About variable rate home loans

About variable rate home loans

Variable rate home loans are the most popular type of home loans in Australia. They are offered by most home loan lenders including Australian banks, credit unions and building societies.

Typically variable home loan rates adjust with the ebb and flow of the official cash rate set by the Reserve Bank of Australia – although individual lenders can also make independent adjustments to their own rates.

While borrowers have no control over the home loan interest rate (unless they choose to fix the rate), the reality is that a variable rate home loan is usually cheaper than a fixed rate home loan over the long term.

The main benefit with a variable home loan rate is its flexibility when compared to a fixed rate home loan. However, flexible features such as ‘redraw facilities’ and a ‘mortgage offset account’, are offered sometimes in exchange for a slightly higher interest rate than a fixed rate home loan (but this depends on the lender).

Redraw facilities

Making extra repayments into your home loan helps shave the interest you will pay over the term of the loan. A ‘redraw’ facility gives you access to these additional payments should you hit a financial speed bump such as a medical emergency, a job loss or some other family event.

With a variable home loan, rates fluctuate, so it is smarter to pay more into your home loan when the interest rate is low. This will create a financial buffer that you can redraw from if the rate rises. 

Mortgage offset accounts

A mortgage offset account is like a bank account, which is linked to your variable rate home loan. The money in your transaction account is offset against the outstanding balance of your home loan, which means you end up paying less interest. For instance, if you have an outstanding balance of $200,000 and your offset account has $20,000 in it, you will only pay interest on $180,000 ($200,000- $20,000). There may also be tax benefits attached to mortgage offset accounts and you should talk to your accountant for more information.

As with any home loan advice, the key is to examine your own financial situation and contact an expert for professional advice. It helps to know your stuff so don’t be afraid to carry out your own research by comparing Australian variable rate home loans and use the mortgage repayment calculator to crunch your numbers.

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Learn more about home loans

Does each product always have the same rating?

No, the rating you see depends on a number of factors and can change as you tell us more about your loan profile and preferences. The reasons you may see a different rating:

  • Lenders have made changes. Our ratings show the relative competitiveness of all the products listed at a given time. As the listing change, so do the ratings.
  • You have updated you profile. If you increase your loan amount, the impact of different rates and fees will change which loans are the lowest cost for you.
  • You adjust your preferences. The more you search for flexible loan features, the more importance we assign to the Flexibility Score. You can also adjust your Flexibility Weighting yourself, which will recalculate the ratings with preference given to more flexible loans.

Mortgage Calculator, Deposit

The proportion you have already saved to go towards your home. 

What is a fixed home loan?

A fixed rate home loan is a loan where the interest rate is set for a certain amount of time, usually between one and 15 years. The advantage of a fixed rate is that you know exactly how much your repayments will be for the duration of the fixed term. There are some disadvantages to fixing that you need to be aware of. Some products won’t let you make extra repayments, or offer tools such as an offset account to help you reduce your interest, while others will charge a significant break fee if you decide to terminate the loan before the fixed period finishes.

How will Real Time Ratings help me find a new home loan?

The home loan market is complex. With almost 4,000 different loans on offer, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to work out which loans work for you.

That’s where Real Time RatingsTM can help. Our system automatically filters out loans that don’t fit your requirements and ranks the remaining loans based on your individual loan requirements and preferences.

Best of all, the ratings are calculated in real time so you know you’re getting the most current information.

What is breach of contract?

A failure to follow all or part of a contract or breaking the conditions of a contract without any legal excuse. A breach of contract can be material, minor, actual or anticipatory, depending on the severity of the breaches and their material impact.

Mortgage Calculator, Repayment Frequency

How often you wish to pay back your lender. 

Remaining loan term

The length of time it will take to pay off your current home loan, based on the currently-entered mortgage balance, monthly repayment and interest rate.

Why should you trust Real Time Ratings?

Real Time Ratings™ was conceived by a team of data experts who have been analysing trends and behaviour in the home loan market for more than a decade. It was designed purely to meet the evolving needs of home loan customers who wish to merge low cost with flexible features quickly. We believe it fills a glaring gap in the market by frequently re-rating loan products based on the changes lenders make daily.

Real Time Ratings™ is a new idea and will change over time to match the frequently-evolving demands of the market. Some things won’t change though – it will always rate all relevent products in our database and will not be influenced by advertising.

If you have any feedback about Real Time Ratings™, please get in touch.

What is a redraw fee?

Redraw fees are charged by your lender when you want to take money you have already paid into your mortgage back out. Typically, banks will only allow you to take money out of your loan if you have a redraw facility attached to your loan, and the money you are taking out is part of any additional repayments you’ve made. The average redraw fee is around $19 however there are plenty of lenders who include a number of fee-free redraws a year. Tip: Negative-gearers beware – any money redrawn is often treated as new borrowing for tax purposes, so there may be limits on how you can use it if you want to maximise your tax deduction.

Savings over

Select a number of years to see how much money you can save with different home loans over time.

e.g. To see how much you could save in two years by switching mortgages,  set the slider to 2.

What is a valuation and valuation fee?

A valuation is an assessment of what your home is worth, calculated by a professional valuer. A valuation report is typically required whenever a property is bought, sold or refinanced. The valuation fee is paid to cover the cost of preparing a valuation report.

Mortgage Calculator, Property Value

An estimate of how much your desired property is worth. 

What is a variable home loan?

A variable rate home loan is one where the interest rate can and will change over the course of your loan. The rate is determined by your lender, not the Reserve Bank of Australia, so while the cash rate might go down, your bank may decide not to follow suit, although they do broadly follow market conditions. One of the upsides of variable rates is that they are typically more flexible than their fixed rate counterparts which means that a lot of these products will let you make extra repayments and offer features such as offset accounts.

What happens to my home loan when interest rates rise?

If you are on a variable rate home loan, every so often your rate will be subject to increases and decreases. Rate changes are determined by your lender, not the Reserve Bank of Australia, however often when the RBA changes the cash rate, a number of banks will follow suit, at least to some extent. You can use RateCity cash rate to check how the latest interest rate change affected your mortgage interest rate.

When your rate rises, you will be required to pay your bank more each month in mortgage repayments. Similarly, if your interest rate is cut, then your monthly repayments will decrease. Your lender will notify you of what your new repayments will be, although you can do the calculations yourself, and compare other home loan rates using our mortgage calculator.

There is no way of conclusively predicting when interest rates will go up or down on home loans so if you prefer a more stable approach consider opting for a fixed rate loan.