Fixed or Variable Rate Mortgage: Which Is Better Right Now?

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Fixed or Variable Rate Mortgage: Which Is Better Right Now?

Location-specific average mortgage rates vary nationally, and your particular rate will be significantly influenced by your credit score. According to Investopedia’s survey of mortgage lenders, mortgage rates were 6.99% for a 30-year fixed mortgage, 6.50% for a 15-year fixed mortgage, and 6.36% for the first five years of a 5/6 adjustable-rate mortgage as of September 29, 2022. (ARM).

What kind of mortgage you may be eligible for will mostly depend on your mortgage rate. Getting information from many lenders is the first step in determining if a fixed-rate mortgage or an ARM is the best option in the current market. Find out what interest rate and loan conditions you could be eligible for based on your credit score, income, debts, down payment, and monthly budget.

You must decide between a fixed-rate mortgage and an ARM after you know the rate and duration you can get.

Key Takeaways

  • Payments on fixed-rate mortgages remain constant during the course of the loan.
  • Over the duration of your mortgage, your payments on adjustable-rate mortgages may fluctuate.
  • Mortgages with adjustable rates may rise or fall along with market interest rates.
  • Your financial situation and the available interest rate options will determine which mortgage type is ideal for you.

Fixed vs. ARM: Monthly Payment Difference

Using the average interest rates of 6.99% for a 30-year fixed mortgage, 6.50% for a 15-year fixed mortgage, and 6.36% for the first five years of a 5/6 adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), which were the average interest rates as of September 29, 2022, here is what you might pay each month for various mortgage types for every $100,000 you borrow.

  • Mortgage with a 30-year fixed rate: $913
  • Mortgage for 15 years, fixed rate: $1,120
  • Mortgage with a 5/6 ARM: $872 for the first 60 months

If you solely consider the monthly payment, an adjustable rate mortgage can be the superior option. Depending on how the rates fluctuate, you might wind up saving a lot of money over time.

However, you must weigh the increased dangers connected with an ARM, such as the possibility of rising interest rates, against the difference. The risk can be justified if you intend to relocate during the original 5-year term or anticipate refinancing if rates decline.

Types of Adjustable-Rate Mortgage

Hybrid ARMs, which comprise 5/6, 3/1, 7/1, and 10/1 ARMs, are the most often used forms of ARMs.

For the first five years, known as the introduction period, a 5/6 ARM, for instance, has a fixed interest rate. After then, for the remainder of the loan period, the interest rate changes twice a year (every six months). The gap between the interest rates of the ARM and the fixed-rate mortgage will decrease the longer the initial term is.

Most ARM interest rates in the US are dependent on the rate set by the US Treasury. In spite of tighter monetary policy, Treasury rates have been increasing from relatively low levels in recent years. As of September 2022, the Federal Reserve has increased interest rates four times in 2022 in steps of 0.25%, 0.50%, 0.75%, and 0.75%.

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If you currently have an ARM, you will be shielded from any more rate hikes until the ARM’s introduction term is over.

Risk Tolerance and Future Plans

When you get a fixed-rate mortgage, you are aware, prior to signing the closing documents, of the precise amount of your monthly mortgage payment for the duration of the mortgage. This regularity is appreciated by many.

Interest-rate risk, or the likelihood that the interest rate may vary, applies to ARMs. The interest rate for an ARM changes after the first period to reflect the state of the market.

Additionally, you may make an educated guess as to what an ARM’s interest rate will be when it resets after the first term. How much your monthly payment may be depends on the specifics of a certain ARM, such as the interest rate cap structure. A 5/1 ARM, for instance, might have a cap structure of 2-2-5, which means that the interest rate can rise by 2% in year six (after the five-year introductory period expires), another 2% per year in the following years, and the total increase in interest rates can never exceed 5% over the course of the loan.

Even with the limit, think about whether you can afford the additional expense if interest rates reach their highest level. The ARM’s index rate determines whether your rate ever reaches its maximum adjustment. Your interest rate won’t change in year six if your ARM is linked to the one-year Treasury rate and that rate remains unchanged from year one to year six. However, because to the limit, even if the Treasury rate rises by 3%, your interest rate can only rise by 2% in year 6.

If you’re thinking about an ARMs, assess how likely it is that these things will happen:

  • Before the debt resets, the house will be sold.
  • Before the debt resets, your income will rise.
  • Before the loan resets, you may refinance.
  • When the loan resets, interest rates will be constant or falling, providing them a rate that is comparable to the introductory rate.

Also take into account your ability to handle the mortgage in any circumstance. You should choose a fixed-rate mortgage if you can’t afford the higher payment and higher interest rate.


Affordability is ensured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), enabling lenders to provide adjustable-rate mortgages to consumers who need less qualifications. The FHA provides hybrid ARMs with terms of 1, 3, 5, 7, and 10 years.

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The interest rate on the 1-year and 3-year versions cannot increase by more than 1% per year after the introductory period or by more than 5% over the life of the loan. The interest rate on the 5-, 7-, and 10-year ARMs cannot increase by more than 2% per year after the introductory period, and the lifetimecap is 6%.

Like all FHA mortgages, while an FHA ARM may have more lenient qualifications, it requires borrowers to pay an upfrontmortgage insurancepremium of 1.75% of the loan amount (which is usually rolled into the loan, and you’ll pay interest on it as a result).

FHA ARMs also require a monthly mortgage insurance premium payment, the cost of which depends on your loan term and down payment. These costs increase the expense of owning a home in both the short and long term and can make it less affordable.

If, for instance, you make the FHA’s minimum required down payment of 3.5% and take out a 30-year loan, you’ll pay 0.85% of the outstanding loan balance each year in mortgage insurance until you pay the loan in full. Divide this by 12 and added to your monthly payment. On a $200,000 loan, the upfront premium would cost you $3,500, and the monthly mortgage insurance premiums would cost you about $142 a month for the first year and gradually decline after that.

Choosing Between a Fixed-Rate Loan and an ARM

Once you are aware of the distinctions between fixed-rate mortgages and ARMs, you may choose the mortgage that is ideal for you at this time by taking into account your own financial position.

Many of Sean O. McGeehan’s customers choose fixed rates, according to the loan officer from Homer Glen, Illinois, which is close to Chicago. They often are first-time purchasers of condos or single-family homes and are unsure about their future intentions, the man added. “A fixed rate will provide them security and stability in their mortgage payments if they wind up having children and need to remain there for a long time.”

Most homeowners don’t want to take the risk of an ARM since interest rates are increasing in the current market.

According to Lauren Abrams, a mortgage counselor with Absolute Mortgage Banking in San Ramon, California, first-time homebuyers have been favoring the 30-year fixed loan choice 90% owing to the low interest rate environment. However, she emphasized that consumers must take their long-term goals into account.

The majority of the time, purchasers are unable to foresee or know what those plans would be, according to Abrams. “Clients sometimes insist that this is just a beginning property and [they] won’t be in it for more than three to five years,” says the real estate agent. The length of this period may range from less than a year, as in the case of a divorce, job move, marriage, or kid, to more than ten years.

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If a borrower plans to use an ARM and believes their time in the house will be shorter than expected, they can reduce their risk by putting their monthly savings in an interest-bearing account to cover a potentially higher future payment, should they still be living in the house when the interest rate adjusts.

Wealthy customers and investors are more likely to understand the attractiveness of an ARM and to profit from its introductory rate since they have a plan for how long they will carry the mortgage and can afford possibly higher payments in the future.

A 15-year fixed rate mortgage will save you the most money in the long run since the total interest payments will be much lower if you can afford the higher monthly payments and want to live in the house for a long period. Moreover, locking in today’s cheap 15-year rates is more cost-effective than using an ARM over the long term.

The Bottom Line

In the week ending September 23, 2022, 10% of borrowers selected ARMs, according to information from the Mortgage Bankers Association.

If you wish to utilize an ARM because its lower interest rate can help you qualify for financing to buy a more costly house, think about whether the quality of the property you can obtain with the ARM justifies the risk of the interest rate. In current environment of escalating interest rates, many borrowers may find it sensible to opt for a fixed rate.

What Does Variable Mean in a Mortgage?

A mortgage that is variable will have an adjustable interest rate. This is distinct from a fixed-rate mortgage, where the interest payments are fixed. Future monthly payments on a variable-rate mortgage might be unpredictable.

Are There Limits on How High ARM Interest Rates Can Go?

ARMs, or adjustable-rate mortgages, have upper and lower bounds. Caps on the first adjustment, future adjustments, and lifetime adjustments are common inclusions in ARMS.

Can I Convert my ARM to Fixed-Rate Mortgage?

Some adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) include a provision that lets you switch from an ARM to a fixed-rate mortgage after a certain amount of time. A conversion option for an ARM is the name of the clause.

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