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Survey finds homeowners confused, worried about ARMs

National Mortgage Professional
Mar 24, 2014

Survey finds homeowners confused, worried about ARMsMortgagePress.comadjustable-rate mortgages, higher-risk sub-prime borrowers, general lack of understanding

Nearly half of homeowners with adjustable-rate mortgages admit that they do not know how their adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) adjust or reset, and nearly three quarters do not know how much their monthly mortgage payments will increase when they do, a new national survey reveals.

The survey, conducted Sept. 13-25 by Peter D. Hart Research Associates for the AFL-CIO, reveals that ARM holders are generally not concerned about mortgage payments until their rates reset. Then, anxiety sets in as they realize their payments have risen substantially. The use of ARMs for home financing has grown dramatically over the past few years, particularly among higher-risk sub-prime borrowers.

While many homeowners with ARMs remain personally optimistic, 62 percent said they believe escalating mortgage rates are hurting their communities, and 48 percent expect they'll have to cut back on everyday expenses like groceries, clothing and gasoline when their payments increase.

For families earning $50,000 or less, that number is 80 percent.

Asked if they felt confident or worried about making their monthly mortgage payments over the next few years, 41 percent of homeowners whose ARMs had reset said they were worried, compared with 18 percent of those whose ARMs had not reset. Among borrowers with incomes under $50,000, 59 percent were worried, including 38 percent who were very worried.

"What we have here is a tale of two communities," said AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney. "The trap door between the American dream and the American nightmare for these homeowners is the ARM adjustment. This survey shows that many homeowners simply are not prepared for the steep rise in mortgage payments that this market inflicts on ARM holders."

The poll shows that of those homeowners whose ARMs had reset, 37 percent had interest rates at eight percent or higher, well above the current market rate for prime fixed-rate loans, and 16 percent had interest rates at 10 percent or higher. After the reset, the average increase in monthly mortgage payments is approximately $291, a 10-percent cut in after-tax pay for a family earning $50,000 a year.

Two in three (64 percent) of those whose rates have reset do not recall their lender telling them how much more their payment would increase, and 32 percent dont recall being told when their interest rate would increase. Twenty-three percent of all respondents said they had been late making a mortgage payment at least once in the past 12 months, and that proportion jumps to 37 percent among those whose rate has increased.

The poll also found substantial support for government action to protect consumers. Fifty-one percent said they think the government should assist people with ARMs facing foreclosures, and 77 percent said the government should do more to regulate the mortgage industry.

Predatory lending practices not only involve sticking consumers with bad loans, but also in failing to provide homeowners with the basic information they need to survive in this market, said Sweeney.

Despite a general lack of understanding about their adjustable-rate mortgages, 79 percent said they believed the information they received from their lenders was mainly accurate and truthful.

Sixty percent said they got their ARMs from Mortgage Brokers, and 39 percent said they got their mortgages directly from banks.

For more information, visit www.aflcio.org.