Should I fix my home loan?

Should I fix my home loan?

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.

A country-wide debate has borrowers asking themselves the question, “Is it time to fix?”

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.”

You 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.

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.

Carry out a home loan comparison and calculate your repayments to establish which loan type is best for your needs.  

Five quick tips to consider before fixing

  • Fixing can be an attractive option for borrowers because it offers repayment security, making it easier to budget.
  • But they aren’t as flexible, which can be a drawback for some, and some lenders make it harder to make extra repayments as a way of building a repayment buffer. And others charge big fees for exiting the loan before the end of the fixed term.
  • Another key area to watch out for is the interest rate to which fixed loans revert once the set period is over.
  • Most fixed rates revert to a variable rate option at the end of the fixed period, which depending on the rate cycle, could be more than 1 percentage point higher and can mean having to fork out thousands of dollars more per year to service the same loan.
  • Borrowers should prepare for the eventuality of higher interest rates in the future and make sure they could comfortably afford to service the loan if rates increased to the historical average of around 7 percent or even higher.

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Learn more about home loans

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 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 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.

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. 

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. 

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.

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 does ANZ calculate early repayment costs?

If you have a fixed interest home loan, you’ll pay ANZ home loan early exit fees for partial or full repayment of the loan amount before the end of the fixed interest rate duration. These fees are also payable if you switch to another variable or fixed-rate loan.

The ANZ mortgage early exit fees can vary and you can get an estimate from the lender before you decide to prepay the loan. However, the exact early repayment cost can be determined when you prepay the loan.

The early exit fees are calculated after considering factors like the prepayment amount, the period left before the fixed-rate duration ends, and the change in the market rates since the beginning of the fixed-rate period. The early exit fees may not be charged if you’re paying off a smaller amount. You can check with ANZ to see how much you’ll have to pay.

What is the difference between a fixed rate and variable rate?

A variable rate can fluctuate over the life of a loan as determined by your lender. While the rate is broadly reflective of market conditions, including the Reserve Bank’s cash rate, it is by no means the sole determining factor in your bank’s decision-making process.

A fixed rate is one which is set for a period of time, regardless of market fluctuations. Fixed rates can be as short as one year or as long as 15 years however after this time it will revert to a variable rate, unless you negotiate with your bank to enter into another fixed term agreement

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 however fixed rates do offer customers a level of security by knowing exactly how much they need to set aside each month.

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.

What is the Home Loan Rate Promise?

The Home Loan Rate Promise is RateCity putting its money where its mouth is. We believe that too many Australians are paying too much for their home loans. We’re so confident we can help Aussies save money, if we can’t beat your current rate, we’ll give you a $100 gift card.*

There are two reasons it pays to check your rate with the Home Loan Rate Promise:

  • You can find out how much you could save on your home loan by switching to a loan with a lower interest rate
  • If we can’t beat your current rate, you can claim a $100 gift card with our Home Loan Rate Promise*

Why does Westpac charge an early termination fee for home loans?

The Westpac home loan early termination fee or break cost is applicable if you have a fixed rate home loan and repay part of or the whole outstanding amount before the fixed period ends. If you’re switching between products before the fixed period ends, you’ll pay a switching break cost and an administrative fee. 

The Westpac home loan early termination fee may not apply if you repay an amount below the prepayment threshold. The prepayment threshold is the amount Westpac allows you to repay during the fixed period outside your regular repayments.

Westpac charges this fee because when you take out a home loan, the bank borrows the funds with wholesale rates available to banks and lenders. Westpac will then work out your interest rate based on you making regular repayments for a fixed period. If you repay before this period ends, the lender may incur a loss if there is any change in the wholesale rate of interest.

What is a standard variable rate (SVR)?

The standard variable rate (SVR) is the interest rate a lender applies to their standard home loan. It is a variable interest rate which is normally used as a benchmark from which they price their other variable rate home loan products.

A standard variable rate home loan typically includes most, if not all the features the lender has on offer, such as an offset account, but it often comes with a higher interest rate attached than their most ‘basic’ product on offer (usually referred to as their basic variable rate mortgage).

Who has the best home loan?

Determining who has the ‘best’ home loan really does depend on your own personal circumstances and requirements. It may be tempting to judge a loan merely on the interest rate but there can be added value in the extras on offer, such as offset and redraw facilities, that aren’t available with all low rate loans.

To determine which loan is the best for you, think about whether you would prefer the consistency of a fixed loan or the flexibility and potential benefits of a variable loan. Then determine which features will be necessary throughout the life of your loan. Thirdly, consider how much you are willing to pay in fees for the loan you want. Once you find the perfect combination of these three elements you are on your way to determining the best loan for you.