Interest-Only Mortgage Payments and Payment-Option ARMs-Are They for You

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Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
National Credit Union Administration
Offi ce of the Comptroller of the Currency
Offi ce of Thrift Supervision
Interest-Only Mortgage
Payments and
Payment-Option ARMs —
Are They for You?
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

Interest-Only Mortgage Payments and Payment-Option ARMs | 1
Owning a home is part of the
American dream. But high
home prices may make the
dream seem out of reach. To
make monthly mortgage pay-
ments more affordable, many
lenders offer home loans that allow you to (1) pay only the
interest on the loan during the fi rst few years of the loan
term or (2) make only a specifi ed minimum payment that
could be less than the monthly interest on the loan.
Whether you are buying a house or refi nancing your mort-
gage, this information can help you decide if an interest-only
mortgage payment (an I-O mortgage)—or an adjustable-rate
mortgage (ARM) with the option to make a minimum pay-
ment (a payment-option ARM)—is right for you. Lenders have
a variety of names for these loans, but keep in mind that with
I-O mortgages and payment-option ARMs, you could face
I
payment shock. Your payments may go up a lot—
as much as double or triple—after the interest-only
period or when the payments adjust.
In addition, with payment-option ARMs you could face
I
negative amortization. Your payments may not cover all
of the interest owed. The unpaid interest is added to
your mortgage balance so that you owe more on your
mortgage than you originally borrowed.

2 | Interest-Only Mortgage Payments and Payment-Option ARMs
Be sure you understand the loan terms and the risks you
face. And be realistic about whether you can handle future
payment increases. If you’re not comfortable with these risks,
ask about another loan product.
What is an I-O mortgage payment?
Traditional mortgages require that each month you pay back
some of the money you borrowed (the principal) plus the inter-
est on that money. The principal you owe on your mortgage
decreases over the term of the loan. In contrast, an I-O payment
plan allows you to pay only the interest for a specifi ed number
of years. After that, you must repay both the principal and the
interest.
Most mortgages that offer an I-O payment plan have adjustable
interest rates, which means that the interest rate and monthly
payment will change over the term of the loan. The changes may
be as often as once a month or as seldom as every 3 to 5 years,
depending on the terms of your loan. For example, a 5/1 ARM
has a fi xed interest rate for the fi rst 5 years; after that, the rate
can change once a year (the “1” in 5/1) during the rest of the
loan. More information on ARMs is available in the Federal
Reserve Board’s Consumer Handbook on Adjustable Rate Mortgages.
The I-O payment period is typically between 3 and 10 years.
After that, your monthly payment will increase—even if interest
rates stay the same—because you must pay back the principal as
well as the interest. For example, if you take out a 30-year mort-
gage loan with a 5-year I-O payment period, you can pay only
interest for 5 years and then both principal and interest over the
next 25 years. Because you begin to pay back the principal, your
payments increase after year 5.

Interest-Only Mortgage Payments and Payment-Option ARMs | 3
What is a payment-option ARM?
A payment-option ARM is an adjustable-rate mortgage that
allows you to choose among several payment options each
month. The options typically include
I a traditional payment of principal and interest (which reduces
the amount you owe on your mortgage). These payments
may be based on a set loan term, such as a 15-, 30-, or 40-
year payment schedule.
I an interest-only payment (which does not change the amount
you owe on your mortgage).
I a minimum (or limited) payment (which may be less than the
amount of interest due that month and may not pay down
any principal). If you choose this option, the amount of any
interest you do not pay will be added to the principal of the
loan, increasing the amount you owe and increasing the
interest you will pay.
Interest rates. The interest rate on a payment-option ARM is
typically very low for the fi rst 1 to 3 months (2%, for example).
After that, the rate usually rises to a rate closer to that of other
mortgage loans. Your monthly payments during the fi rst year
are based on the initial low rate, meaning that if you only make
the minimum payment, it may not cover the interest due. The
unpaid interest is added to the amount you owe on the mort-
gage, resulting in a higher balance. This is known as negative
amortization.
Also, as interest rates go up, your payments are
likely to go up.
Payment changes. Many payment-option ARMs limit, or cap, the
amount the monthly minimum payment may increase from year
to year. For example, if your loan has a payment cap of 7.5%,
your monthly payment won’t increase more than 7.5% from one

4 | Interest-Only Mortgage Payments and Payment-Option ARMs
year to the next (for example, from $1,000 to $1,075), even if inter-
est rates rise more than 7.5%. Any interest you don’t pay because
of the payment cap will be added to the balance of your loan.
Payment-option ARMs have a built-in recalculation period, usu-
ally every 5 years. At this point, your payment will be recalcu-
lated (lenders use the term recast) based on the remaining term
of the loan. If you have a 30-year loan and you are at the end of
year 5, your payment will be recalculated for the remaining 25
years. The payment cap does not apply to this adjustment. If
your loan balance has increased, or if interest rates have risen
faster than your payments, your payments could go up a lot.
Ending the option payments. Lenders end the option payments if
the amount of principal you owe grows beyond a set limit, say
110% or 125% of your original mortgage amount. For example,
suppose you made minimum payments on your $180,000
mortgage and had negative amortization. If the balance grew
to $225,000 (125% of $180,000), the option payments would end.
Your loan would be recalculated and you would pay back prin-
cipal and interest based on the remaining term of your loan. It is
likely that your payments would go up signifi cantly.
What do you need to ask when shopping
for an I-O mortgage or a payment-option
ARM?
Use the Mortgage Shopping Worksheet to compare different
loan products. Ask lenders or brokers about the details of their
loans and about the different loan options they offer. And don’t
be afraid to make lenders and brokers compete with each other
by letting them know you are shopping for the best deal. Look
for a mortgage that allows you to buy the house and continue to
afford the payments, even if payments go up over time.

Interest-Only Mortgage Payments and Payment-Option ARMs | 5
Mortgage Shopping Worksheet
(See the Consumer Handbook on Adjustable Rate Mortgages to help you com-
pare other ARM features and Looking for the Best Mortgage to help you
compare other loan features.
Example
Name of lender or broker & contact
ABC Mortgage Co.
information
800-123-4567
Mortgage amount
$180,000
Loan description
Payment-option ARM; 1-month
introductory rate; 30-year term

Is this an I-O payment or a payment-
Payment-option ARM
option ARM?
If different payment options are avail-
1. First year’s minimum payment based
able, what are the options?
on initial interest rate
2. Interest-only payment based on rate
after adjustment
3. Fully amortizing payment based on
30-year term
What is the full term of the mortgage?
30 years
How long is the option period?
The loan will be recalculated (recast)
every 5 years. Payment options are
available every month except (1) when
loan is recast every 5 years, (2) when
balance is 125% of original loan, or
(3) if you fall more than 60 days behind
in your payments.

What is the initial interest rate?
1.6%
For a payment-option ARM, how long
1 month
does the initial interest rate apply?
What will the interest rate be after the
6.4%
initial rate?
How often can the interest rate adjust?
Monthly
What is the periodic interest rate cap?
2% per year
What is the overall interest rate cap?
6% lifetime cap
(maximum interest rate is 12.4%)

How often will the monthly payments
Annually
adjust?

6 | Interest-Only Mortgage Payments and Payment-Option ARMs
Mortgage Shopping Worksheet—continued
Example
What is the payment cap?
7.5% per year;
does not apply to recalculation every
5th year

Can this loan have negative
Yes
amortization?
Is there a limit to how much the bal-
Up to 125% of original amount borrowed
ance can grow before the loan will be
(loan will be recalculated if balance
recalculated?
grows to $225,000)
Is there a prepayment penalty if I end
Yes
this mortgage early by refi nancing or
selling my home?
How much is the penalty?
3% of amount borrowed in 1st year
($5,400), down to 1% of amount
borrowed in 3rd year ($1,800); no
prepayment penalty after year 3

What will my monthly payments be for $630
the fi rst year of the loan?
Does this include taxes and insurance? No
Homeowner’s association fees?
What is the most my minimum monthly
$677 (based on 7.5% cap)
payment could be after 12 months?
What is the most my minimum monthly
$728 (based on 7.5% cap)
payment could be after 24 months?
What is the most my minimum monthly
$783 (based on 7.5% cap)
payment could be after 36 months?
What is the most my minimum monthly
$2,419 (based on recalculation of
payment could be after 48 months?
the loan when balance is
$225,000)

What is the most my minimum monthly
$2,419 (based on recalculation of the
payment could be after 60 months (5 years)?
loan after 4 years)
What would my minimum monthly
$1,308 (based on recalculation of the
payment be after 60 months (5 years) if
loan after 5 years)
the interest rate stays the same?
What are the fees and charges due at
See good faith estimate
closing on this loan?

Interest-Only Mortgage Payments and Payment-Option ARMs | 7
When might an I-O mortgage payment
or a payment-option ARM be right for you?
Despite the risks of these loans, an I-O mortgage payment or a pay-
ment-option ARM might be right for you if the following apply:
I you have modest current income but are reasonably certain
that your income will go up in the future (for example, if
you’re fi nishing your degree or training program),
I you have sizable equity in your home and will use the
money that would go toward principal payments for other
investments, or
I you have irregular income (such as commissions or seasonal
earnings) and want the fl exibility of making I-O or option-
ARM minimum payments during low-income periods and
larger payments during higher-income periods.
When might an I-O mortgage payment
or a payment-option ARM not make sense?
Interest-only or option-ARM minimum payments may be risky
if you won’t be able to afford the higher monthly payments in the
future. For example, suppose you are in the market for a home and
can afford a monthly payment of about $1,100. Depending on the
interest rate, with a traditional 30-year, fi xed-rate mortgage, you
might expect to get a $180,000 mortgage. A lender or broker could
offer you an I-O mortgage payment of $1,100 monthly that might
enable you to get a $215,000 mortgage—and, therefore, a more
expensive house. But keep in mind that your payments could go up
because of interest rate increases when the I-O period ends, or when
the loan is recalculated. Your $1,100 monthly payment could jump to
$1,340 or more. If you cannot reasonably expect to make this larger
payment when the time comes, you might want to think about a dif-
ferent type of loan.

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