Pros and Cons of Adjustable Rate MortgagesWhen you are in the market for a new home, you may be faced with numerous options for financing your home. One of the choices you will have to make is whether to apply for a fixed or adjustable rate mortgage. In some cases, an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) may be your best option, but keep in mind, they are not the answer for everyone.

Adjustable rate mortgages can be risky for some borrowers and it’s important to understand both the pros and cons.

When To Consider Adjustable Rate Mortgages

Perhaps one of the best things about ARMs is they typically have a lower starting interest rate than fixed rate mortgages. For some borrowers, this means it is easier for them to qualify for a loan. ARMs are beneficial for borrowers who:

  • Anticipate an income increase – for borrowers who are anticipating their income to increase over the next year or two, an ARM may be the right option.
  • Will be reducing their debt – those borrowers who have automobile loans or student loans that will be paid off in the next few years may benefit from an ARM which would allow them to qualify for a larger mortgage today anticipating their ability to covert to a fixed-rate mortgage.
  • Are purchasing a starter home – when you anticipate living in a home for five years or less, an adjustable rate mortgage may help you save money for a bigger home.

Adjustable Rate Mortgage Concerns

There are a number of different types of adjustable rate mortgages and they are each tied to specific interest rate indexes. While an ARM may offer borrowers some flexibility in terms of income and debt ratios, the downsides cannot be ignored. Some of the cons of using an ARM to finance your mortgage include:

  • Rate adjustments – borrowers should carefully review their loan documents to see how frequently their interest rates may increase. Some loans adjust annually while other may not increase for three to five years after the mortgage is signed. For borrowers, this means they may anticipate an increase in their monthly payments.
  • Prepayment clauses – oftentimes, lenders include a prepayment penalty with ARM loans which can be surprising for borrowers. Before agreeing to an ARM, make sure you read the documents very carefully to determine how long you need to hold the loan and if there is a prepayment clause.
  • Home values – one of the biggest challenges borrowers face with an ARM is what happens if the property value decreases: Refinancing a home into a fixed-rate mortgage may be more difficult if this occurs.

Borrowers who are searching for the right mortgage should discuss all options with their loan officer. There are specific instances when an ARM may be the best option and there are other times, such as if you plan to stay in your home for more than five years, where a fixed-rate mortgage may be your best option.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 21st, 2018Last week’s economic releases included the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index for May, Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits issued. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims were also released.

Home Builder Confidence Rises in May

According to the National Association of Home Builders, home builders surveyed indicated higher confidence in housing market conditions for May. April’s reading was downwardly revised to an index reading of 68; analysts expected a reading of 69.  May’s home builder confidence reading was 70. Any reading over 50 indicates that more builders consider housing market conditions to positive.

Three-month rolling readings for regions showed mixed results in May. Northeast and Western regions were unchanged with index readings of 55 and 76 respectively. Midwestern and Southern regions posted a one-point drop with respective index readings of 65 and 92. The NAHB cited high lumber prices as a concern and said that rising materials costs were impacting builders’ ability to produce affordable housing for first-time buyers.

Both housing starts and building permits issued were lower in April than for March; The Commerce Department reported1.287 million housing starts in April as compared to 1.336 million starts in March. Housing starts are calculated on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. Although housing starts were 3.70 percent lower in April, analysts said there was little concern as the rate of housing starts remained near the highest levels in 11 years.

April’s decline in housing starts was attributed to volatile multi-unit projects; construction rates for single-family homes were little changed. The South reported an increase in housing starts as all other regions reported fewer housing starts. Builders said that labor shortages continue to impact construction rates. Analysts expected construction rates to expand throughout 2018 as demand for homes rises. Building permits issued fell in April to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.352 million from the March reading of 1.377 million permits issued.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims

Mortgage rates rose to their highest level in seven years. Rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage were six basis points higher and averaged 4.61 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was seven basis points higher at 4.08 percent. Mortgage rates for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage averaged five basis points higher at 3.82 percent. Discount points averaged 0.40 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

First-time jobless claims rose to 222,000 new claims last week as compared to 211,000 new claims filed the prior week. Analysts expected 215,000 new claims filed.

Whats Ahead

This week’s economic releases include readings on sales of new and previously-owned homes and consumer sentiment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.

Financing Your Solar RoofGoing solar can make life sunnier for some homeowners. In addition to reducing energy dependence by “borrowing” energy directly from the sun, purchasers may also enjoy a 30 percent federal Solar Investment Tax Credit and other incentives, according to SEIA.

Solar roofing can boost a home’s equity in some cases, while making it more attractive to future buyers in sun-drenched parts of the country. Best of all, financing that solar roof may be a more attainable goal than homeowners think.

Leasing vs. Owning

Perhaps the first question a green-minded homeowner should consider is whether to own solar roofing or lease it. Leasing solar panels from a third-party provider bypasses the need to take out a traditional loan or purchase a solar roof with cash.

Energy.gov notes that PPAs (Power Purchase Agreements) allow homeowners to pay fixed monthly payments based on the amount of energy the roof will likely generate over the period of the lease. But it’s worth noting that leasing also bypasses the tax credits and other financial benefits and incentives of ownership.

The Traditional Loan Route

Traditional loans can finance solar roofs just as they can other major home renovations or improvements. For homeowners who already own their homes outright, this approach offers a simple, cost-effective way to enhance the property. Other homeowners may want to look into the Department of Energy’s Residential PACE (Property Assessed Clean energy) loans aimed at promoting energy-efficient modifications.

Those who seek to take out a mortgage on a solar-roofed home, however, should watch out for the proverbial fine print. For instance, PACE loans trump mortgage loans, so having a PACE loan in place can make getting that mortgage loan impossible. 

Fannie Mae’s HomeStyle Energy Mortgage

The HomeStyle Energy Mortgage from Fannie Mae offers an attractive alternative to traditional loans, according to the Washington Post. This product includes the solar roof (or other energy-efficient modification) within the overall mortgage loan.

A HomeStyle Energy Mortgage factors in the anticipated energy savings offered by the modification in figuring the loan terms. It also lets borrowers take out larger amounts that they might receive through traditional mortgages — up to 15 percent of the home’s “as-completed” appraisal value.

Some smart financing strategies can turn the objective of owning a solar roof from an out-of-reach dream into a practical reality. A skilled real estate expert can help homeowners weigh all the available options and come up with a sensible plan that suits their needs.