyMac issued $17 billion in loans and was the fifth largest lender overall.9

Government vs. private securitization

Banks tend to be more willing to issue new mortgages if a third party will buy the mortgage in the secondary market. This is a process called loan securitization. Consumers can’t directly influence which entity buys their mortgage, but mortgage securitization influences who gets mortgages and their rates.

Government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) have traditionally played an important role in ensuring banks will issue new mortgages. Through the second quarter of 2018, GSEs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac purchased 44% of all newly issued mortgages, down from 46% in the second quarter of 2017.8

Through the second quarter of 2018, private securitization companies purchased only 2% of all loans, notably higher than the .6% purchased in 2017.8 Prior to 2007, private securitization companies held $1.6 trillion in subprime and Alt-A (near prime) mortgages. In 2005 alone, private securitization companies purchased $1.1 trillion worth of mortgages. Today, private securitization companies hold just $438 billion in total assets, including $361 billion in subprime and Alt-A loans.14

As private securitization firms exited the mortgage landscape, programs from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have filled in some of the gap. The FHA and VA are designed to help borrowers get loans despite having smaller down payments or lower incomes. FHA and VA loans accounted for 23% of all loans issued in 2017, and 22% in the first half of 2018.8. These loan programs are the only mortgages that grew in absolute terms from the pre-mortgage crisis. From 2001 through 2007, FHA and VA loans only accounted for an average $138 billion in loans per year. In 2017, FHA and VA loans accounted for $441 billion in loans issued.8 In 2017, 24% of all first lien mortgages were financed through FHA or VA programs.

Portfolio loans — mortgages held by banks — accounted for $524 billion in new mortgages in 2017. Despite tripling in volume from their 2009 low, portfolio loans remain down 29% from their pre-crisis average.8

Mortgage credit characteristics

As of 2017, banks have issued 31% fewer mortgages compared with a pre-crisis average between 2001 and 2007. This means that borrowers need better credit in order to get a mortgage. 8

The median FICO score for an originated mortgage rose from 707 in late 2006 to 758 in November 2018. 11

Despite the dramatic credit requirement increases from 2006 to today, banks are starting to relax lending standards somewhat. In the first quarter of 2012, the median borrower had a credit score of 781, 23 points higher than the median borrower in November 2018.11

From the third quarter of 2001 through the end of 2008, an average of 20% of all mortgages originated went to people with subprime credit scores (lower than 660). In the third quarter of 2018, subprime borrowers received just 9% of all mortgages.

Meanwhile, the share of mortgages issued to borrowers people with excellent credit (scores above 760) doubled. Between the third quarter of 2001 and the end 2008, just 28% of all mortgages went to people with excellent credit. In the third quarter of 2018, 57% of all mortgages went to people with excellent credit.6

Although banks tightened lending standards related to maximum debt-to-income (DTI) ratios for their mortgages in response to the market crash of 2008, they have recently begun to show signs of loosening those standards. For example, the average DTI ratio in 2017, 35.1%, was more than one point higher than the average DTI ratio in 2016, 34.0%. Nonetheless, the average DTI ratio is still lower than it was in 2007 where it was 38.4%.

LTV and delinquency trends

Banks continue to screen customers on the basis of credit score and income, but customers who take on mortgages are taking on bigger loans than ever before. Today, a new mortgage has an average unpaid balance of approximately $260,000 according to data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.3

The primary drivers behind larger loans are higher home prices, but lower down payments also play a role. Prior to the housing crisis, more than half of all borrowers put down at least 20%. The average loan-to-value ratio at loan origination was 82%.10

In 2018, the average loan-to-value ratio at origination has fallen to 86% from 87% in 2017.10

As of November, 2018, the average loan-to-value ratio across all homes in the United States is an estimated 40%. The average LTV on mortgaged homes is 63%.16 This is substantially higher than the pre-recession LTV ratio of approximately 60%. Between 2009 and 2011, more than a quarter of all mortgaged homes had negative equity. Today, just 4.2% of mortgaged homes have negative equity.17

Americans continue to manage mortgage debt well. Current homeowners have mortgage payments that make up an average of just 15.1% of their annual household income.18

In quarter three of 2018, mortgage delinquency rates were 3.0%. This low delinquency rate is well below the 2010 high of 11.5% delinquency.20

Today, delinquency rates on mortgages fully returned to their pre-crisis lows, and can be expected to stay low until the next economic recession.

Mortgage debt service payments as a percentage of disposable personal income have fallen to their lowest levels since 1980, when the data was first recorded.

Sources:

  1. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), Households and Nonprofit Organizations; Home Mortgages; Liability, Level [HHMSDODNS], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/HHMSDODNS Dec. 18, 2018.
  2. Survey of Consumer Expectations Housing Survey – 2018,” Credit Quality and Inclusion, from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Accessed Nov. 28, 2018.
  3. Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, “ Average Loan Amount, 1-4 family dwelling, 2017.” Accessed Nov. 19, 2018.
  4. U.S. Census, Homeownership Rate for the United States [USHOWN], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/RHORUSQ156N, Nov. 19, 2018. (Calculated as percentage of all housing units occupied by an owner occupant.)
  5. “U.S. Census Bureau, 2017 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates,” Mortgage Status, Owner-Occupied Housing Units. Accessed Nov. 19, 2018.
  6. Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit August 2017.” Credit Score at Origination: Mortgages, from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Equifax Consumer Credit Panel. Accessed Nov.19, 2018.
  7. Calculated metric:
    1. Down Payment Value = Home Price* Average Down Payment Amount (Average Unpaid Balance on a New Mortgageb / Median LTV on a New Loanc) * (1 – Median LTV on a New Loanc)
    2. Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, “ Average Loan Amount, 1-4 family dwelling, 2017.” Accessed Nov. 19, 2018. Gives an average unpaid principal balance on a new loan = $260,386
    3. Housing Finance at a Glance: A Monthly Chartbook, October 2018.” Page 17, Median Combined LTV at Origination from the Urban Institute, Urban Institute, calculated from: Corelogic, eMBS, HMDA, SIFMA, and Urban Institute. Data provided by Urban Institute Housing Finance Policy Center Staff.
  8. Housing Finance at a Glance: A Monthly Chartbook, October 2018.” Page 8, First Lien Origination Volume from the Urban Institute. Source: Inside Mortgage Finance and the Urban Institute. Data provided by Urban Institute Housing Finance Policy Center Staff.
  9. Mortgage Daily. 2018. “Mortgage Daily 2017 Biggest Lender Ranking” [Press Release] Retrieved from https://globenewswire.com/news-release/2018/03/26/1453033/0/en/Mortgage-Daily-2017-Biggest-Lender-Ranking.html.
  10. Housing Finance at a Glance: A Monthly Chartbook, October 2018.” Combined LTV at Origination from the Urban Institute, Urban Institute, calculated from: Corelogic, eMBS, HMDA, SIFMA, and Urban Institute. Data provided by Urban Institute Housing Finance Policy Center Staff. Accessed Nov. 26, 2018.
  11. Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit November 2018.” Mortgage Delinquency Rates, from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Equifax Consumer Credit Panel. Accessed Nov. 28, 2018. A breakdown of data can be found here: https://www.newyorkfed.org/microeconomics/hhdc/background.html
  12. Calculated metric: Value of U.S. Real Estate – Mortgage Debt Held by Individuals
    1. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), Households; Owner-Occupied Real Estate including Vacant Land and Mobile Homes at Market Value [HOOREVLMHMV], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/HOOREVLMHMV, Nov 28, 2018.
  13. Mortgage Daily, 2017. “3 Biggest Lenders Close over Half of U.S. Mortgages” [Press Release]. Retrieved from http://www.mortgagedaily.com/PressRelease021511.asp?spcode=chronicle.
  14. Housing Finance at a Glance: A Monthly Chartbook, October 2018” Size of the US Residential Mortgage Market, Page 6 and Private Label Securities by Product Type, Page 7, from the Urban Institute Private Label Securities by Product Type, Urban Institute, calculated from: Corelogic and the Urban Institute. Data provided by Urban Institute Housing Finance Policy Center Staff. Accessed Nov. 28, 2018
  15. ““Fannie Mae Statistical Summary Tables: October 2018” from Fannie Mae. Accessed Nov. 29, 2018; and “ Single Family Loan-Level Dataset Summary Statistics” from Freddie Mac. Accessed Nov. 28, 2018. Combined debt-to-income ratios weighted using original unpaid balance from both datasets.
  16. Calculated metrics:
    1. Mortgages Houses LTV = Value of All Mortgages / (Value of All Homes – Value of Homes with No Mortgagee)
    2. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), Households; Owner-Occupied Real Estate including Vacant Land and Mobile Homes at Market Value [HOOREVLMHMV], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/HOOREVLMHMV, Nov. 28, 2018.
    3. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), Households and Nonprofit Organizations; Home Mortgages; Liability, Level [HHMSDODNS], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/HHMSDODNS, Nov. 28, 2018.
    4. U.S. Census Bureau, 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Aggregate Value (Dollars) by Mortgage Status, Nov. 28, 2018.
  17. Housing Finance at a Glance: A Monthly Chartbook, October 2018.” Negative Equity Share, Page 22. Source: CoreLogic and the Urban Institute. Data provided by Urban Institute Housing Finance Policy Center Staff. Accessed Nov. 28, 2018
  18. Survey of Consumer Expectations Housing Survey – 2018,” Credit Quality and Inclusion, from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Accessed Nov. 28, 2018.
  19. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), Households; Owner-Occupied Real Estate including Vacant Land and Mobile Homes at Market Value [HOOREVLMHMV], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/HHMSDODNS Dec. 12, 2018.
  20. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), Delinquency Rate on Single-Family Residential Mortgages, Booked in Domestic Offices, All Commercial Banks [DRSFRMACBS], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/DRSFRMACBS Dec. 12, 2018.

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Tendayi Kapfidze is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Tendayi here

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7 Reasons Your Mortgage Application Was Denied

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Rejection isn’t fun under any circumstances, but it can be especially frustrating when you’re trying to buy a home. If your mortgage application was denied, know that you aren’t alone. Nearly 11% of mortgage applications were denied in 2017, according to the latest available data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Reasons for a mortgage application denial usually fall into a handful of categories, including credit history, employment history or property issues. Regardless of what the problem is, you’ll walk away from the experience learning why you’ve been denied and can use that information to work toward a favorable outcome in the future.

Below are seven of the most common reasons your mortgage application might not be approved, according to the CFPB — and then how to move forward.

1. You have a history of late payments

Before you can be approved for a mortgage, your lender needs to make sure you’d be able to repay the loan. Your income and how well you manage your existing debt help determine whether you’ll satisfy your mortgage payments every month, but so will your payment history. Failing to pay your electric, internet or other recurring bills on time will eventually affect your credit reports and scores.

Why this matters

Your payment history makes up the largest chunk of your credit score — 35% — and is listed on every debt-related account included on your credit report. Your credit score factors in the following details about late or missed payments, according to the FICO credit scoring system:

  • How late you were
  • How much you owe
  • How recently you were late
  • How many late or missed payments you have

Other negative information such as a bankruptcy or an account in collections are also factored into your score and will catch your lender’s attention.
If you have a credit history filled with late payments, this indicates to your lender that you struggle with maintaining on-time payments and are more likely to continue making late payments while repaying a mortgage.

How to avoid this issue: Maintain a track record of on-time payments for all your existing debt before and after you apply for a mortgage. If you have a few late payments on your credit report, keep in mind the further removed you are from your late payments, the less impact they’ll have on your credit score.

2. Your job status has changed

Rapidly switching employers and being in-between jobs can be grounds for an application denial.

Why this matters

Mortgage lenders like to see evidence of steady employment, especially for the last two years. They’ll usually verify this by reviewing your pay stubs and W-2s. If your employment history is spotty and doesn’t demonstrate that you’ve been maintaining consistent employment, you’re considered a higher risk and likely won’t be approved.

How to avoid this issue: Limit your job changes before you apply for a mortgage. A good rule of thumb is have had no more than three employers in the last two years and no time between those jobs where you were unemployed. Additionally, avoid any job changes after applying for a mortgage, as this could derail the process.

3. Your bank account has some red flags

Lenders will request at least the last few months of statements from your banking institution to see how your finances are holding up. Because they’re closely reviewing those documents, any suspicious-looking activity will present some red flags. Suspicious activity might include, but isn’t limited to:

  • Using multiple P.O. boxes or frequently changing addresses.
  • Conducting wire transfers to and from places known for their tax haven status or terrorism affiliation.
  • Making large cash payments from sources that typically aren’t associated with cash-based transactions.
  • Using money orders that are sequentially numbered.

Why this matters

Combing through your financial profile is part of the mortgage lending process. If you frequently overdraft your checking account, that won’t reflect well on your reputation as a prospective borrower. On the other end of the spectrum, having large deposits that aren’t accounted for can also cause problems.

You’ll need to verify every income source you want counted as part of your application, said Bruce McClary, vice president of communications for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling in Washington, D.C. Any side hustles you have need to be documented and verified if you want that information factored into your ability to afford the mortgage. One way to verify income is by providing your lender with pay stubs or W-2s from your supplemental income sources.

“If you’re relying on every penny, that can really be a roadblock,” McClary said.

How to avoid this issue: Keep track of all your income-related documents and provide them to your lender when they’re requested.

4. You omitted information on your application

Don’t try to outsmart your mortgage lender by withholding information that is pertinent to your loan application, such as neglecting to mention alimony payments or an unpaid federal tax debt. And even if you do so unintentionally, it might be too late to correct it once it’s discovered.

Why this matters

Your loan officer should carefully review your application to make sure it’s filled out completely and accurately. A small error like missing a zero on your income or accidentally skipping a section could mean losing your dream home.

There’s also the chance you forgot to include information that the underwriter caught later in the more extensive screening process, such as money owed to the IRS.

How to avoid this issue: Disclose all of your debt, judgments and other financial-related details to your loan officer upfront. Otherwise, they may not be able to help you if it comes up and disqualifies you later on.

5. You recently opened a new credit account

One of the main ways homebuyers can self-sabotage their chances at being fully approved for a home loan is by making decisions — such as opening a new credit card or financing a new vehicle — that affect their credit profile, after getting an initial green light from their lender in the form of a mortgage preapproval.

A preapproval is conditional and based on where your credit reports, credit scores, income and overall financial picture stand at the time the preapproval was granted. Any changes you make to your finances can prevent you from buying a home.

Why this matters

When you add a new set of debt to your plate, that increases your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. Your DTI ratio is the percentage of your gross monthly income that is used to repay debt. In most cases, mortgage lenders like to see a DTI ratio of 43% or less. Adding any type of credit account will jeopardize your DTI ratio and potentially push you into denial territory.
“Everybody focuses so much on the credit report, but the other question is: Are you financing a home that you can actually afford?” McClary said.

How to avoid this issue: Don’t make any financial decisions that will result in an inquiry on your credit reports and an increase in your debt load. Practice this for 6-12 months before you start the homebuying process, McClary advised. You’ll also need to continue this practice until after you get your house keys. Additionally, try to find ways to boost your income to pay off debt.

6. You don’t have enough cash to close

Borrowing a mortgage will cost you more than just your monthly mortgage payment. In most cases, you’ll have a required down payment and closing costs to pay for. If you don’t have proof that you can cover those costs, your application may be rejected.

Why this matters

Your mortgage lender will want you to have some skin in the game for your home purchase, which would be your down payment. There are also the closing costs you’ll be charged for taking out a mortgage.

During the approval process, your lender will request that you provide proof of funds to close on your loan. Some examples of proof include bank statements, retirement account statements and gift letters with the donor’s proof of funds — in cases when a loved one is helping you meet your “cash to close” amount. Be sure your gift money is coming from an acceptable source, however.

Failing to provide the necessary documents can lead to a mortgage denial.

How to avoid this issue: Save aggressively for your down payment and closing costs. It’s possible to qualify for a mortgage with as little as 3% down, depending on your credit score. Your closing costs can range from 2% to 5% of your home’s purchase price.

If you’re borrowing or withdrawing from a retirement account, supply documentation from your plan provider that shows you qualify to do so, along with statements that verify you have the funds available to use for your home purchase. And if you need some extra help, consider a down payment assistance program.

7. Your home appraisal doesn’t match up

Getting a full mortgage approval is also contingent upon having the home appraised. Any problems that come up during the appraisal process can stop you from getting your house keys.

Why this matters

A home appraisal is an unbiased estimate of a home’s value. Your mortgage lender will more than likely require an appraisal for the home you’re trying to buy in order to verify that the purchase price checks out. If the appraisal aligns with the sales price or is slightly higher, no worries there. But if the appraisal is lower than the sales price, your lender might deny your application.

How to avoid this issue: If you have the financial capacity to do so, you can make up the difference in cash. You could also try negotiating a lower sales price with the home seller.

How to move forward after a mortgage denial

Once you’ve been denied, it’s time to figure out how to work toward eventually getting approved. Keep these tips in mind on how to move forward.

  • Find out why you were denied. Mortgage lenders are required to give you an explanation for why they denied your mortgage application if you submit a request for that information in writing, according to the CFPB. They must also provide you with a copy of the credit report that factored into your denial.
  • Improve your circumstances. Whether it’s a high DTI ratio, too short of an employment history or another common setback, take some time to correct those issues and better position yourself for mortgage approval in the future.
  • Consider housing counseling. In cases where you were denied for credit or income-related reasons, McClary suggests reaching out to a nonprofit housing counseling agency for help addressing those issues.

Everyone’s timeline is different for when they should apply again, so be sure to check with your lender or a housing counselor for guidance on next steps.

The bottom line

Being denied for a mortgage can be a discouraging experience, but it doesn’t mean all hope is lost for your goal of homeownership.

Once you’re clear on why you were denied, you can make the necessary changes so you’re not rejected the next time around.

“The more you do leading up to the loan application to make sure that you check and double-check every step, then the easier the actual homebuying process will be,” McClary said, “because that financing piece is locked down and you’ve addressed all the issues that could potentially be roadblocks.”

Here’s what you need to know about the most important factors to getting approved for a mortgage.

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.

Crissinda Ponder
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Mortgage

The 5/1 ARM: What Is It and Is It for Me?

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

5/1 ARM mortgage
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Homebuying involves a lot of decisions. You choose your neighborhood, your home, your mortgage program and your down payment. But you’ll also need to decide on the structure of your interest rate — fixed or adjustable.

While most people prefer a fixed-rate mortgage, there is a market for adjustable-rate loans. Nearly 7% of all loans originated in April 2019 were adjustable-rate mortgages, according to Ellie Mae’s latest Origination Insight Report.

One common adjustable-rate mortgage is known as a 5/1 ARM. It has an initial fixed rate for five years before the interest rate starts adjusting. The rate can change every year for the remaining life of the loan.

An adjustable-rate mortgage can be a good way to get a better initial interest rate, usually lower than a traditional 30-year fixed-rate loan. But before you dive in to an adjustable-rate mortgage application, you’d better know how the changing interest rate will affect what you pay.

Here’s a guide to how 5/1 ARMs work, how they differ from fixed-rate mortgages and their pros and cons.

What’s a 5/1 ARM?

Before defining a 5/1 ARM, we should first define an adjustable-rate mortgage, or ARM. An ARM is a type of mortgage that has an interest rate that changes, or adjusts, multiple times over the life of the loan.

Different types of adjustable-rate mortgages have interest rates that change at different intervals and are limited to certain levels of increase each time. Most ARMs start out with a fixed interest rate for several years and eventually transition to a period with an variable interest rate for the rest of the term, usually a total of 30 years.

In the case of a 5/1 ARM, the mortgage rate is fixed for the first five years. That’s what the “5” refers to. Then, the mortgage can adjust each year thereafter for the remaining 25 years of the loan term. That’s what the “1” refers to, since the rate changes after one year.

Since the 5/1 ARM is a blend of a fixed-rate and adjustable-rate loan, it can also be known as a hybrid mortgage.

How 5/1 ARM interest rates adjust

Adjustable-rate mortgages are less predictable than fixed-rate loans and are directly impacted by economic factors after you’ve started repaying the loan.

Changes to the interest rate on an adjustable-rate mortgage are based on an index, which is a benchmark interest rate that reflects general market conditions, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The most common index used for mortgages is the one-year London Inter-Bank Offer Rate, or LIBOR for short.

Mortgage lenders use the index and then add on a fixed margin to determine your interest rate. A margin is a set number of percentage points added on to the index. So, if the one-year LIBOR is 2.65% and your lender’s margin is 2.15%, your mortgage rate, or “fully indexed rate,” at that time would be 4.8%.

Interest rates on 5/1 ARMs typically start out lower than those for fixed-rate mortgages. As of mid-May 2019, the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 4.07%, while the 5/1 ARM was 3.66%, according to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey.

Let’s take a look at how a 5/1 ARM stacks up against a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage after the first five years. We’ll use a hypothetical $250,000 house and assume the buyer is putting down 20%, which means they’ll borrow a $200,000 mortgage.

 

5/1 ARM

30-Year FRM

Interest rate

3.7

4.1

Monthly payment
(Principal and interest)

$920.57

$966.40

Interest paid after five years

$6,639.60

$7,406.94

Principal paid after five years

$4,407.19

$4,189.82

As shown above, because the 5/1 ARM has a lower interest rate during its fixed-rate period than the 30-year fixed does, the buyer would pay $767.34 less in interest after five years and pay down $217.37 more of the principal balance of the loan. The results could quickly reverse once the 5/1 ARM’s interest rate begins adjusting, however.

Let’s look at the 5/1 ARM (on a $250,000 home with a $50,000 down payment) after two interest rate adjustments to understand how the changes can impact the monthly mortgage payment.

 

Adjustment #1

Adjustment #2

Index

2.65%

2.8%

Margin

2.15%

2.15%

Interest rate (Index + margin)

4.8%

4.95%

Monthly payment (Principal and interest)

$1,049.33

$1,067.54

In the above scenarios, the 5/1 ARM interest rate jumps significantly higher than 3.7%. By the time the rate jumps to 4.8% and again to 4.95%, the monthly payment increases by nearly $130 and $150, respectively.

Pros and cons of 5/1 ARM

As with any financial product, there are benefits and drawbacks. Consider the following pros and cons of borrowing a 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage.

Pros

  • ARM interest rates are usually lower than 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (and sometimes 15-year fixed-rate mortgages) for the first five years, which means you’ll pay less in interest during that time.
  • Monthly mortgage payments are also typically lower in the first five years, thanks to the lower interest rate.
  • There is a limit to how high your interest rate can increase over the life of your loan, which is called a lifetime adjustment cap. The cap is typically five percentage points, but your lender’s cap could be higher, according to the CFPB.

Cons

  • After the first five years of a 5/1 ARM, the interest rate can adjust each year and is not predictable. Although there’s a cap on how much your rate can increase the first time it adjusts, it can still be significantly higher than the fixed rate you’re losing.
  • Because your interest rate adjusts over the life of your loan, so does your monthly mortgage payment. If a higher mortgage payment would greatly impact your budget, this could cause you some affordability problems.
  • If you want to keep a fixed interest rate, you must refinance into a fixed-rate mortgage, which comes with closing costs and other fees. You must also qualify for a refinance in order to get out of your existing mortgage.

A 5/1 ARM might work for you if …

“For certain people, like first-time homebuyers, 5/1 ARM mortgages are very useful,” said Doug Crouse, a senior loan officer with nearly 20 years of experience in the mortgage industry.

Homebuyers in the following scenarios could benefit from a 5/1 ARM:

  • First-time buyers who plan to move within the first five years of owning their home.
  • Buyers who plan to pay of their mortgage very quickly.
  • Buyers who are borrowing a jumbo mortgage.

Crouse explained that with some first-time buyers, the plan is to move after a few years. This group can benefit from lower interest rates and lower monthly payments during those early years before the fixed rate changes to a variable rate.

Mindy Jensen, a real estate agent and community manager for BiggerPockets, an online community of real estate investors, agrees. “You can actually use a 5/1 ARM to your advantage in certain situations,” she said.

A 5/1 ARM could work well for someone who wants to aggressively pay down a mortgage in a short amount of time, Jensen explained. After all, if you know you’re going to pay off your loan early, why pay more interest to your lender than you have to?

“The lower initial interest rate frees up more money to make higher principal payments,” Jensen said.

Another group of people that can benefit from 5/1 ARM are those who take out or refinance jumbo mortgages, Crouse added.

For these loans, a 5/1 ARM makes the first few years of mortgage payments lower because of the lower interest rate. This, in turn, means that the initial payments will be much more affordable for higher-end properties.

Plus, if buyers purchased these more expensive homes in desirable areas where home prices are projected to rise quickly, it’s possible the value of their home could soar in the first few years while they make lower payments. Then, they can sell after five years and hopefully make a profit.

However, keep in mind that real estate is a risky investment and nothing is guaranteed.

A 5/1 ARM isn’t right for you if …

For homebuyers who plan to stay put for longer than five years, Crouse and Jensen share the sentiment that a 5/1 ARM might not be as beneficial for them.

Homeowners should also consider whether they want to be landlords in the future, Jensen added. If you decide to move out of your home but keep the mortgage and rent out your home, a 5/1 ARM may not serve you.

Additionally, if you think there’s a chance you might not be able to refinance out of a 5/1 ARM by the time your interest rate starts adjusting, you might consider a fixed-rate mortgage instead.

The bottom line

The 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage can offer you the benefits of a lower interest rate and monthly payment, especially in the first five years of the loan. This alone may make it an attractive product for homebuyers.

Still, you can’t predict how high your interest rate can go when it transitions from fixed to variable, and that’s a budgeting concern you’ll need to consider when weighing your home financing options.

If after reading this guide you think a 5/1 ARM might be right for you, keep this list of questions in mind as you gather mortgage quotes from lenders:

  • How long do I want to live in this house?
  • Will this house suit my family if my family grows?
  • Is there a chance my job will transfer me elsewhere?
  • How often does the rate adjust after five years?
  • When is the adjusted rate applied to the mortgage?
  • If I want to refinance in five years, how much might that cost me?
  • How comfortable am I with the uncertainty of a variable rate?
  • Do I want to rent out my house if I decide to move?

Once you’ve filled in the answers to the above questions, your next step is to understand the minimum mortgage requirements for the available loan programs.

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.

Cat Alford
Cat Alford |

Cat Alford is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Catherine at [email protected]

Crissinda Ponder
Crissinda Ponder |

Crissinda Ponder is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Crissinda here

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