What Is a 3/27 Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM)? Risks and Benefits

Dec 28, 2023 By Susan Kelly

A 3/27 adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) is a unique home loan structure. This 30-year mortgage maintains a constant interest rate for the initial three years. After that, the interest rate shifts and varies for the remaining 27 years. They begin with a set interest rate for a predetermined period, but after this initial phase, the rate adjusts periodically. These adjustments can happen annually, semi-annually, or monthly, depending on the loan's terms.

The key difference between ARMs and fixed-rate mortgages lies in interest rate consistency. Fixed-rate mortgages lock in an interest rate for the loan's entire duration, while ARMs fluctuate after the initial fixed period. The 3/27 ARM is a hybrid mortgage. Unlike 30-year mortgages, it has a reduced fixed interest rate for the first three years. Next, the interest rate is adjusted depending on a benchmark like U.S. Treasury bill yields. The borrower's fully indexed interest rate is determined by lenders adding a margin to this index. Be aware that this rate is usually much higher than the original rate.

Caps are a notable feature of 3/27 ARMs, limiting how much the interest rate can rise. Typically, the rate can't increase more than 2% per adjustment period, which could be every six or 12 months. This cap is on the actual rate, not a percentage of the current rate. For instance, a rate could jump from 4% to 6% in one adjustment period. Furthermore, these mortgages often have a maximum cap for the loan's lifetime. For example, a mortgage starting at 4% might be capped at 9%, irrespective of index fluctuations. These caps provide some predictability and protection against extreme rate increases.

The Index and Margin's Role

The 3/27 adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) hinges on two crucial elements: the index and the margin. A financial benchmark, the index tracks interest rate changes. LIBOR, CMT, and COFI are benchmarks. The index choice is vital for borrowers, as it directly affects future adjustments to their mortgage rates.

The margin, conversely, is the lender's fixed add-on to the index rate during each adjustment period. At the loan's outset, the margin represents the lender's profit and remains unchanged for the loan's duration. When choosing a 3/27 ARM, borrowers must scrutinize the margin, significantly influencing future interest rates.

Benefits of the 3/27 ARM

The advantages of a 3/27 ARM are manifold, particularly in its initial lower interest rate. During the first three years, this rate is typically lower than traditional fixed-rate mortgages, making home buying more accessible. This feature is especially appealing for those new to the housing market.

This mortgage type also suits those with short-term housing plans. Whether it's due to anticipated relocation or lifestyle changes, individuals who plan to move or upgrade within a few years may find the 3/27 ARM's lower fixed rate during the initial period highly beneficial. This arrangement allows them to enjoy reduced rates without the long-term commitment of a standard mortgage.

Lastly, the 3/27 ARM can benefit those who foresee declining market interest rates. During the fixed-rate phase, borrowers enjoy lower rates. If the market rates dip during the subsequent adjustment periods, these borrowers could save significantly on their mortgage costs.

Risks of the 3/27 ARM

A key concern with the 3/27 ARM is the unpredictability of interest rates after the initial period. Linked to an external financial index, these rates can fluctuate with the market. If rates climb sharply, borrowers may face significantly higher mortgage payments, potentially leading to financial difficulties.

Those choosing a 3/27 ARM should be aware of possible restrictions on refinancing or penalties for early repayment. If you plan to refinance or pay off the loan before the end of the fixed-rate period, you might encounter extra charges or limitations based on the lender's policies.

3/27 ARM Example

Let's explore how a 3/27 ARM works by following a fictional scenario with Alex, a prospective homebuyer.

Alex's Home Purchase Plan

Alex is set on buying a $500,000 home in a lively urban area.

After considering different mortgage options, Alex chooses a 3/27 ARM from a well-established lender.

This mortgage is linked to the 1-year LIBOR index with an initial 2.5% margin.

Early Years: Fixed Interest Rate (Years 1-3)

Alex's mortgage has a steady 4.5% interest rate in the first three years. This keeps the monthly payments at a consistent $2,533.43 (not including taxes and insurance), offering financial predictability.

First Rate Change (Year 4)

At the start of the fourth year, the mortgage undergoes its first rate adjustment. The 1-year LIBOR index is now at 3.25%. Adding the 2.5% margin, Alex's new rate for the next 27 years is set at 5.75%.

Middle Years: Adjusted Rate Period (Years 4-30)

Following the initial adjustment, the mortgage settles at a 5.75% interest rate for the next 27 years. Alex's monthly payments are now $2,906.60 (excluding taxes and insurance).

Final Adjustment (Year 31)

When year 31 rolls around, the last interest rate adjustment takes place. Let's say the 1-year LIBOR index has shifted to 4.1%. With the same margin of 2.5%, the new interest rate is calculated at 6.6%.

Later Years: Concluding Terms (Years 31-58)

After this final adjustment, the mortgage has a 6.6% interest rate for the remaining duration, affecting Alex's monthly payments, which now come to $3,279.23 (not including taxes and insurance).

Final Verdict

Choosing a 3/27 ARM can be a savvy move if you aim to keep your initial monthly payments low. This could make stepping into homeownership more feasible, especially if you work within a tight budget. The first-year savings might be used for home upgrades, furniture, or other needs compared to a higher-cost loan. On the other hand, a 3/27 ARM might not be the best route if there's a significant risk that you won't be able to refinance or sell the property within the initial three years, particularly if the adjusted payments after this period are beyond your financial comfort zone.

Related articles
Property Tax: Unveiling Its Types and Simple Calculation
Property tax can be confusing, but it doesn't have to be. Learn about the different types of property tax and how to calculate it in this informative article.

Dec 02, 2023 Susan Kelly

What Is a 3/27 Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM)? Risks and Benefits
A 3/27 ARM is a unique mortgage. The first three years of this 30-year mortgage have a fixed interest rate. Read more.

Dec 28, 2023 Susan Kelly

What is a Duplicate Check
Find out what a duplicate check is and how to use it to ensure accuracy and consistency when organizing important records. Get professional guidance today!

Jul 28, 2023 Triston Martin

Is Teeth Whitening Covered by Dental Insurance?
The individuals you meet will remember you instantly because of your beautiful grin. If you were to ask people what they would alter about their smile, many would probably respond that they would prefer whiter, brighter teeth. Many individuals wish they could have whiter teeth, but they hesitate because they worry about the price tag.

Sep 03, 2022 Susan Kelly

Learn: Who Is Eligible for a Social Security Death Benefit?
Social Security provides financial support to deceased workers' spouses, children, and parents. For young families starting, this perk is invaluable. After the death of a relative, you may be eligible for survivor's benefits. The deceased worker's wages may be used to calculate benefits for you and your dependents. The deceased must have worked for a certain number of years before receiving benefits.

Sep 23, 2022 Susan Kelly

Student Loan Payment Calculator
A student loan payment calculator is a powerful tool that can help students and graduates manage their debt. It provides a clear understanding of the total cost of a loan, including interest and principal payments, by simply inputting basic information such as the amount borrowed and interest rate. It also shows the impact of making extra payments or adjusting the loan term.

Jul 03, 2023 Susan Kelly