Loan caps provide payment protection against payment shock, and allow a measure of interest rate certainty to those who gamble with initial fixed rates on ARM loans. There are three types of Caps on a typical First Lien Adjustable Rate Mortgage or First Lien Hybrid Adjustable Rate Mortgage.
Initial Adjustment Rate Cap: The majority of loans have a higher cap for initial adjustments that's indexed to the initial fixed period. In other words, the longer the initial fixed term, the more the bank would like to potentially adjust your loan. Typically, this cap is 2–3% above the Start Rate on a loan with an initial fixed rate term of three years or lower and 5–6% above the Start Rate on a loan with an initial fixed rate term of five years or greater.
Rate Adjustment Cap: This is the maximum amount by which an Adjustable Rate Mortgage may increase on each successive adjustment. Similar to the initial cap, this cap is usually 1% above the Start Rate for loans with an initial fixed term of three years or greater and usually 2% above the Start Rate for loans that have an initial fixed term of five years or greater.
Lifetime Cap: Most First Mortgage loans have a 5% or 6% Life Cap above the Start Rate (this ultimately varies by the lender and credit grade).
- Industry Shorthand for ARM Caps
Inside the business caps are expressed most often by simply the three numbers involved that signify each cap. For example, a 5/1 Hybrid ARM may have a cap structure of 5/2/5 (5% initial cap, 2% adjustment cap and 5% lifetime cap) and insiders would call this a 5-2-5 cap. Alternatively, a 1-year ARM might have a 1/1/6 cap (1% initial cap, 1% adjustment cap and 6% lifetime cap) known as a 1-1-6, or alternatively expressed as a 1/6 cap (leaving out one digit signifies that the initial and adjustment caps are identical).
- Negative amortization ARM caps
See the complete article for the type of ARM that Negative amortization loans are by nature. Higher risk products, such as First Lien Monthly Adjustable loans with Negative amortization and Home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) have different ways of structuring the Cap than a typical First Lien Mortgage. The typical First Lien Monthly Adjustable loans with Negative amortization loan has a life cap for the underlying rate (aka "Fully Indexed Rate") between 9.95% and 12% (maximum assessed interest rate). Some of these loans can have much higher rate ceilings. The fully indexed rate is always listed on the statement, but borrowers are shielded from the full effect of rate increases by the minimum payment, until the loan is recast, which is when principal and interest payments are due that will fully amortize the loan at the fully indexed rate.
- Home equity lines of credit (HELOCs)
Since HELOCs are intended by banks to primarily sit in second lien position, they normally are only capped by the maximum interest rate allowed by law in the state wherein they are issued. For example, Florida currently has an 18% cap on interest rate charges. These loans are risky in the sense that to lenders, they are practically a credit card issued to the borrower, with minimal security in the event of default. They are risky to the borrower in the sense that they are mostly indexed to the Wall Street Journal Prime Rate, which is considered a Spot Index, or a financial indicator that is subject to immediate change (as are the loans based upon the Prime Rate). The risk to borrower being that a financial situation causing the Federal Reserve to raise rates dramatically (see 1980, 2006) would effect an immediate rise in obligation to the borrower, up to the capped rate.
Read more about this topic: Variable-rate Mortgage
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