The Trump Factor, Will fixed rates protect you from volatility?

The Trump Factor, Will fixed rates protect you from volatility?

When US President Trump was first elected, a wave of uncertainty washed over the world of finance, causing investors to seek safe havens for their wealth. The 45th president’s election victory led to the price of gold breaking through the US$1300 an ounce mark, while US treasuries rose 10 points. There was also speculation that investors could start moving their money from shares to property – specifically Australian property, generally considered to be one of the safest markets in the world – as they wait to see the fallout.

The world’s now had some time to adjust to the new political landscape, however many are still playing it safe. At the most recent meeting of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) in March 2017, when faced with a choice of raising the nation’s official cash rate to help reduce the risk of a housing bubble, or lowering the rate to make up for slowed growth in wages and jobs, the RBA instead elected to keep the cash rate on hold at its record low of 1.5% for the seventh month in a row. With these and a range of other factors to consider, it’s not easy to predict what the RBA’s decision may be for its next meeting.

So with investors and institutions around the world looking to reduce their level of risk in the face of uncertainty, should Australians follow suit when it comes to what is often their most substantial investment – their home loan?

Should you fix your home loan interest rate?

If you have a home loan with a variable interest rate, the amount of interest charged with your repayments may go up or down from month to month, depending on the interest rates set by your lender. The movement of variable interest rates is usually influenced by Australia’s official cash rate, as set by the RBA, though not always. Australian banks have recently been moving out of step with the RBA and raising interest rates on home loans for investors and, more recently, owner-occupiers to better preserve their interest rate margins and profits.

By fixing the interest rate on your home loan for a length of time (anywhere from 6 months to 10 years), you can temporarily “lock in” the amount of interest you’ll be charged on your home loan. No matter the conditions of the world economy, or the decisions of your lender, you’ll be paying the same amount of interest on your home loan for the duration of the loan’s fixed term. 

The primary benefit of a fixed rate home loan is that it keeps your repayments stable and consistent. If your lender was to sharply raise its variable interest rates, you’d continue to pay your fixed rate, saving some money on your loan. Plus, fixed rates mean fixed repayments, which can massively simplify your household budgeting.

Fixed rates also have downsides to consider. If your lender was to lower its variable interest rates, you’d be stuck paying the higher fixed rate, without enjoying any savings. Fixed interest rates often mean fixed repayments, with less flexibility around how you repay your loan, and significant break costs if you refinance ahead of schedule. Finally, it’s important to keep the fixed home loan’s revert rate in mind – make sure you’ll still be able to afford the loan once the fixed rate period is up!

Is now the right time to fix your home loan?

Deciding whether or not to fix your home loan’s interest rate, either with your existing lender or by switching to another, can be a challenging decision. If you’re not certain whether or not a fixed interest rate would suit your finances, contact a financial adviser.  

At the time of writing, fixed interest rates are relatively low, with several lenders offering fixed rates below 4%. For example, the discounted-rate Ultimate Fixed Home Loan from Greater Bank (recently the 2016 winner of the Roy Morgan Customer Satisfaction Award – Bank of the Year) currently offers a fixed interest rate of 3.79% for 1 year:

Following the announcement of the Trump presidency, it was forecast that fixed interest rates on home loans may soon begin to rise, due to expectation of renewed global economic growth pushing up bond yields, off which fixed mortgages are priced. So if you’re looking for added security in your home loan, and feel that fixing your home loan’s interest rate may suit your financial situation, it could be a good time to conduct your search for home loan options.

This article is sponsored by Greater Bank. For more information on Greater Bank’s selection of home loans visit: www.greater.com.au/personal/home-loans

Did you find this helpful? Why not share this article?

Advertisement

RateCity

Money Health Newsletter

Subscribe for news, tips and expert opinions to help you make smarter financial decisions

By signing up, you agree to the ratecity.com.au Privacy & Cookies Policy and Terms of Use, Disclaimer & Privacy Policy

Advertisement

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 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 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 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 an interest-only loan? How do I work out interest-only loan repayments?

An ‘interest-only’ loan is a loan where the borrower is only required to pay back the interest on the loan. Typically, banks will only let lenders do this for a fixed period of time – often five years – however some lenders will be happy to extend this.

Interest-only loans are popular with investors who aren’t keen on putting a lot of capital into their investment property. It is also a handy feature for people who need to reduce their mortgage repayments for a short period of time while they are travelling overseas, or taking time off to look after a new family member, for example.

While moving on to interest-only will make your monthly repayments cheaper, ultimately, you will end up paying your bank thousands of dollars extra in interest to make up for the time where you weren’t paying off the principal.

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).

What is the best interest rate for a mortgage?

The fastest way to find out what the lowest interest rates on the market are is to use a comparison website.

While a low interest rate is highly preferable, it is not the only factor that will determine whether a particular loan is right for you.

Loans with low interest rates can often include hidden catches, such as high fees or a period of low rates which jumps up after the introductory period has ended.

To work out the best value for money, have a look at a loan’s comparison rate and read the fine print to get across all the fees and charges that you could be theoretically charged over the life of the loan.

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. 

How can I calculate interest on my home loan?

You can calculate the total interest you will pay over the life of your loan by using a mortgage calculator. The calculator will estimate your repayments based on the amount you want to borrow, the interest rate, the length of your loan, whether you are an owner-occupier or an investor and whether you plan to pay ‘principal and interest’ or ‘interest-only’.

If you are buying a new home, the calculator will also help you work out how much you’ll need to pay in stamp duty and other related costs.

Does Australia have no cost refinancing?

No Cost Refinancing is an option available in the US where the lender or broker covers your switching costs, such as appraisal fees and settlement costs. Unfortunately, no cost refinancing isn’t available in Australia.

Can I change jobs while I am applying for a home loan?

Whether you’re a new borrower or you’re refinancing your home loan, many lenders require you to be in a permanent job with the same employer for at least 6 months before applying for a home loan. Different lenders have different requirements. 

If your work situation changes for any reason while you’re applying for a mortgage, this could reduce your chances of successfully completing the process. Contacting the lender as soon as you know your employment situation is changing may allow you to work something out. 

Can I get a home loan if I am on an employment contract?

Some lenders will allow you to apply for a mortgage if you are a contractor or freelancer. However, many lenders prefer you to be in a permanent, ongoing role, because a more stable income means you’re more likely to keep up with your repayments.

If you’re a contractor, freelancer, or are otherwise self-employed, it may still be possible to apply for a low-doc home loan, as these mortgages require less specific proof of income.