2/28 Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (2/28 ARM)

Homebuyers face may choices in types of mortgages, from longer-term fixed rate loans to shorter-term adjustable-rate loans. A 2/28 adjustable-rate mortgage is one type of adjustable rate mortgage that is less common than the traditional 30-year fixed mortgage, but it may suit some buyers' needs.

A 2/28 mortgage essentially offers a two-year fixed interest rate followed by a floating rate for 28 years. Learn how this type of mortgage works, and more about the pros and cons.

What Is a 2/28 Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (2/28 ARM)?

A 2/28 adjustable-rate mortgage (2/28 ARM) is a type of 30-year home loan that has an initial two-year fixed interest rate period. After this two-year period, the rate floats based on an index rate plus a margin.

The initial teaser rate is typically below the average rate of conventional mortgages, but the adjustable rate can then rise significantly. Since banks don’t make much money on the initial teaser rate, 2/28 ARMs include hefty prepayment penalties during the first two years.

Key Takeaways

  • 2/28 adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) offer an introductory fixed rate for two years, after which the interest rate adjusts semiannually for 28 more years.
  • When ARMs adjust, interest rates change based on their marginal rates and the indexes to which they’re tied.
  • Homeowners generally have lower mortgage payments during the introductory period, but are subject to interest rate risk afterward.

Understanding 2/28 Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (2/28 ARMs)

The 2/28 ARMs became popular during the real estate boom of the early 2000s, when soaring prices put conventional mortgage payments out of reach for many buyers.

Other ARM structures exist, such as 5/1, 5/5, and 5/6 ARMs, which feature a five-year introductory period followed by a rate adjustment every five years or every six months, respectively. Notably, 15/15 ARMs adjust once after 15 years and then remain fixed for the remainder of the loan.

Less common are the 2/28 and 3/27 ARMs. With the former, the fixed interest rate applies for only the first two years, followed by 28 years of adjustable rates. With the latter, the fixed rate is for three years, with adjustments in each of the following 27 years. In these cases, rates adjust semiannually.

Example of 2/28 ARM

For example, let's say you are buying a $350,000 home and providing a down payment of $50,000. You have a $300,000 2/28 ARM mortgage with an initial interest rate of 5% and monthly payments of $1,906. (Total monthly mortgage payments vary when property taxes and insurance costs are factored in. This example assumes $230 per month in property tax and $66 per month in insurance costs.)

With a 2/28 ARM, your interest rate of 5% remains fixed for two years. Then, it can change based on changes in a broader index rate. Let's say your interest rate then rises to 5.3%. Your total monthly costs would rise to $1,961. Your interest rate would continue to change over the remainder of the loan depending on the broader index. So, the total costs of the loan would be difficult to estimate.

In comparison, if you had a 30-fixed mortgage on the same loan with 5% interest, you would pay $1,906 per month and you can expect to pay $279,987 in total interest if you did not pay the loan off early.

Risks of 2/28 ARMs

The risk with an adjustable-rate mortgages like an 2/28 ARM is the potential for the rate to increase. After two years, the rate is adjusted every six months, typically upward, by a margin above an index rate, such as the federal funds rate or the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR). 2/28 ARMs have some built-in safety features, such as a lifetime interest rate cap and limits on how much the rate can change with each period. But even with caps, homeowners can face significant payment spikes in volatile markets.

During the boom, many homeowners failed to understand how a seemingly small rate increase could dramatically boost their monthly payment. And even many of those who were fully aware of the risks viewed 2/28 ARMs as a short-term financing vehicle. The idea was to take advantage of the low teaser rate, then refinance after two years to either a conventional mortgage. Or, if their credit was not good enough, they would refinance to a new adjustable mortgage. Amid spiking real estate prices, this strategy kicked the debt further down the road. To many, this made a certain amount of sense since, after all, the borrower’s home equity was rising fast.

But with the market collapse in 2008, home values plummeted. Many owners with 2/28 ARMs found were unable to refinance, make their payments, or sell their homes for the value of the outstanding loan. The rash of foreclosures led to stricter loan standards. Today, banks more carefully evaluate a borrower’s ability to make adjustable-rate payments.

2/28 ARM vs. Fixed Rate Mortgage

Adjustable-rate mortgages like a 2/28 ARM work differently than fixed-rate mortgages and this difference is important to understand for planning your long-term finances.

An adjustable rate mortgage will have an interest rate that can change. That means your monthly payments can change and the overall total interest you will pay is unpredictable. Because the interest can change, you will need to prepare for the possibility that you will have to make higher monthly payments.

In contrast, interest on a fixed-rate mortgage does not change. You can plan for the same monthly payment for the life of the loan. A 2/28 ARM offers the fixed rate for only the first two years, after which the rate can adjust.

Is a 2/28 Adjustable-Rate Mortgage Right for You?

A 2/28 adjustable-rate mortgage has advantages and disadvantages that make it ideal for some buyers but not for others. Weigh the pros and cons with your own financial situation to determine if this type of mortgage is right for you.

You may benefit from a 2/28 ARM if you need a lower monthly payment at the beginning of your mortgage and if you believe you will be able to make higher monthly payments in the future. However if you can afford a higher monthly payment, you may save more money in total interest costs with other loan options, such as a 15-year fixed-rate loan.

What are the Disadvantages of an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage?

An adjustable-rate mortgage can provide lower monthly payments at the beginning of the loan, but borrowers need to prepare for the potential that their payments can increase. If the interest rate increases, then monthly costs and total borrowing costs increase.

What is a 5/1 ARM with a 30-year Term?

With a 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), your interest rate is fixed, or remains the same, for the first five years. Then, it adjusts once a year. When these mortgages have a 30-year term, that means you will have a fixed interest rate for five years and an adjustable rate for the next 25 years. These loans are also known as 5/1 hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages.

Can You Pay off an ARM Loan Early?

Whether you can pay off an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) early depends on the terms of your loan. With some ARMs, you may face a prepayment penalty if you pay the loan off early, including if you sell the home or refinance the loan.

Article Sources
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  1. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARM).”

  2. Center for American Progress. “The 2008 Housing Crisis.”