Programs

Fixed Rate Mortgages
The most common type of mortgage program where your monthly payments for interest and principal never change. Property taxes and homeowners insurance may increase, but generally your monthly payments will be very stable.

Fixed-rate mortgages are available for 30 years, 20 years, 15 years and even 10 years. There are also “bi-weekly” mortgages, which shorten the loan by calling for half the monthly payment every two weeks. (Since there are 52 weeks in a year, you make 26 payments, or 13 “months” worth, every year.)

Fixed rate fully amortizing loans have two distinct features. First, the interest rate remains fixed for the life of the loan. Secondly, the payments remain level for the life of the loan and are structured to repay the loan at the end of the loan term. The most common fixed rate loans are 15 year and 30 year mortgages.

During the early amortization period, a large percentage of the monthly payment is used for paying the interest . As the loan is paid down, more of the monthly payment is applied to principal . A typical 30 year fixed rate mortgage takes 22.5 years of level payments to pay half of the original loan amount.

Adjusted Rate Mortgages (ARM)
These loans begin with an interest rate that is lower than a comparable fixed rate mortgage, but the rate changes at specified intervals.

Introductory Rate ARM’s
Most adjustable rate loans (ARMs) have a low introductory rate or start rate, some times as much as 5.0% below the current market rate of a fixed loan. This start rate is usually good from 1 month to as long as 10 years. As a rule the lower the start rate the shorter the time before the loan makes its first adjustment.

Index – The index of an ARM is the financial instrument that the loan is “tied” to, or adjusted to. The most common indices, or, indexes are the 1-Year Treasury Security, LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate), Prime, 6-Month Certificate of Deposit (CD) and the 11th District Cost of Funds (COFI). Each of these indices move up or down based on conditions of the financial markets.

Margin – The margin is one of the most important aspects of ARMs because it is added to the index to determine the interest rate that you pay. The margin added to the index is known as the fully indexed rate. As an example if the current index value is 5.50% and your loan has a margin of 2.5%, your fully indexed rate is 8.00%. Margins on loans range from 1.75% to 3.5% depending on the index and the amount financed in relation to the property value.

Interim Caps – All adjustable rate loans carry interim caps. Many ARMs have interest rate caps of six-months or a year. There are loans that have interest rate caps of three years. Interest rate caps are beneficial in rising interest rate markets, but can also keep your interest rate higher than the fully indexed rate if rates are falling rapidly.

Payment Caps – Some loans have payment caps instead of interest rate caps. These loans reduce payment shock in a rising interest rate market, but can also lead to deferred interest or “negative amortization”. These loans generally cap your annual payment increases to 7.5% of the previous payment.

Lifetime Caps – Almost all ARMs have a maximum interest rate or lifetime interest rate cap. The lifetime cap varies from company to company and loan to loan. Loans with low lifetime caps usually have higher margins, and the reverse is also true. Those loans that carry low margins often have higher lifetime caps.

London Inter Bank Offered Rate (LIBOR)
LIBOR is the rate on dollar-denominated deposits, also know as Eurodollars, traded between banks in London. The index is quoted for one month, three months, six months as well as one-year periods.

LIBOR is the base interest rate paid on deposits between banks in the Eurodollar market. A Eurodollar is a dollar deposited in a bank in a country where the currency is not the dollar. The Eurodollar market has been around for over 40 years and is a major component of the International financial market. London is the center of the Euromarket in terms of volume.

The LIBOR rate quoted in the Wall Street Journal is an average of rate quotes from five major banks. Bank of America, Barclays, Bank of Tokyo, Deutsche Bank and Swiss Bank.

The most common quote for mortgages is the 6-month quote. LIBOR’s cost of money is a widely monitored international interest rate indicator. LIBOR is currently being used by both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as an index on the loans they purchase.

LIBOR is quoted daily in the Wall Street Journal’s Money Rates and compares most closely to the 1-Year Treasury Security index.

Balloon Mortgages
Balloon loans are short term mortgages that have some features of a fixed rate mortgage. The loans provide a level payment feature during the term of the loan, but as opposed to the 30 year fixed rate mortgage, balloon loans do not fully amortize over the original term. Balloon loans can have many types of maturities, but most balloons that are first mortgages have a term of 5 to 7 years.

At the end of the loan term there is still a remaining principal loan balance and the mortgage company generally requires that the loan be paid in full, which can be accomplished by refinancing. Many companies have other options such as a conversion feature at the end of the term. For example, the loan may convert to a 30 year fixed loan at the thirty year market rate plus 3/8 of a percentage point. Your conversion can be guaranteed based on certain criteria such as having made your last 24 payments on time. The balloon mortgage program with the conversion option is often called a 7/23 Convertible or 5/25 Convertible.

Interest Rate Buydowns
The buyer would pay points above current market points in order to pay a below market interest rate during the first two years of the loan. At the end of the two years they would then pay the old market rate for the remaining term.

The most common buydown is the 2-1 buydown. In the past, for a buyer to secure a 2-1 buydown they would pay 3 points above current market points in order to pay a below market interest rate during the first two years of the loan. At the end of the two years they would then pay the old market rate for the remaining term.

As an example, if the current market rate for a conforming fixed rate loan is 8.5% at a cost of 1.5 points, the buydown gives the borrower a first year rate of 6.50%, a second year rate of 7.50% and a third through 30th year rate of 8.50% and the cost would be 4.5 points. Buydown costs were usually paid for by a transferring company because of the high points associated with them.

In today’s market, mortgage companies have designed variations of the old buydowns rather than charge higher points to the buyer in the beginning they increase the note rate to cover their yields in the later years.

As an example, if the current rate for a conforming fixed rate loan is 8.50% at a cost of 1.5 points, the buydown would give the buyer a first year rate of 7.25%, a second year rate of 8.25% and a third through 30th year rate of 9.25% , or a three-quarter point higher note rate than the current market and the cost would remain at 1.5 points.

Another common buydown is the 3-2-1 buydown which works much in the same ways as the 2-1 buydown, with the exception of the starting interest rate being 3% below the note rate. Another variation is the flex-fixed buydown programs that increase at six month interval rather than annual intervals.

As an example, for a flex-fixed jumbo buydown at a cost of 1.5 points, the first six months rate would be 7.50%, the second six months the rate would be 8.00%, the next six months rate would be 8.50%, the next six months rate would be 9.00%, the next six months the rate would be 9.50% and at the 37th month the rate would reach the note rate of 9.875% and would remain there for the remainder of the term. A comparable jumbo 30 year fixed at 1.5 points would be 8.875%.

Choosing The Best Program
The right type of mortgage for you depends on many different factors

There isn’t a single or simple answer to this question. The right type of mortgage for you depends on many different factors:

  • Your current financial picture.
  • How you expect your finances to change.
  • How long you intend to keep your house.
  • How comfortable you are with your mortgage payment changing.

For example, a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage can save you many thousands of dollars in interest payments over the life of the loan, but your monthly payments will be higher. An adjustable rate mortgage may get you started with a lower monthly payment than a fixed-rate mortgage — but your payments could get higher when the interest rate changes.

The best way to find the “right” answer is to discuss your finances, your plans and financial prospects, and your preferences frankly with a mortgage professional.