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What Does Arm Mean In Mortgages

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Interest Rate Caps And Floors

What is an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) and how does it adjust?

Interest rate caps put a limit on how much the interest rate can increase. Usually, these come with a corresponding floor that limits how much your payment can move downward as well. These caps and floors come in three versions: initial, periodic adjustment caps and lifetime caps.

With an initial adjustment cap and floor, a limit is placed on the amount a rate can increase or decrease at the initial adjustment. There are also limits to how much your rate can go up or down with each subsequent adjustment. Finally, there is a limit placed on the amount a rate can increase or decrease throughout the loan term with a lifetime cap. Most ARM loans must have a lifetime limit by law.

When ARMs are advertised, youll see products advertised like this: 7/6 ARM 5/1/5. The first number refers to how long the rate stays fixed at the beginning of the loan, in this case 7 years. The second number is how often the rate adjusts after the fixed period every 6 months.

The last three numbers listed are the caps and floors. In this case, your rate wont go up or down more than 5% on the initial adjustment. The rate cant increase or decrease more than 1% with each adjustment after the first. Finally, your rate wont rise or fall more than 5% over the life of the loan. Make sure you know all of your interest and payment caps when considering an ARM.

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How It Works: Adjustable

An adjustable-rate mortgage is a loan with an interest rate that will change throughout the life of the mortgage. This means that over time, your monthly payments may go up or down.

While both fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages have benefits to consider, you need to make sure you are financially prepared for the rate adjustments that might happen with an ARM.

All ARMs have adjustment periods that determine when and how often the interest rate can change. There is an initial period during which the interest rate doesn’t change this period can range from as little as six months to as long as 10 years. After the initial period, most ARMs adjust.

The Case For An Adjustable

Adjustable-rate mortgages most often appeal to first-time homebuyers because lower rates boost buying power. If you know this isn’t your forever home and think you’ll move in several years, an ARM could be a good choice. You’ll get the benefit of a lower introductory rate in the first years of homeownership. Then ideally you’ll move or trade up to a bigger home before the fixed-rate period ends.

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How To Decide Between A Fixed

The 5/5 ARM is something of a hybrid between a fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgage with periodic increases. You get the benefit of a significantly lower rate and monthly payment amount during your first five years provided your credit history qualifies you for a competitive interest rate. Plus, you have a full five years to prepare for each potential payment increase.

The 5/5 ARM can be ideal for homebuyers who:

  • Want to quickly pay down their mortgage
  • Expect substantial increases in their income over time
  • Plan to sell their home within a few years

On the other hand, people with incomes that dont fluctuate much or those who plan to stay in their home long term may prefer the security of a fixed-rate mortgage.

What Are The Benefits Of A 3/6 Arm


Like any adjustable-rate mortgage, you might be able to get a much lower starting rate on a 3/6 ARM than you would with a 15- or 30-year fixed mortgage. Despite that, a 3/6 ARM is a pretty risky proposition, especially for first-time homebuyers. After your three year fixed-rate period is over, you could see your mortgage payments increase substantially — or if youre lucky you could actually see them fall.

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What Is An Adjustable

An adjustable-rate mortgage is a home loan with a variable interest rate. With an ARM, the initial interest rate is fixed for a period of time. After that, the interest rate applied on the outstanding balance resets periodically, at yearly or even monthly intervals.

ARMs are also called variable-rate mortgages or floating mortgages. The interest rate for ARMs is reset based on a benchmark or index, plus an additional spread called an ARM margin. The typical index that is used in ARMs has been the London Interbank Offered Rate .

Can You Refinance A 3/6 Arm

In most cases, you can refinance a 3/6 ARM. However, to get approved, you cant miss any home payments and you must maintain good credit. Plus, if you want to refinance early in the life your loan, before your fixed-rate period ends, you could be stuck with a prepayment penalty. Thats why its essential to understand all the rules of your borrowing agreement , especially if youre getting a riskier kind of ARM for the purpose of selling or refinancing the property within a few years time.

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The Arm’s Moving Parts: How They Work Together

ARMs operate differently than fixedrate loans. There are a few factors that go into setting an ARM rate, so its important to understand what they are.

The ARM you choose is named for the way it works. For instance, a 5/1 ARM has a fixed rate and payment during its first five years, and then it resets annually, according to its terms.

Similarly, 10/1 ARM rates remain fixed for the first ten years of their terms.

Start rate

This may also be referred to as teaser rate. Without this lower start rate, no one would ever choose an ARM over a fixed rate. Youd be taking on extra risk without getting any reward.

The ARMs lower start rate is your reward for taking some of the risk normally born by the lender the chance that interest rates may rise a few years down the road.

In the example above, the start rate for the 5/1 ARM is 3.202 percent.

Fully-indexed rate

The fullyindexed rate is the interest rate that youd pay once the start rate expires. However, this rate is subject to some limitations called caps and floors.

To calculate the fullyindexed rate, you add two figures an index and a margin.

This rate is sometimes used by lenders to qualify you for your mortgage.

The index + the margin = your fullyindexed rate.


The index is a published measurement of financial activity. Here are some of the most common:

As of this writing, the oneyear LIBOR rate is 1.71 percent.


Other caps apply to every year your loan is due for a reset or adjustment.


When Is An Adjustable

What is an ARM Loan and How Does It Work?

Adjustable-Rate Mortgages begin with a fixed interest rate and then adjust up or down after the initial term. ARMs are a good option for buyers who dont plan to stay in their home for more than 5 years and want to keep their monthly payment low.

ARM products contain 2 numbers:

  • The first refers to the number of years the interest rate will remain fixed.
  • The second is the number of years between interest rate changes after the initial fixed term expires.

For example, a 5/5 ARM would have the same interest rate for the first 5 years, and then the rate would adjust every 5 years after that.

Read Also: 10 Year Treasury Vs 30 Year Mortgage

What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of An Arm Are They A Good Idea


There are definitely some advantages to adjustable-rate mortgages . First, they can offer low payments during the introductory fixed-rate period. You may be able to get a lower interest rate on an ARM than a fixed-rate mortgage, and you have the guarantee of a few years of smaller payments.

Another perk to ARMs is that depending on whats going on with the economy, your rate may decrease. Most often, you hear warnings against increasing rates with ARMs, but you could experience the opposite. If your fixed-rate period is coming to an end and interest rates have gone down, you might have the pleasant surprise of lower monthly payments.

In the case that your interest rate increases, as is entirely possible, ARMs do have the advantage of having safeguards in place to make sure your rate and monthly payment dont spiral completely out of control.


ARMs can be the right choice for some people, but they have their downsides as well. The primary concern with this type of mortgage is that your interest rate, and therefore your monthly payment, can increase significantly.

Depending on the size of your mortgage, this could be the difference in hundreds of dollars per month. If youre part of a household that is already living paycheck-to-paycheck, this increasing payment could be the difference between whether or not youre able to pay your mortgage.

How Does A 5/1 Arm Work

A 5/1 ARM is an adjustable-rate mortgage that guarantees you the same mortgage rate and monthly payment for the first five years of your repayment period. Once that five-year period comes to an end, your loan’s interest rate can adjust once a year.

If your rate adjusts upward, it will result in a higher monthly mortgage payment. If it adjusts downward, you’ll enjoy a lower interest rate and monthly payment on your home loan.

Now the extent to which the interest rate on your 5/1 ARM loan adjusts depends on the benchmark it’s tied to. Often, adjustable-rate mortgages are tied to the Federal Funds Rate, which is the rate banks charge each other for short-term loans. When you sign up for a 5/1 ARM, your loan document will tell you what your rate changes will be based on, as well as the maximum amount your rate can rise.

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What Is An Adjustable Rate Mortgage

Homeownership marks the start of your next chapter. Before you can dive into the home of your dreams, youll need to decide which mortgage will work best for your financial goals. One of those options is an adjustable-rate mortgage. But what is an adjustable-rate mortgage? Lets explore this option so that you can decide if it is right for you.

How 7/6 Arm Variable Interest Rates Are Calculated

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Just like other ARMs, 7/6 ARM variable interest rates are always based on an index, often the LIBOR index, the CMT index, or the prime rate. Basically, what most of these indexes do is measure the rates at which banks lend money to each other — which gives them an idea of how much they should charge you for a mortgage.

In addition to the index rate, lenders charge you a margin. This is an additional amount, also expressed as percentage, that contributes to the lenders profit and can be adjusted based on the risk you pose as a borrower. Plus, there can be other charges — which is why you should always look at the APR of an ARM, not just the interest rate.

Read Also: How Does The 10 Year Treasury Affect Mortgage Rates

What Index Is Used With A 5/1 Arm

The index is important to understand because its the moving part of your adjustable rate. Your lender decides which index will be used. You may hear the term fully indexed, which simply refers to how much your rate will be when your margin and index are added together.

Most current ARM programs use the Cost of Funds Index or the one-year Constant Maturity Treasury securities index. To find out what your fully indexed rate would be, you simply add the current index rate to your margin. For example, if the CMT index rate is currently 2%, and your margin is 5%, then your fully indexed rate would be 7%.

How Often Are The Rates Adjusted On A 3/6 Arm

Unlike its cousin, the 3/1 ARM, a 3/6 ARMs interest rates are adjusted every 6 months after the variable-interest rate portion of the mortgage starts. Just like other hybrid ARMs, 3/6 ARMs have both lifetime and periodic caps, which limit how much and how fast your interest rate can increase. Most 3/6 ARMs also have floors, as well, which limit how low your interest rates can go.

Also Check: Mortgage Rates Based On 10 Year Treasury

Where To Find Adjustable

If an adjustable-rate mortgage sounds like the best option for you, there are several lenders that offer this type of loan. Chase Bank has both fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages, as well as conventional loans, Federal Housing Administration, or FHA loans, VA loans, Jumbo loans and the Chase DreaMaker Mortgage Program.

Ally Bank is another option if you’re in the market for an adjustable-rate mortgage. Keep in mind that while this lender doesn’t offer FHA loans, USDA loans, VA loans or a home equity line of credit , you can choose from several loan terms that range from 15 to 30 years.

  • Apply online for personalized rates fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages included

  • Types of loans

    Conventional loans, FHA loans, VA loans, DreaMaker loans and Jumbo loans

  • Terms

When A 5/1 Arm Adjusts

How does an ARM work?

To understand when a 5/1 ARM adjusts, you need to understand how each cap is disclosed. For example, a 5/1 ARM with 5/2/5 caps means the following:

  • The first 5 is the maximum the interest rate can increase after the temporary fixed period ends
  • The 2 is the maximum the interest rate can adjust during each adjustment period
  • The final 5 is the maximum the interest rate can adjust above the initial rate for the life of the loan

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Youll Likely Pay More Interest Over Time

Because the interest rate will often go up, youre going to have a higher chance of paying more interest over time.

Its true that you can refinance into a fixed-rate mortgage when it comes time for your rate adjustment. However, you should be aware that there are closing costs associated with any refinance either in the form of upfront fees or paid off over time by taking a higher interest rate. Closing costs can be anywhere between 3 6% of the loan amount, although they tend to be lower on a refinance.

Comparing 5/5 Arm And 5/1 Arm Loans

A 5/1 ARM is another type of adjustable-rate mortgage. Similar to the 5/5 ARM, the mortgage rate on a 5/1 ARM is fixed for the first five years of the loan. The rate then adjusts annually thereafter, which differs from the rate adjustments on a 5/5 ARM that happens once every five years.

Both 5/5 ARMs and 5/1 ARMs have 30-year payoff schedules and rate adjustment caps. However, the two loan types have some key differences, including their initial interest rates. Lets look at an example, using LendingTrees home loan calculator. The assumptions here are a $200,000 loan with a 30-year repayment term.

5/1 ARM
Monthly payment $854.03 $790.24

As of this writing, the typical 5/1 ARM rate was about 3.10%, according to Freddie Macs Primary Mortgage Market Survey. A quick online search of mortgage lenders offering 5/5 ARMs had rates around or slightly below 2.5%. This 60-percentage-point difference in rates could save you more than $60 on your monthly mortgage payment during the first five years of your loan.

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What Does 3/6 Or 5/6 Arm Mean

The first number indicates the number of years your initial rate is in effect.

The second number indicates how often the rate will adjust after that initial period.

In other words, a 3/6 ARM will have the initial interest rate for three years after that, it will adjust every 6 months. Similarly, a 5/5 ARM will have the initial interest rate for five years and adjust every five years after that.

Adjustable rate mortgages are available in 3/6, 5/6, and 7/6 ARM terms with 30-year amortization terms, as well as 5/5 30-year and 5/5 15-year terms.

Considerations When Choosing An Arm Loan

ARM Vs Fixed Rate Mortgage: Which Is Better For You?

When deciding whether to choose an adjustable-rate mortgage, take these other factors into account:

  • Unexpected changes: You may plan to move or sell your home within a few years, but the unexpected could arise, leaving you unable to sell the home when you want or some life event could keep you from moving as originally planned. This, in turn, could mean that your rates arent what you expected.
  • Rising rates: Although your interest rate could go down, it could also rise during the life of your ARM loan. If your interest rate increases, youll have a higher monthly payment. Make sure youre saving money for the possibility of higher rates.
  • Prepayment penalty: Some ARMs may have a prepayment penalty. Speak to your lender and make sure you understand the terms of the loan before you move forward .

Read more: 7/6 ARM: Definition And How It Works

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/1 Arm: Your Guide To 7

A 7/1 ARM can provide you with some stability at the outset of your loan and help you save money on interest.

Edited byChris JenningsUpdated October 11, 2021

Our goal is to give you the tools and confidence you need to improve your finances. Although we receive compensation from our partner lenders, whom we will always identify, all opinions are our own. Credible Operations, Inc. NMLS # 1681276, is referred to here as “Credible.”

When shopping for a mortgage, its common to look for fixed-rate loans. However, adjustable rate mortgages may offer lower interest rates because the rate will adjust after the initial fixed period.

Some ARMs are hybrids, offering a lower fixed rate for a set period of time. The 7/1 ARM is one of these types of mortgages, providing you with a lower fixed rate for the first seven years of the term and making it an attractive option for homebuyers.

Heres what you need to know about 7/1 ARM loans:

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