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What are interest rates?

Your home loan's interest rate shows how much extra you'll be charged by your lender with each loan repayment you make. Interest is effectively the "cost" of "buying" the money you use to buy a home. 

To find one of the best available rates on your home loan, there are a number of factors you’ll need to consider.

Comparing rates

Interest rates on loan products are often presented in different ways, and can be difficult for some Aussies to understand. Sometimes mortgages that offer low interest rates also charge high fees, which can make them cost more than you expect. When you’re making your choice, you should look at the comparison rate, which also takes fees into account and is designed to give you a straightforward way of working out a home loan's overall cost.

Variable rate loans

Variable rate home loans often offer flexible features and benefits that can help you manage your repayments and save money, such as an offset account, a redraw facility, and the ability to make extra repayments. They can also make your repayments even cheaper if your lender lowers its variable interest rates, such as when the national cash rate falls following a monetary policy meeting at the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).

This could allow you to pay less month to month, or more easily make extra repayments to help pay off your mortgage sooner. The flip side of this is that your repayments can also become more expensive if your variable rate rises. 

Fixed rate loans

Fixed interest rates won’t change during the fixed-rate term, so you don’t have to worry about having to pay more if the RBA cash rate goes up. You’ll always know what your payments will be with a fixed rate home loan, which can really help if you’re on a budget.

However, you'll also have to keep making the same monthly repayments even if variable rates fall, and you may not have as much access to flexible features and benefits. Additionally, you won't be able to refinance during the fixed term without paying break costs, and you could be faced with bill shock if your lender's variable rates have risen by the time your fixed term ends.

Split rate loans

Split rate loans allow you to fix a portion of the loan, giving you stability, but also allow you to take advantage of some of the flexibility of a variable rate loan. They can help you to balance saving money with minimising risk.

Owner occupied and investment home loan rates

You may be offered different rates if you're applying for a mortgage to buy a home to live in as an owner occupier, or to rent out as an investment property. Mortgage lenders tend to offer lower rates to owner occupiers, as these borrowers are considered less likely to default on the mortgage on their own home. Investor are often considered riskier borrowers, and may be charged higher interest rates.

Principal & interest or interest-only home loan rates

While most home loans require you to make principal and interest repayments, where each month you'll pay off a little more of your loan amount (the loan principal) plus an interest charge, you may have the option to pay only the interest on your mortgage for a limited time. This can help you reduce the cost of your mortgage in the short term, which can be useful to some borrowers.

Keep in mind that during an interest-only period, you won't be shrinking your loan balance. This may mean it'll take longer to pay off the mortgage, resulting in you paying more interest on your property in total.

Introductory rates

Many lenders try to attract borrowers by offering discounted introductory rates so you will pay less for the first few months of your loan. In some circumstances you may be able to refinance and switch lender partway through your loan so that you can take advantage of this kind of deal more than once.

Your credit history

Your history of borrowing and repaying money may influence the rates available to you. The better your credit rating, the lower the rate you may be able to negotiate, while if you have bad credit you may sadly find that you are ineligible for many of the cheaper loans. You can improve your credit by always paying bills on time and making sure any money you borrow is paid back as agreed.

LVR

Another factor that can help you access lower interest rates is the LVR – or Loan to Value Ratio – that you are seeking. If you have a big deposit to put on the property you want compared to your loan amount, the LVR will be lower than if you only have a small deposit. This will mean your lender is taking less of a risk, so may be able to offer a lower rate.

Where can you get the best interest rates?

While you could get a home loan by visiting your local bank branch, there are many other choice to consider. As well as Australia's big banks, there are also smaller banks, mutual lenders, credit unions, online-only lender and fintechs offering home loans. 

By comparing home loan interest rates, you may discover that the best mortgage for you may not be found with the lender you expect.

What can you do if a bank isn't offering you the best interest rate?

Haggle

Many Australian banks and mortgage lenders have some flexibility in the home loan deals they make. If you can persuade them you’re a responsible person and that their risk will be low, they may be willing to offer you cheaper interest rates, discounted or waived fees, or access to other features and benefits. If you're not confident about negotiating with a bank, a mortgage broker may be able to haggle on your behalf.

Refinance

The rate you can get when you apply for a home loan will depend on your personal financial situation, so even if you can’t find the perfect loan straight away, you may be able to refinance in the future. By taking some time to build up equity in your property and generally improve your financial situation, you may be able to qualify for a home loan with a better interest rate when you refinance. 

Frequently asked questions

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. 

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.

Which mortgage is the best for me?

The best mortgage to suit your needs will vary depending on your individual circumstances. If you want to be mortgage free as soon as possible, consider taking out a mortgage with a shorter term, such as 25 years as opposed to 30 years, and make the highest possible mortgage repayments. You might also want to consider a loan with an offset facility to help reduce costs. Investors, on the other hand, might have different objectives so the choice of loan will differ.

Whether you decide on a fixed or variable interest rate will depend on your own preference for stability in repayment amounts, and flexibility when it comes to features.

If you do not have a deposit or will not be in a financial position to make large repayments right away you may wish to consider asking a parent to be a guarantor or looking at interest only loans. Again, which one of these options suits you best is reliant on many factors and you should seek professional advice if you are unsure which mortgage will suit you best.

What is a mortgage rate?

The interest rate on a home loan is sometimes called the mortgage rate. This percentage indicates how much interest the lender will charge you with each home loan repayment. Your interest rate is effectively the “cost” of “buying” the money you’re using to buy a property – the higher your mortgage rate, the more your home loan repayments may cost.

Using a home loan calculator, you can estimate how much your home loan repayments may cost, based on your mortgage rate, loan term, and loan amount. This may also be affected by whether you’re making principal and interest repayments or interest-only repayments, if you have a fixed rate or variable rate mortgage, and any fees and other charges that may apply.

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.

Is the lowest home loan rate always the cheapest?

The home loan with the lowest interest rate may not always be the cheapest mortgage option for you. Sometimes a home loan with a low interest rate may charge high fees, which may cost more in total than a mortgage with a higher interest rate and no fees.

Consider checking the comparison rate, which combines interest and standard fees, to get a better idea of the overall cost of different home loan options.

If a mortgage rate changes, will it affect your repayments?

If you have a variable rate home loan, changes to your mortgage rate may affect the cost of your repayments. Rising interest rate could cost you more in interest charges, while interest rate cuts could see you paying less interest on your home loan.

If you have a fixed rate home loan, your interest charges will stay the same during the fixed interest period, regardless of whether the lender’s variable rates rise or fall. Once the fixed rate term expires, your loan will revert to a variable rate, so be prepared in case of bill shock.

Do you compare mortgages using the comparison or advertised rate?

A lot of Australians compare home loans using the advertised interest rate, which indicates how much interest you’ll be charged on your mortgage repayments. The lower your rate, the cheaper your home loan should be.

However, interest charges aren’t the only cost associated with home loans. Most mortgage lenders also charge fees on their home loans. A mortgage with a low interest rate and high fees can sometimes cost more than a mortgage with a high interest rate and low fees.

A home loan’s comparison rate combines the cost of interest with the cost of standard fees and charges into a single percentage rate. Mortgage lenders are required to display a comparison rate alongside their advertised rate to better indicate the home loan’s overall cost.

Keep in mind that to ensure consistency, all comparison rates are calculated assuming a $150,000 principal and interest mortgage with a 25 year term. As your home loan may be different, the comparison rate may not accurately reflect exactly how much your home loan may cost. Also, the comparison rate doesn’t include every home loan fee and charge, so it’s still important to compare home loans and read the fine print before you apply.

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 you find cheap home loans?

With so many interest rate options and repayment types available, finding the cheapest home loan may depend on the type of loan you choose.

Whether you’re looking for an owner-occupier or investor loan, with interest-only or principal and interest repayments, on a fixed or variable interest rate, the cheapest home loan rate available may vary greatly.

One way to find the cheapest option for you is to narrow down your search and compare the options that best suit your individual requirements. RateCity’s home loan comparison tables can help you get started on your search and take the hassle out of shopping around.

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 long can you fix a home loan rate for?

Most lenders should let you fix your interest rate for anywhere between one and five years. While rare, a few lenders may offer fixed rate terms for as long as 10 years.

Fixing your home loan interest rate for a longer term can keep your budgeting fairly straightforward, as you shouldn't have to factor in changes to your mortgage repayments if variable rates change, such as when the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) changes its rates at its monthly meeting. Additionally, if variable rates rise during your fixed rate term, you can continue to pay the lower fixed rate until the fixed term ends, potentially saving you some money.

Of course, a longer fixed term also means a longer length of time where you may have less flexibility in your home loan repayments. It’s also a longer period where you won’t be able to refinance your mortgage without paying break fees. If variable rates were to fall during this period, you may also be stuck paying a higher fixed rate for a longer period.

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.

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 home loan?

A home loan is a finance product that allows a home buyer to borrow a large sum of money from a lender for the purchase of a residential property. The home is then put up as "security" or "collateral" on the loan, giving the lender the right to repossess the property in the case that the borrower fails to repay their loan.

Once you take out a home loan, you'll need to repay the amount borrowed, plus interest, in regular instalments over a predetermined period of time.

The interest you're charged on each mortgage repayment is based on your remaining loan amount, also known as your loan principal. The rate at which interest is charged on your home loan principal is expressed as a percentage.

Different home loan products charge different interest rates and fees, and offer a range of different features to suit a variety of buyers’ needs.

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.

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 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.

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.