Below is an excerpt from an article that appeared in National Mortgage News by Brad Finkelstein
December marks seven years since the Federal Open Market Committee cut the target for its benchmark federal funds rate to nearly zero.
The Great Recession technically ended six months after the Federal Reserve's dramatic interest rate cut, though to say the subsequent recovery has moved at a glacial pace would be an understatement.
But as a meaningful economic recovery appears to be finally taking hold, all eyes are on the FOMC amid speculation that it may soon raise rates. That watershed moment, whenever it comes, will necessitate a re-evaluation of many aspects of the "new normal" that have taken hold since the Great Recession.
Case in point: the adjustable-rate mortgage. The product, popular during periods of rising interest rates and home prices — and vilified for contributing to excesses that precipitated the housing crisis — has fallen out of favor among lenders and consumers.
But ARMs may soon be ready for a revival, albeit with tighter regulatory restrictions and a re-calibration of longstanding assumptions about who the product is best suited to serve.
Lenders are already seeing the beginnings of renewed interest in ARM loans. Even exotic variants, like the option-ARM, may have a role to play with the right consumer. "I believe adjustables will make a comeback. "The reason they haven't as of yet is because fixed rates have been so low for so long," said Dave Jacobin, president of 1st Mariner Mortgage, a subsidiary of Baltimore's 1st Mariner Bank.
When FRMs do hit 5%, Jacobin predicts ARM volume will pick up, "but nothing dramatic." Others agree. "But there is a market for ARMs that makes sense," he added.
For example, if a borrower intends to stay in a house for less than five years, a 5/1 ARM offers a lower rate than a 30-year loan and the rate won't adjust before the borrower is ready to move. Even if the borrower stays in the home longer than planned, there are caps on how much the interest rate can increase.
Now, as a new market for ARM loans may be emerging, lenders say they're mindful of the lessons learned during the crisis. "I want to make sure that any borrower I put into that product fully understood the ramifications of the upside and the downside," Jacobin said. Education is the key to bringing the ARM loan back to the mainstream, said Jacobin.
Salespeople need "to make sure they explain every nuance and detail to their customers, describe the worst-case scenario, and make sure the borrower is comfortable with it, and it is not just something where they can get them into a property so they can get a commission."
"It's much more important — and it will benefit them — they make sure the adjustable-rate mortgage products are given to people who it makes sense for them to take it. Frankly that will lead them to a better reputation, more referrals and everybody wins," he added.
Read the full article at NationalMortgageNews.com.