The seesaw of fixed and variable home loans

The seesaw of fixed and variable home loans

November 24,2010

While rates for some variable home loans have increased and fixed mortgage rates dropped, will borrowers be better off fixing their home loans right now?

Out of more than 100 lenders monitored by RateCity, 66 have increased their variable home loan rates by as much as 45 basis points from November 1 to November 22. Meanwhile, despite some three-year fixed rates increasing, RateCity recorded 26 lenders to have dropped their three-year fixed rates by 22 basis points on average during the same period.

The right time to fix?
If variable rates keep increasing and fixed decreasing, and the gap between the variable and fixed rates will widen so you may be able to save more by fixing.

For instance RateCity discovered that since the start of the year borrowers with variable rate home loans have experienced their rates increase by an average of around 84 basis points. Compared to January, that’s a difference of $158 per month.

They also found that the current average basic variable rate is 6.97 percent; however RateCity noticed some lenders offering three-year fixed rates not much higher from this. For example, ANZ‘s three-year fixed rate is currently 7.1 percent (as at November 22), only 13 basis points higher than the average basic variable rate. Five other lenders also have three-year fixed rates advertised at less than 7 percent.

If you were to lock in a three-year fixed rate for 7.1 percent, for instance, your repayments would be about $2140 per month for a $300,000 loan. In order to be better off, the basic variable rate only needs to increase by 25 basis points in six months –  after three years you would be over $500 in front.

Make the choice
While there could be great savings if you opt to fix right now, make sure you do your research before jumping in to a mortgage. If you are unsure whether to fix or not, below are some tips that may assist you:

  • When fixed rates are lower than usual and you think rates will rise in the future, consider fixing.
  • Take the time to do research by comparing fixed and variable rates and then calculate the difference between the two. Comparison websites such as RateCity allow you to see what is on offer and compare home loans online.
  • Consider a fixed loan when the gap between the average fixed rates and variable rates is less than 1 percent.
  • It could be a good time fix when interest rates are on the upwards direction of the cycle. Determine the amount that variable rates must rise in order for you to save with a fixed rate.
  • Avoid fixed rates when interest rates are at their peak of the cycle as you may save more with a variable rate home loan.

Also, ensure you read any product disclosure statements (PDS) before signing contracts so you are familiar with all the terms and conditions of the loan.

 

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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 is a split home loan?

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 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.

Mortgage Calculator, Loan Term

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

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. 

How does a redraw facility work?

A redraw facility attached to your loan allows you to borrow back any additional repayments that you have already paid on your loan. This can be a beneficial feature because, by paying down the principal with additional repayments, you will be charged less interest. However you will still be able to access the extra money when needed.

What is a specialist lender?

Specialist lenders, also known as non-conforming lenders, are lenders that offer mortgages to ‘non-vanilla’ borrowers who struggle to get finance at mainstream banks.

That includes people with bad credit, as well as borrowers who are self-employed, in casual employment or are new to Australia.

Specialist lenders take a much more flexible approach to assessing mortgage applications than mainstream banks.

How common are low-deposit home loans?

Low-deposit home loans aren’t as common as they once were, because they’re regarded as relatively risky and the banking regulator (APRA) is trying to reduce risk from the mortgage market.

However, if you do your research, you’ll find there is still a fairly wide selection of banks, credit unions and non-bank lenders that offers low-deposit home loans.

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 can I get a home loan with no deposit?

Following the Global Financial Crisis, no-deposit loans, as they once used to be known, have largely been removed from the market. Now, if you wish to enter the market with no deposit, you will require a property of your own to secure a loan against or the assistance of a guarantor.

What is an ombudsman?

An complaints officer – previously referred to as an ombudsman -looks at formal complaints from customers about their credit providers, and helps to find a fair and independent solution to these problems.

These services are handled by the Australian Financial Complaints Authority, a non-profit government organisation that addresses and resolves financial disputes between customers and financial service providers.

Mortgage Calculator, Loan Purpose

This is what you will use the loan for – i.e. investment. 

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.