Monday, December 03, 2007

A New Theory of ARMs

by Tanta on 12/03/2007 09:19:00 AM

From the San Diego Union-Tribune, a fabulous distillation of bubble-think in the story of Michael and Suzanne, who got Countrywide to modify their ARM.

Details: In around mid-September 2004, Michael and Suzanne borrowed $437,750 to buy a $440,000 condo. The $352,000 first mortgage was an interest-only 3/27 ARM with a start rate of 4.97%, a 3.00% first adjustment cap and 2.00% annual (1.00% every six months) periodic cap after that, with a maximum lifetime rate of 11.97%. It is presumably indexed to the 6-month LIBOR. The $85,750 second mortgage was a fixed rate (of unspecified term) at 8.00%.

The first scheduled adjustment on the first mortgage would have taken the monthly interest payment up by $880. Michael and Suzanne cannot, apparently, afford another $880. Nor is sale or refi a great option, since the value of the condo is apparently now $400,000. Michael and Suzanne did not have $40,000 for a down payment in 2004 and they still don't have $40,000 for a down payment.

They feel a touch let down by the world:

“We understood the situation with loan adjustments to be that after our first three years, our low rate would increase to the rate that everyone else is buying at right now,” said Suzanne, 38. “We didn't realize that we would see an increase of our monthly mortgage payments by several hundred dollars or that we'd now be facing this uphill interest rate climb that we're not going to be able to afford.”
That's an interesting way of thinking of an ARM: it won't hurt you because the rate will only go up to the rate buyers will buy at. This will make that rate adjustment affordable to you because nobody will ever buy in the future at a rate you cannot afford, even though your plan is that everyone will buy in the future at a higher price than you did.

A note to Countrywide: You get the borrowers you deserve in this business.