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Should I fix my home loan interest rate?

Should I fix my home loan interest rate?

Buying a home is an important life event for everyone, and finding a suitable home loan plays a huge part in making it possible. However, what many people struggle with is deciding whether to fix the interest rate or not. There are pros and cons with both choices, and with a little understanding of how the two interest rates work, you can choose what suits your needs.

What’s a fixed-rate home loan?

Let’s begin by understanding what a fixed-rate loan is. This is a home loan where the interest rate is pre-set for a specified period; typically 1, 3 or 5 years. During this time, you’ll know exactly how much you need to repay every month, regardless of changes to the Reserve Bank’s official cash rate or any fluctuations in the international financial markets, which could affect variable interest rates.

However, you may have to accept certain limitations with a fixed rate home loan, like potentially having no access to an offset account, or having to pay fees for breaking or modifying the contract.

A fixed rate loan usually reverts to the lender’s variable rate at the end of the agreed-upon fixed period.

Understand the pros and cons of fixing your home loan

There are positives and negatives of choosing to go for a fixed rate. What matters is which home loan interest rate suits your needs.

Pros

  • With a fixed loan rate, you can plan your monthly budget much better, since you know the payment amount won’t change during the fixed period.
  • You are insulated against rising variable interest rates, so you don’t have to worry about your mortgage repayments increasing.

Cons

  • You won’t benefit from any drop in variable interest rates, so you might actually end up paying a higher rate.
  • If you wish to get out of your fixed home loan, you might have to pay costly break fees. This is a payment made to the lender for breaking out of the contract.
  • You might also not be able to make extra repayments without paying a break fee.

When is a good time to fix my home loan?

‘Should I fix my home loan now?’ is a question that comes to mind for most home loan borrowers and often, during the home loan payment journey.

How do you know when it’s a good time to fix the loan? The answer will depend on your personal financial situation, though there are a few scenarios where fixing you loan could be worth considering

For example, if you believe that rates will rise in the future and current fixed rates are lower than usual, you could consider fixing. On the other hand, if you think variable interest rates have reached their peak and are going to start falling, you may prefer to avoid fixed rates.

When interest rates are rising, it could be a suitable time to fix. Do your homework and calculate how high variable rates have to go before you begin to save with fixed-rate home loans.

When finalising your mortgage, take time out to work out the difference between fixed and variable rates. Compare home loans online before making the decision.

When should you not fix your home loan?

A fixed-rate home loan could offer you numerous advantages over a variable rate home loan. But certain situations may not be conducive to fixing your home loan, depending on your plans for the future.

Fixing your loan may not be a suitable choice under circumstances such as: 

  • You plan to make large extra repayments on your loan.
  • You intend to sell your property during the fixed term.
  • You wish to refinance your home loan within the fixed term.
  • You plan to renovate your home or build a new one within the fixed period.
  • You might not wish to be locked in with a particular lender or loan product for a fixed period.

Whether you’re buying your first home or seeking to refinance your current mortgage, you need to do your homework before finalising a home loan. Read the product disclosure statement (PDS) thoroughly to familiarise yourself with all the terms and conditions before signing up.

Are you looking to fix your home loan? Look for a great fixed home loan with the RateCity home loan comparison tool. 

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This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Mark Bristow before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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Learn more about home loans

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.

How do I find out my current interest rate and how much is owing on my loan?

Your bank statements and/or your internet banking should show these details. If you are not sure, call your bank or estimate.

What is the average annual percentage rate?

Also known as the comparison rate, or sometimes the ‘true rate’ of a loan, the average annual percentage rate (AAPR) is used to indicate the overall cost of a loan after considering all the fees, charges and other factors, such as introductory offers and honeymoon rates.

The AAPR is calculated based on a standardised loan amount and loan term, and doesn’t include any extra non-standard charges.

What is a comparison rate?

The comparison rate is a more inclusive way of comparing home loans that factors in not only on the interest rate but also the majority of upfront and ongoing charges that add to the total cost of a home loan.

The rate is calculated using an industry-wide formula based on a $150,000 loan over a 25-year period and includes things like revert rates after an introductory or fixed rate period, application fees and monthly account keeping fees.

In Australia, all lenders are required by law to publish the comparison rate alongside their advertised rate so people can compare products easily.

How often do mortgage rates change?

Mortgage interest rates change based on two main factors: changes to the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) cash rate, and out-of-cycle rate hikes from your lender.

Generally, your home loan lender will change its mortgage rates in alignment with the RBA’s cash rate. On the first Tuesday of each month (excluding January) the RBA meets to decide whether the cash rate should increase, decrease, or stay on hold. If the cash rate changes, a lender’s variable interest rates should change in tandem.

Lenders may also change interest rates out-of-cycle with the RBA cash rate, with fixed rates and variable rates frequently hiked and cut at the lender’s discretion. To stay on top of changing mortgage rates, read the latest home loan news.

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.

What is the difference between fixed, variable and split rates?

Fixed rate

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.

Variable rate

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.

Split rates home loans

A split loan lets you fix a portion of your loan, and leave the remainder on a variable rate so you get a bet each way on fixed and variable rates. A split loan is a good option for someone who wants the peace of mind that regular repayments can provide but still wants to retain some of the additional features variable loans typically provide such as an offset account. Of course, with most things in life, split loans are still a trade-off. If the variable rate goes down, for example, the lower interest rates will only apply to the section that you didn’t fix.

What are the different types of home loan interest rates?

A home loan interest rate is used to calculate how much you’ll pay the lender, usually annually, above the amount you borrow. It’s what the lenders charge you for them lending you money and will impact the total amount you’ll pay over the life of your home loan. 

Having understood what are home loan rates in general, here are the two types you usually have with a home loan:

Fixed rates

These interest rates remain constant for a specific period and are a good option if you’re a first-time buyer or if you’re looking for a fixed monthly repayment. One possible downside of a fixed rate is that it may be higher than a variable rate. Also, you don’t benefit from any lowering of interest rates in the market. On the flip side, if rates go up, your rate won’t change, possibly saving you money.

Variable rates

With variable interest rates, the lender can change them at any time. This change can be based on economic conditions or other reasons. Changes in interest rates could be beneficial if your monthly repayment decreases but can be a problem if it increases. Variable interest rates offer several other benefits often not available with fixed rate home loans like redraw and offset facilities and free extra repayments. 

Are fixed rates or variable rates cheaper?

Fixed and variable home loan interest rates are discretionary based on the lender’s decision. They will also be influenced by the Australian economy, as well as the Reserve Bank of Australia’s cash rate. The specific interest rate you may be offered will also depend on your credit history and financial situation.

Whether a fixed or variable rate home loan is the cheaper option for you will depend on all the above, and may still fluctuate over a 25-year home loan term. Therefore, it’s worth comparing your loan options with our comparison tables to see how the rates compare, based on your specific financial needs.

Does the Home Loan Rate Promise apply to discounted interest rate offers, such as honeymoon rates?

No. Temporary discounts to home loan interest rates will expire after a limited time, so they aren’t valid for comparing home loans as part of the Home Loan Rate Promise.

However, if your home loan has been discounted from the lender’s standard rate on a permanent basis, you can check if we can find an even lower rate that could apply to you.

How do I apply for a home improvement loan?

When you want to renovate your home, you may need to take out a loan to cover the costs. You could apply for a home improvement loan, which is a personal loan that you use to cover the costs of your home renovations. There is no difference between applying for this type of home improvement loan and applying for a standard personal loan. It would be best to check and compare the features, fees and details of the loan before applying. 

Besides taking out a home improvement loan, you could also:

  1. Use the equity in your house: Equity is the difference between your property’s value and the amount you still owe on your home loan. You may be able to access this equity by refinancing your home loan and then using it to finance your home improvement.  Speak with your lender or a mortgage broker about accessing your equity.
  2. Utilise the redraw facility of your home loan: Check whether the existing home loan has a redraw facility. A redraw facility allows you to access additional funds you’ve repaid into your home loan. Some lenders offer this on variable rate home loans but not on fixed. If this option is available to you, contact your lender to discuss how to access it.
  3. Apply for a construction loan: A construction loan is typically used when constructing a new property but can also be used as a home renovation loan. You may find that a construction loan is a suitable option as it enables you to draw funds as your renovation project progresses. You can compare construction home loans online or speak to a mortgage broker about taking out such a loan.
  4. Look into government grants: Check whether there are any government grants offered when you need the funds and whether you qualify. Initiatives like the HomeBuilder Grant were offered by the Federal Government for a limited period until April 2021. They could help fund your renovations either in full or just partially.  

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.

When does Commonwealth Bank charge an early exit fee?

When you take out a fixed interest home loan with the Commonwealth Bank, you’re able to lock the interest for a particular period. If the rates change during this period, your repayments remain unchanged. If you break the loan during the fixed interest period, you’ll have to pay the Commonwealth Bank home loan early exit fee and an administrative fee.

The Early Repayment Adjustment (ERA) and Administrative fees are applicable in the following instances:

  • If you switch your loan from fixed interest to variable rate
  • When you apply for a top-up home loan
  • If you repay over and above the annual threshold limit, which is $10,000 per year during the fixed interest period
  • When you prepay the entire outstanding loan balance before the end of the fixed interest duration.

The fee calculation depends on the interest rates, the amount you’ve repaid and the loan size. You can contact the lender to understand more about what you may have to pay. 

How do you determine which home loan rates/products I’m shown?

When you check your home loan rate, you’ll supply some basic information about your current loan, including the amount owing on your mortgage and your current interest rate.

We’ll compare this information to the home loan options in the RateCity database and show you which home loan products you may be eligible to apply for.