3-Year ARM Mortgage of July 2024

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An adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) with a 3-year term, commonly known as a 3/1 ARM, offers borrowers a fixed interest rate for the initial three years, after which the rate adjusts annually for the remainder of the loan term. During the fixed period, borrowers benefit from predictable monthly payments, potentially leading to lower initial costs compared to traditional fixed-rate mortgages. However, once the fixed period concludes, the interest rate becomes subject to adjustment based on prevailing market conditions, potentially resulting in increased monthly payments if interest rates rise. A 3/1 ARM may be advantageous for borrowers who plan to sell or refinance their homes before the fixed period expires but could pose risks if interest rates increase significantly after the initial period.


  1. Initial Fixed Rate Period. With a 3-year ARM, borrowers benefit from a fixed interest rate for the initial three years of the loan term. During this period, monthly mortgage payments remain unchanged, offering stability to homeowners.

  2. Adjustable Interest Rate. Following the initial fixed-rate period, the interest rate on a 3/1 ARM adjusts annually for the remaining loan term. This adjustment is based on predetermined factors such as market indexes, plus a margin set by the lender, potentially leading to fluctuations in monthly payments.

  3. Interest Rate Caps. To mitigate the impact of interest rate fluctuations, 3/1 ARMs often come with interest rate caps, including initial adjustment caps, subsequent adjustment caps, and lifetime rate caps. These caps limit how much the interest rate can increase or decrease at each adjustment period and over the life of the loan, providing borrowers with some level of predictability and protection.

  4. Monthly Mortgage Payment. The total amount paid each month, which includes principal, interest, property taxes, homeowners insurance, and potentially mortgage insurance. This payment ensures the loan is being repaid while covering associated costs.

  5. Mortgage Insurance. Required for conventional loans when the down payment is less than 20% of the purchase price. Required for FHA loans, protecting the lender if the borrower defaults.

  6. Property Taxes. Local taxes assessed on the property, are often included in the monthly mortgage payment and held in an escrow account by the lender.

Pros and Cons


Lower Initial Interest Rate. The initial fixed-rate period of a 3/1 ARM typically offers lower interest rates compared to fixed-rate mortgages, potentially resulting in lower initial monthly mortgage payments.

Flexibility. Borrowers who plan to sell or refinance their homes within the initial fixed-rate period may benefit from the lower initial interest rates offered by a 3/1 ARM, optimizing their short-term financial goals.

Equity Building. As borrowers make monthly payments, they build equity in their homes, which can be a valuable financial asset and can potentially be used for other financial needs through home equity loans or lines of credit.


Interest Rate Risk. After the initial fixed-rate period, the interest rate on a 3/1 ARM becomes adjustable, subjecting borrowers to the risk of higher interest rates and increased monthly mortgage payments.

Interest Costs. Over the life of the loan, borrowers may pay a substantial amount in interest, particularly with longer loan terms, increasing the overall cost of home ownership.

Risk of Foreclosure. If a borrower defaults on their mortgage payments, they risk losing their home to foreclosure, which can have severe financial and personal consequences.

How to Get an ARM with a 3-Year Term

Apply for a loan

  1. Assess Your Financial Health. Obtain a copy of your credit report and check your credit score. Most mortgage lenders require a minimum credit score for approval. Calculate your DTI by dividing your monthly debt payments by your gross monthly income. Lenders typically prefer a DTI of 43% or lower. Aim to save at least 20% of the home's purchase price to avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI), though some lenders offer options with lower down payments.

  2. Determine Your Budget. Use a mortgage calculator to estimate your monthly mortgage payment based on various loan amounts, interest rates, and down payment sizes. Factor in property taxes, homeowners insurance, mortgage insurance, and potential homeowners association (HOA) fees.

  3. Get Pre-Approved. Research mortgage lenders, including banks, credit unions, and mortgage brokers, to find one that offers favorable terms and rates. Provide necessary documentation, such as proof of income, tax returns, and bank statements, to the lender for pre-approval. A pre-approval letter indicates the loan amount you qualify for, which can strengthen your offer when buying a home.

  4. Shop for a Mortgage. Obtain quotes from multiple lenders to compare interest rates, loan terms, and fees. Choose between fixed-rate mortgages, which offer stable payments, and adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs), which have variable rates that may start lower but can increase over time. The APR includes the interest rate and additional fees, providing a more comprehensive view of the loan's cost.

  5. Choose Your Mortgage. Consider the interest rate, loan term, monthly payment, and any additional costs or fees when choosing the best mortgage offer. Once you’ve chosen a mortgage, you may have the option to lock in the interest rate to protect against rate increases before closing.

  6. Complete the Application. Provide detailed information about your financial situation, employment, and the property you wish to purchase. Some lenders charge fees to process your application.

  7. Go Through the Underwriting Process. Be prepared to submit further documentation as requested by the lender during underwriting. The lender will order an appraisal to ensure the property’s value supports the loan amount. A title company will verify the property’s title to ensure there are no legal issues.

  8. Close on Your Mortgage. This document outlines the final terms of your loan, including the loan amount, interest rate, monthly payments, and closing costs. Review it carefully. Sign the necessary documents to finalize the loan. Bring a cashier's check or arrange a wire transfer for your down payment and closing costs. Once all documents are signed and funds are transferred, you’ll receive the keys to your new home.


  1. Credit Score. Lenders typically require a minimum credit score of 620 for conventional loans and 580 for FHA loans. Borrowers with higher credit scores may qualify for lower interest rates and more favorable loan terms.

  2. Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI). Lenders prefer a DTI ratio of 43% or lower, calculated by dividing the borrower's total monthly debt payments by their gross monthly income. Borrowers with lower DTI ratios are considered less risky.

  3. Income Verification. Borrowers must provide proof of income through pay stubs, W-2 forms, and tax returns. Lenders typically require stable employment and sufficient income to cover mortgage payments.

  4. Documentation. Borrowers must submit various documents, including identification, bank statements, and proof of assets, to verify their financial stability and eligibility for the loan.

  5. Property Appraisal. Lenders require a professional appraisal to assess the property's value and ensure it meets lending standards. The appraisal helps determine the maximum loan amount and protects the lender's investment.


  1. Interest Rate. Lenders may offer adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) that may start as low as 2.5% for the initial fixed period.

  2. Down Payment. Lenders may require down payments as low as 3% for conventional loans, while borrowers aiming to avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI) may opt for down payments of 20% or more.

  3. Closing Costs. Borrowers should budget for closing costs, which typically range from 2% to 5% of the home's purchase price. Some lenders may offer closing cost assistance or allow borrowers to roll closing costs into the loan.

  4. Loan Amounts. Lenders may offer mortgage loans ranging from $100,000 to $1,000,000 or more, depending on the borrower's financial profile and the property's value.

Ways to Get the Money

  1. Certified Check. Some borrowers may choose to receive mortgage funds in the form of a certified check issued by the lender or closing agent. This method provides a physical form of payment that can be deposited into the borrower's bank account.

  2. Escrow Disbursement. In some cases, mortgage funds are held in an escrow account and disbursed to the appropriate parties at closing. This method ensures that all closing costs and fees are paid before releasing the remaining funds to the borrower.

  3. Direct Deposit. Certain lenders offer the option for mortgage funds to be directly deposited into the borrower's bank account on the day of closing. This electronic transfer provides immediate access to the loan proceeds without the need for physical checks or wire transfers.

Best Places to Get an ARM with 3-Year Term

  1. Chase Mortgage, one of the nation’s largest lenders, extends preferential rates and reduced processing fees to its existing customers, particularly those with substantial deposits or investments. While these discounts cater primarily to existing clients, new deposits and investments can also qualify for rate reductions. However, the availability of certain loan products may vary across states, limiting accessibility for some borrowers. Overall, Chase Mortgage suits existing customers seeking relationship discounts and low down payment options.

  2. Guaranteed Rate stands out for its swift closing times, offering borrowers the possibility of closing in as little as 10 days through its Same Day Mortgage program. Despite its emphasis on speedy processing, there's no absolute assurance of closing or loan approval within the stated timeframe. This online lender appeals to borrowers preferring a fast, digital application process, especially those with urgent closing needs.

  3. PenFed Credit Union Mortgage, open to all, specializes in VA loans while also offering FHA, conventional, and jumbo loans. With relatively low lender fees, particularly its flat origination fee for VA loans, PenFed enables borrowers to save on upfront costs. However, the credit union's reliance on traditional credit data and limited mortgage product options may pose constraints for some borrowers. PenFed is best suited for those pursuing VA loans and aiming to minimize upfront lender fees.

  4. Rocket Mortgage distinguishes itself with a range of home loan options and a user-friendly digital platform. Offering flexibility in loan terms through products like YOURgage and a low down payment option, One+ By Rocket Mortgage, caters to borrowers seeking customizable solutions. However, Rocket Mortgage tends to have higher interest rates compared to national averages, and its average time to close a purchase loan is slightly longer than some competitors. Nevertheless, for those prioritizing digital convenience and loan flexibility, Rocket Mortgage presents a compelling option.

Things to Pay Attention To

  1. Interest Rate and APR. Compare both the interest rate and the annual percentage rate (APR) to understand the total cost of the loan, including fees and other charges.

  2. Loan Term. Consider the length of the loan term and how it affects your monthly payments and total interest paid over time.

  3. Type of Mortgage. Determine whether a fixed-rate or adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) is more suitable for your financial situation and long-term goals.

  4. Down Payment Requirements. Understand the minimum down payment required by the lender and consider how it impacts your upfront costs and monthly payments.

  5. Closing Costs. Review the breakdown of closing costs, including appraisal fees, title insurance, and origination fees, and ensure they align with your budget.

  6. Prepayment Penalties. Check if the mortgage includes penalties for paying off the loan early and consider whether this aligns with your plans for the property.

  7. Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). Understand if PMI is required for your loan and how it affects your monthly payments, especially if you're making a down payment of less than 20%.

How to Repay an ARM with a 3-Year Term?

  1. Understand Your Mortgage Terms. Familiarize yourself with the terms of your mortgage, including the interest rate, loan amount, loan term, and any prepayment penalties or other fees. Determine the frequency of mortgage payments (e.g., monthly, bi-weekly) and the due date for each payment.

  2. Set Up a Payment Method. Consider setting up automatic payments through your bank or mortgage servicer to ensure timely payment each month. Explore online payment options provided by your lender or servicer for convenience and ease of use. If preferred, you can also mail payments to the address provided by your lender, ensuring they are received by the due date.

  3. Consider Additional Payments. Determine if you can make extra payments towards your mortgage principal to pay down the loan faster and save on interest. Explore the option of making bi-weekly payments instead of monthly payments to accelerate the repayment schedule.

  4. Communicate with Your Lender. Keep your lender informed of any changes to your financial situation that may impact your ability to make mortgage payments. If you encounter financial hardship, such as job loss or medical expenses, contact your lender to discuss potential options for assistance or loan modification.

Reasons for Getting Rejected for an ARM with 3-Year Term

  1. Low Credit Score. A history of late payments, defaults, or high levels of debt can lower your credit score, making you a higher risk for lenders. Multiple recent credit inquiries or applications for new credit may signal financial instability to lenders.

  2. High Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI). Lenders assess your DTI ratio, which compares your monthly debt payments to your gross monthly income. A high DTI ratio may indicate that you are overleveraged and unable to afford additional debt.

  3. Insufficient Income. Lenders require proof of stable income to ensure you can afford mortgage payments. Inconsistent or insufficient income documentation may result in rejection. A short or unstable employment history can raise concerns about your ability to maintain a steady income for mortgage payments.

  4. Inadequate Down Payment. Lenders typically require a minimum down payment, often around 20% of the home's purchase price. A smaller down payment may result in higher risk for the lender and increase the likelihood of rejection.

  5. Poor Property Appraisal. If the appraised value of the property is lower than the purchase price or loan amount, lenders may hesitate to approve the mortgage due to concerns about the property's value as collateral.

  6. Unstable Financial History. Past bankruptcies, foreclosures, or other negative financial events may raise red flags for lenders and result in mortgage rejection. Outstanding collections accounts, tax liens, or other financial judgments can signal financial instability and impact your ability to qualify for a mortgage.


  1. A personal loan is an unsecured loan that can be used for various purposes, including home renovations or purchases. Personal loans typically have fixed interest rates and repayment terms, providing predictability for borrowers. While not secured by the property, personal loans may have higher interest rates compared to mortgages.

  2. With a lease-to-own agreement, you rent a home with the option to purchase it at a later date. A portion of your monthly rent payments may go toward the purchase price, providing an opportunity to build equity over time without committing to a mortgage upfront.

  3. Some retirement plans, such as 401(k)s, allow participants to borrow against their account balance for various purposes, including home purchases or renovations. 401(k) loans typically have lower interest rates compared to other credit products and may not require a credit check. Borrowers must repay the loan according to the plan's terms or face penalties and taxes.

  4. A bridge loan is a short-term loan used to bridge the gap between the purchase of a new home and the sale of an existing property. Higher interest rates and fees compared to traditional mortgages, typically repaid within a few months to a year and secured by the borrower's existing home. Provides temporary financing for homebuyers facing timing challenges, such as contingent offers or overlapping mortgage payments.

Editorial Opinion

While a 3/1 ARM offers short-term benefits such as lower initial interest rates and monthly payments, borrowers should carefully consider their long-term financial goals and risk tolerance. Opting for an ARM over a fixed-rate loan requires an understanding of potential fluctuations in interest rates and their impact on monthly mortgage payments. Borrowers who prioritize flexibility and anticipate changes in their financial circumstances may find a 3/1 ARM suitable, provided they have a sound exit strategy in place to mitigate potential risks associated with interest rate adjustments.


Keeping your Debt-to-Income (DTI) ratio below 30-40% of your monthly income is crucial. This will help you avoid potential financial problems in the future. Additionally, always assess the necessity and feasibility of taking a loan, ensuring you can comfortably manage its repayment.

How to Choose a Mortage Lender

  1. Check Associations. Look for lenders who are members of reputable organizations, such as the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA). Membership in these organizations can indicate a higher level of reliability and professionalism.

  2. Review Terms and Conditions. Carefully examine all the terms and conditions of the mortgage contract. Pay special attention to details like the loan term, fixed vs. variable interest rates, and any prepayment penalties.

  3. Interest Rates and Costs. Scrutinize the interest rates and ensure that your contract includes a detailed breakdown of the total cost of the mortgage, including closing costs, origination fees, and any other charges.

  4. Right of Rescission. Remember you can utilize your right of rescission, which typically allows you to cancel the mortgage within three days after signing the agreement. Additionally, use the "cooling-off" period to thoroughly review the contract and make an informed decision before finalizing the mortgage agreement.

  5. Compare Offers. Shop around and compare offers from multiple lenders to find the best rates and terms that suit your financial situation.

Additional resources


Are there 3-year mortgages?

Yes, there are 3-year mortgages, commonly known as 3/1 adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs). With a 3-year ARM, borrowers typically benefit from a fixed interest rate for the initial three years of the loan term. After this fixed period, the interest rate adjusts annually based on prevailing market conditions. While less common than traditional 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, 3-year ARMs offer borrowers short-term predictability with the potential for lower initial interest rates.

What are the requirements for a 3-year ARM?

The requirements for a 3-year ARM are similar to those for other types of mortgages. Borrowers typically need to meet certain criteria related to creditworthiness, income stability, and debt-to-income ratio. Lenders may require a minimum credit score, a steady employment history, and sufficient income to cover mortgage payments. Additionally, borrowers may need to provide documentation such as pay stubs, tax returns, and bank statements to verify their financial standing.

Is a 3-year ARM a good idea?

Whether a 3-year ARM is a good idea depends on individual financial circumstances and risk tolerance. While a 3-year ARM can offer lower initial interest rates and monthly payments compared to fixed-rate mortgages, borrowers should carefully consider the potential for rate adjustments after the initial fixed period.

When the fixed-rate period ends on an ARM loan, borrowers may find themselves facing adjustments in mortgage rates tied to financial benchmarks like the secured overnight financing rate. These adjustments can lead to changes in interest rates by several percentage points, potentially impacting monthly payments and overall loan costs. Therefore, borrowers should carefully consider their financial situation and market conditions before choosing an ARM loan, understanding how fluctuations in mortgage rates can affect their long-term financial stability.

Those who plan to sell or refinance their homes before the fixed period expires may benefit from the lower initial costs of a 3-year ARM. However, borrowers who anticipate staying in their homes for an extended period or are concerned about potential interest rate increases may prefer the stability of a traditional fixed-rate mortgage.