Fixed last year? Switch now and pocket $720 a month

Fixed last year? Switch now and pocket $720 a month

Jackie Nevill reports on how many Australians can save $720 a month by switching from last year’s high fixed rates to a variable home loan.

October 16, 2009

Some Australian mortgagees may be panicking in light of the interest rate rise announced on October 6 – somewhat earlier than originally predicted. However, research from RateCity has shown that borrowers, who locked in to a high fixed rate last year, may now have a window of opportunity to save money on their home loans, if they switch to a variable rate now.

As rates crept upwards early last year, many astute home owners locked in a fixed rate – commonly around 9 percent for three years. On a typical $300,000 loan, this equates to repayments of $2,518 per month.

But as rates plummeted in the months that followed, with the official cash rate reaching a low of 3 percent in April this year, many of those borrowers will be kicking themselves. Break costs, on the surface, can appear too high to jump over.

But it pays to do the sums. Damian Smith, RateCity’s CEO, says even considering break costs, Australians stand to make significant savings by switching their loans.

“Fixed interest rates have been rising since April and variable rates have stayed low, so break fees to cancel fixed home loans are the lowest they have been about a year,” he says.

“As a result, people who locked in at close to the highest fixed rate last year could find themselves much better off if they compared current rates on the market.”

How much better off?

Let’s take the same $300,000 loan, but with a 5.25 percent p.a. variable rate. Monthly repayments drop to $1,798. Compared to our 9 percent fixed rate, this is a saving of $720 per month or $17,280 over a two-year period.

By comparison, the break cost after one year, which can be calculated by the difference between the lender’s current two-year fixed rate and your rate, would be around $12,900. That’s $4,380 back in your pocket if you choose to switch.

Of course, the catch is rising interest rates. “The risk with a variable rate is that it can rise so it is all about timing when choosing to go variable or fixed,” says Smith.

Even if rates increase another 0.5 percent, monthly repayments on a three-year fixed rate are $1,887, a saving of $631 per month or $15,144 over two years – still $2,244 more than your break fee.

As rates have already started to climb, the time to act is now. Smith advises that borrowers considering switching should try to keep repaying their loan at the higher rate instead of the minimum amount.

“This will save you thousands and substantially reduce the period of the loan,” he says.

 

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Does Real Time Ratings' work for people who already have a home loan?

Yes. If you already have a mortgage you can use Real Time RatingsTM to compare your loan against the rest of the market. And if your rate changes, you can come back and check whether your loan is still competitive. If it isn’t, you’ll get the ammunition you need to negotiate a rate cut with your lender, or the resources to help you switch to a better lender.

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.

What is appraised value?

An estimation of a property’s value before beginning the mortgage approval process. An appraiser (or valuer) is an expert who estimates the value of a property. The lender generally selects the appraiser or valuer before sanctioning the loan.

How often is your data updated?

We work closely with lenders to get updates as quick as possible, with updates made the same day wherever possible.

How is the flexibility score calculated?

Points are awarded for different features. More important features get more points. The points are then added up and indexed into a score from 0 to 5.

How personalised is my rating?

Real Time Ratings produces instant scores for loan products and updates them based what you tell us about what you’re looking for in a loan. In that sense, we believe the ratings are as close as you get to personalised; the more you tell us, the more we customise to ratings to your needs. Some borrowers value flexibility, while others want the lowest cost loan. Your preferences will be reflected in the rating. 

We also take a shorter term, more realistic view of how long borrowers hold onto their loan, which gives you a better idea about the true borrowing costs. We take your loan details and calculate how much each of the relevent loans would cost you on average each month over the next five years. We assess the overall flexibility of each loan and give you an easy indication of which ones are likely to adjust to your needs over time. 

What do mortgage brokers do?

Mortgage brokers are finance professionals who help borrowers organise home loans with lenders. As such, they act as middlemen between borrowers and lenders.

While bank staff recommend home loan products only from their own employer, brokers are independent, so they can recommend products from a range of institutions.

Brokers need to be accredited with a particular lender to be able to work with that lender. A typical broker will be accredited with anywhere from 10 to 30 lenders – the big four banks, as well as a range of smaller banks, credit unions and non-bank lenders.

As a general rule, brokers don’t charge consumers for their services; instead, they receive commissions from lenders whenever they place a borrower with that institution.

What is the flexibility score?

Today’s home loans often try to lure borrowers with a range of flexible features, including offset accounts, redraw facilities, repayment frequency options, repayment holidays, split loan options and portability. Real Time Ratings™ weights each of these features based on popularity and gives loans a ‘flexibility score’ based on how much they cater to borrowers’ needs over time. The aim is to give a higher score to loans which give borrowers more features and options.

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.

Mortgage Calculator, Loan Term

How long you wish to take to pay off your loan. 

Who offers 40 year mortgages?

Home loans spanning 40 years are offered by select lenders, though the loan period is much longer than a standard 30-year home loan. You're more likely to find a maximum of 35 years, such as is the case with Teacher’s Mutual Bank

Currently, 40 year home loan lenders in Australia include AlphaBeta Money, BCU, G&C Mutual Bank, Pepper, and Sydney Mutual Bank.

Even though these lengthier loans 35 to 40 year loans do exist on the market, they are not overwhelmingly popular, as the extra interest you pay compared to a 30-year loan can be over $100,000 or more.

Do other comparison sites offer the same service?

Real Time RatingsTM is the only online system that ranks the home loan market based on your personal borrowing preferences. Until now, home loans have been rated based on outdated data. Our system is unique because it reacts to changes as soon as we update our database.

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.

Interest Rate

Your current home loan interest rate. To accurately calculate how much you could save, an accurate interest figure is required. If you are not certain, check your bank statement or log into your mortgage account.