Buyers Shouldn’t Dismiss All ARMs

Potential home buyers in search of a mortgage are wary of all kinds of adjustable rate loans these days, but hybrid ARMs can be really good deals even in these times of historically low interest rates, some lending experts insist.

Hybrids are “a great product at a great rate,” says Christopher Cruise, a mortgage broker in Silver Spring, Md.

Currently, starting rates are under 4 percent, generally a full percentage point lower than traditional, 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages. Hybrids are locked in at that starting rate for five, seven, or sometimes even 10 years, then they adjust—usually a maximum of 2 points a year with an overall cap of 6 or 8 points.

In the meantime, the savings on a hybrid ARM can be thousands of dollars and make sense for a buyer who doesn’t expect to be in a home for more than five or six years.

Even if they stay in the same house, it’s likely they’ll have an opportunity to refinance. “Seven years for a mortgage is an eternity these days,” Cruise says.

He recommends that buyers do the math, considering the worst-case scenario. In many cases, particularly with jumbo loans, the savings will still be substantial even if the loan adjusts to the maximum for a couple of years.

Source: United Features Syndicate, Lew Sichelman (05/03/09)

Can You Still Buy Without a Fixed Mortgage?

Buying a house doesn’t necessarily require getting a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage.

More and more people are exploring alternative financing plans as it gets harder to get a conventional bank loan.

Here are some creative ways to pay for a home, according to some financial experts:

  • Securities-backed loans. The lender gives the borrower 80 percent of the value of his stock portfolio. Then the lender holds the stock for between three and 10 years while charging a 3 percent to 5 percent interest on the loan. At the end, the borrower gets his original shares back. Both win if the stock has increased in value.
  • Two-step mortgages. This fixed rate mortgage is amortized over 40 years, but the payment schedule is adjustable.
  • Constant-amortization mortgage. Buyers start with a higher payment, but the loan is constantly re-amortized, so principal is reduced faster than with a conventional loan.
  • Family loans. In the most successful arrangements, the family puts the agreement in writing and the lender charges the borrower a rate of interest high enough to pass IRS scrutiny, thus avoiding any gift tax.
  • Assuming a mortgage. Buyers interested in purchasing a house in the pre-foreclosure stage might ask the lender if they can assume the mortgage. In some circumstances this can be a good deal.

Source: Forbes, Matt Woolsey (01/26/09)