Adjustable Rate Mortgages ? Talking About Interest Rate Caps

Posted by Nick Niesen on October 29th, 2010

Many people have jumped on adjustable rate mortgages to take advantage of the historically low interest rates we have seen over the last few years. Rates are now rising, which means you need to understand caps.

Adjustable Rate Mortgages ? Talking About Interest Rate Caps

An adjustable rate mortgage is just what it sounds like. The interest rate can be adjusted to match certain interest rate standards. The advantage of such a loan is it can seriously lower monthly mortgage payments if interest rates are low. Over the last few years, of course, rates have been incredibly low. Rates are now rising and you need to understand what that means for your adjustable rate mortgage.

Since the interest rate on your loan is adjustable, you should be getting a little nervous about rising interest rates. That being said, most loans have graduated step increases and caps that keep things from getting nightmarish too quickly. Here is a closer look.

A good adjustable rate mortgage protects you from massive rate increases through something known as rate caps. There are two types of rate caps. Each has benefits and negatives.

A lifetime rate cap is just what it says. This cap sets the maximum interest rate the lender can charge you for the loan. You must always demand a lifetime cap on any mortgage you take out. Assume you take out an adjustable rate mortgage with an interest rate of four percent. As part of the agreement, the loan has a lifetime cap of eight percent. If interest rates shoot up to 10 percent, your loan will cap out at nine percent. While this is a high interest rate, it is a lot better than paying 10 percent.

Periodic rate caps also protect you, but in a different way. A periodic rate cap defined the maximum percentage your interest rate can increase over a period of time. The shorter the time period, the better the cap. If your loan document allows the lender to adjust the rate every six months, the cap may be as low as one percent. This means the lender can only increase the interest rate by a maximum of one percent, regardless of what the market is charging for new loans.

Adjustable rate mortgages are great when interest rates are low. When rates start creeping up, however, you need to take a close look at your caps.

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Nick Niesen

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Nick Niesen
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