Many Australians take out home loans in order to realise their property goals and while making the jump from a tenant to a homeowner is a big step, whether people opt for a fixed or variable home loan is another story entirely.
The Big Four Australian banks have pleased would-be homeowners with a recent drop in fixed home loan rates but as a result, have prompted a country-wide debate as borrowers ask themselves the question, “Is it time to fix?”
Alex Parsons, CEO of RateCity, said choosing to fix your mortgage is a personal and financial decision, which will vary for every Australian borrower.
“Consumers should look at both their short and long-term circumstances, compare a range of home loan options and look at the pros and cons of fixing before taking up one, or the other.”
Pro: You want certainty
With the Commonwealth Bank of Australian (CBA), National Australia Bank (NAB) and Westpac dropping their five year fixed rate home loans to 4.99 percent and ANZ reducing its equivalent loan to 5.49 percent –these historically low fixed-rates are nothing to be shy about.
Gai McGrath, Westpac‘s general manager of Retail Banking explained that affordable fixed-rate mortgages are particularly appealing to customers looking to secure their repayment amount over the long term.
If you’re starting out on the home loan journey, locking a long-term competitive interest rate could be a smart move. You’ll have a clear idea of your fortnightly or monthly payments for the fixed term of your loan, which makes budgeting easier.
Pro: You’re protected against cash rate fluctuations
By locking in a fixed interest rate, those with home loans can protect themselves from rate rises that may occur in the future. One big influence on lenders’ mortgage rates is the Reserve Bank of Australia’s official cash rate.
At the beginning of July, Glenn Stevens, RBA Governor, noted that the cash rate may remain stable for some time.
“On present indications, the most prudent course is likely to be a period of stability in interest rates.”
Despite indications suggesting rate stability, if the cash rate did lift, lenders could well respond by increasing their variable-rate loans too. By having a fixed rate mortgage, you’ll be protected against such changes for the duration of your agreed fixed term.
But beware – if the cash rate drops, borrowers with fixed rate home loans won’t reap the benefits.
Con: Know the revert interest rates
Fixed interest rates are usually offered for a period of one to five years. After the fixed rate period ends your home loan will automatically revert to the lender’s variable interest rate. Unless, you choose to fix your rate again – but this could be at a much higher rate than previously.
Either way, at the end of the term you will be changing interest rates so it’s imperative that do your research and know what your lenders revert interest rate is – so you aren’t left with a nasty surprise at the end of your loan term.
Con: Less flexibility
Individuals who get a pay rise, a bonus or inherit some money may wish to put these extra funds towards paying off their home loans but may not be able to if they are locked into a fixed loan.
Some fixed-term home loans restrict the ability to make extra repayments. You may not be able to make such payments, or have to pay a fee to do so.
Likewise, there are often restrictions on paying the loan off before the stipulated term.
“The interest rate is only one part of the overall home loan equation – so make sure you look at the fees, charges, repayment options and the terms and conditions,” Parsons said.
“Fixed rate loan terms are less flexible than variable, which means in most cases you can’t make extra repayments or pay off your loan earlier – if you do so it could be at a cost – whereas, extra repayments paid on a variable rate loan could save you thousands and cut years off your loan term.”
Can’t decide? Split it!
If you are stuck on the fence trying to decide which mortgage route is the safest and best for you financially, why not consider covering all bases by splitting your loan?
Most banks and lenders will allow you to split your loan so that you can pick up some of the pros and cons of both loan options.
Still undecided? Let the figures do the talking.
RateCity crunched the numbers and data showed that moving from the average variable rate to a 5 year fixed rate at 4.99 percent could save borrowers $51 per month on a $300,000, or $3060 over the course of five years, excluding fees and charges.