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 is the shorter the time before the loan makes its first adjustment.
The index of an ARM is the financial instrument that the loan is “tied” to, or adjusted to. The most common indices 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A few options are available to fit your individual needs and your risk tolerance with the various market instruments.
ARMs with different indexes are available for both purchases and refinances. Choosing an ARM with an index that reacts quickly lets you take full advantage of falling interest rates. An index that lags behind the market lets you take advantage of lower rates after market rates have started to adjust upward.
The interest rate and monthly payment can change based on adjustments to the index rate.
6-Month Certificate of Deposit (CD) ARM
This program has a maximum interest rate adjustment of 1% every six months. The 6-month Certificate of Deposit (CD) index is generally considered to react quickly to changes in the market.
1-Year Treasury Spot ARM
This program has a maximum interest rate adjustment of 2% every 12 months. The 1-Year Treasury Spot index generally reacts more slowly than the CD index, but more quickly than the Treasury Average index.
6-Month Treasury Average ARM
This program has a maximum interest rate adjustment of 1% every six months. The Treasury Average index generally reacts more slowly in fluctuating markets so adjustments in the ARM interest rate will lag behind some other market indicators.
12-Month Treasury Average ARM
This program has a maximum interest rate adjustment of 2% every 12 months. The Treasury Average Index generally reacts more slowly in fluctuating markets so adjustments in the ARM interest rate will lag behind some other market indicators.
The 11th District Cost of Funds is more prevalent in the West and the 1-Year Treasury Security is more prevalent in the East. Buyers prefer the slowly moving 11th District Cost of Funds and investors prefer the 1-Year Treasury Security.
The monthly weighted average 11th District has been published by the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco since August 1981. Currently more than one half of the savings institutions loans made in California are tied to the 11th District Cost of Funds (COFI) index.
The Federal Home Loan Bank’s 11th District is comprised of saving institutions in Arizona, California and Nevada.
Few people who use and follow the 11th District Cost of Funds understand exactly how it is calculated, what it represents, how it moves and what factors affect it.
The predecessor to the 11th District Cost of Funds index was the District semiannual weighted average cost of funds published for a six month period ending in June and December. The San Francisco Bank was the first Federal Home Loan Bank to publish a monthly cost of funds index.
The funds used as a basis for the calculation of the 11th District Cost of Funds index are the liabilities at the District savings institutions: money on deposit at the institutions, money borrowed from a Federal Home Loan Bank (known as advances) and all other money borrowed. The interest paid on these types of funds is the cost of these funds.
The ratio of the dollar amount paid in interest during the month to the average dollar amount of the funds for that month constitutes the weighted average cost of funds ratio for that month.
The average cost of funds is said to be weighted because the three kinds of funds and their costs are added together before a ratio is computed rather than calculating averages individually for the three sources and using a simple average of the three ratios. This gives the greatest weight to the interest paid on deposits, and explains the delayed reaction of the index to rising fixed rate mortgages.
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 16 major banks.
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.