Learn about your home mortgage options - Part IV
State Housing Finance Agency Loans
State Housing Finance Agencies (HFA) provide loans to first-time homebuyers, often at below-market interest rates. Program availability and eligibility requirements vary from state to state. You should check with your state HFA for programs that are currently available. Find a link to your state's HFA from the National Council of State Housing Agencies Web site.
Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs)
With a fixed-rate mortgage, the interest rate stays the same during the life of the loan. But with an ARM, the interest rate changes periodically, usually in relation to a specific index such as a cost of funds rate or the Treasury bill rate. Payments may go up or down accordingly. Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) are characterized by the time frame for adjustment, such as 1 year, or 3, 5, 7, or 10 years. Hybrid ARMs have grown in popularity because they may offer a favorable fixed rate of interest for a time, such as 3, 5, 7, or 10 years, after which the loan becomes a 1-year ARM.
Lenders generally charge lower initial interest rates for ARMs and Hybrid ARMs than for fixed-rate mortgages. This makes the ARM easier on your pocketbook at first than a fixed-rate mortgage for the same amount. It also means that you might qualify for a larger loan because lenders sometimes make this decision on the basis of your current income and the anticipated monthly payments for the few year or two. Moreover, if interest rates remain steady or move lower, your ARM could be less expensive over a long period than a fixed-rate mortgage.
Against these advantages, you have to weigh the risk that an increase in interest rates would lead to higher monthly payments in the future. It's a trade-off: you get a lower rate with an ARM in exchange for assuming more risk.
[ PART V - Learn About your Home Mortgage Options ]
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