Sharp fixed rate deals spur home loan borrowers to lock in their interest rates

Sharp fixed rate deals spur home loan borrowers to lock in their interest rates

Home loan borrowers are scrambling to lock in their interest rates, as fixed rates continue to tumble.

A quarter of mortgage holders have fixed their interest rate this year, including those who have switched to a split loan, a RateCity survey of 1,009 Australians found.

A further 24 per cent of those with a mortgage are considering fixing their interest rates, while almost 11 per cent were already on a fixed rate before this year.

Fixed rate mortgage applications make up some 40 per cent of Commonwealth Bank’s new home lending, a spokesperson from the bank told RateCity.

“We’ve seen an increase in fixed (rate mortgage applications), with customers taking advantage of historically low interest rates,” he said.

And a third of Mortgage Choice’s borrowers in August fixed part or all of their home loan interest rate. This is compared with 13.7 per cent in March.

“Demand for fixed rate home loans has been steadily increasing since March of this year,” Mortgage Choice chief executive officer Susan Mitchell said.

“When you consider the extreme economic uncertainty and the sharp fixed rate pricing on offer at present, it’s completely understandable why a greater proportion of borrowers are engaging the help of their mortgage brokers to lock in a fixed rate on their home loans.”

The difference between fixed and variable rates

New customers are seeing a bigger gap than existing customers in the fixed and variable rates offered to them, as mortgage lenders race to bring more borrowers on board.

For new customers, the difference between the average variable interest rates and rates for fixed terms of up to three years is 62 basis points, the latest figures from the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) showed. 

But the gap was much smaller for existing customers, who are only seeing a 6 basis point difference between sub-three year fixed rates and variable rates.

  New customers Existing customers
Fixed (up to 3yr terms) 2.30% 3.17%
Variable 2.92% 3.23%
Difference 0.62% 0.06%

Source: RBA.

Fixed rate borrowers the biggest winners from post-COVID interest rate declines

While interest rates have generally been falling across the board during COVID-19, fixed rates have shown a more significant drop than variable rates.

New fixed-rate borrowers are typically securing the best deals from their mortgage lenders. The average interest rate for new owner-occupiers locking in their rate for three years or less was 2.30 per cent in July, plummeting by 64 basis points since pre-pandemic in February, according to the RBA data.

However, new borrowers signing up for variable rates are likely to be saving less than new fixed rate customers. The average interest rate for new variable rate borrowers dropped by 33 basis points between February and July – almost half of the savings new fixed rate customers are pocketing.

Meanwhile, an existing mortgage holder who refinanced to a fixed term of up to three years in July may be paying 56 basis points less in interest on average, compared to someone who refinanced in February.

  February July Feb vs July Difference
New customers - fixed (up to 3yr terms) 2.94% 2.30% -0.64%
New customers - variable 3.25% 2.92% -0.33%
Existing customers - fixed (up to 3yr terms) 3.73% 3.17% -0.56%
Existing customers - variable 3.57% 3.23% -0.34%

Source: RBA.

While fixed mortgage rates are seeing bigger cuts, lenders appear to be taking a refreshed focus on their variable rate home loan deals. More than 30 lenders cut fixed owner-occupier rates in the two months to September, but 42 lenders slashed variable rates for people living in their own homes in the same period, a RateCity analysis showed.

Fixed rate home loans are also dominating the sub-2 per cent club, with eight of the 10 lenders offering mortgage rates below 2 per cent requiring borrowers to lock in the rate for a set period of time.

The lowest fixed rate on the RateCity database is 1.90 per cent, an introductory deal from Reduce Home Loans.

Most recently, Greater Bank was the 10th lender to roll out a mortgage rate under 2 per cent, cutting its one-year fixed rate by 10 basis points to 1.99 per cent

Nearly 80 lenders recorded by RateCity offer at least one fixed owner-occupier rates below 2.5 per cent.

The 10 lenders offering rates under 2%

Lender Loan product Advertised Rate
Reduce Home Loans Fixed (intro rate 1 year) 1.90%
Easy Street Financial Services Variable (loans over $750K) 1.95%
Homestar Finance 1-year fixed 1.98%
Greater Bank 1-year fixed 1.99%
Bank First 3-year fixed 1.99%
Community First Credit Union 2-year fixed 1.99%
Loans.com.au Variable (intro rate 1 year) 1.99%
People’s Choice Credit Union 1-year fixed 1.99%
Bank of Us 1-year fixed (Tasmania only) 1.99%
Hume Bank 3-year fixed (Local postcodes only) 1.99%

Source: RateCity.

Note: Hume Bank rate is only available to new loans for renovation or construction of new properties within 150 km of Albury Post Office. Loans.com.au product is an introductory variable rate – 1.99% for one year after which it reverts to 2.57%. Data accurate at the time of publishing.

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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 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 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.

How can I get ANZ home loan pre-approval?

Shopping for a new home is an exciting experience and getting a pre-approval on the loan may give you the peace of mind that you are looking at properties within your budget. 

At the time of applying for the ANZ Bank home loan pre-approval, you will be required to provide proof of employment and income, along with records of your savings and debts.

An ANZ home loan pre-approval time frame is usually up to three months. However, being pre-approved doesn’t necessarily mean you will get your home loan. Other factors could lead to your home loan application being rejected, even with a prior pre-approval. Some factors include the property evaluation not meeting the bank’s criteria or a change in your financial circumstances.

You can make an application for ANZ home loan pre-approval online or call on 1800100641 Mon-Fri 8.00 am to 8.00 pm (AEST).

How long does Bankwest take to approve home loans?

Full approval for a home loan usually involves a property valuation, which, Bankwest suggests, can take “a week or two”. As a result, getting your home loan approved may take longer. However, you may get full approval within this time if you applied for and received conditional approval, sometimes called a pre-approval, from Bankwest before finalising the home you want to buy.  

Another way of speeding up approvals can be by completing, signing, and submitting your home loan application digitally. Essentially, you give the bank or your mortgage broker a copy of your home’s sale contract and then complete the rest of the steps online. Bankwest has claimed this cuts the approval time to less than four days, although this may only happen if your income and credit history can be verified easily, or if your home’s valuation doesn’t take time.

Can I apply for an ANZ non-resident home loan? 

You may be eligible to apply for an ANZ non-resident home loan only if you meet the following two conditions:

  1. You hold a Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa or its predecessor, the Temporary Skilled Work (subclass 457) visa.
  2. Your job is included in the Australian government’s Medium and Long Term Strategic Skills List. 

However, non-resident home loan applications may need Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) approval in addition to meeting ANZ’s Mortgage Credit Requirements. Also, they may not be eligible for loans that require paying for Lender’s Mortgage Insurance (LMI). As a result, you may not be able to borrow more than 80 per cent of your home’s value. However, you can apply as a co-borrower with your spouse if they are a citizen of either Australia or New Zealand, or are a permanent resident.

Can I get a NAB home loan on casual employment?

While many lenders consider casual employees as high-risk borrowers because of their fluctuating incomes, there are a few specialist lenders, such as NAB, which may provide home loans to individuals employed on a casual basis. A NAB home loan for casual employment is essentially a low doc home loan specifically designed to help casually employed individuals who may be unable to provide standard financial documents. However, since such loans are deemed high risk compared to regular home loans, you could be charged higher rates and receive lower maximum LVRs (Loan to Value Ratio, which is the loan amount you can borrow against the value of the property).

While applying for a home loan as a casual employee, you will likely be asked to demonstrate that you've been working steadily and might need to provide group certificates for the last two years. It is at the lender’s discretion to pick either of the two group certificates and consider that to be your income. If you’ve not had the same job for several years, providing proof of income could be a bit of a challenge for you. In this scenario, some lenders may rely on your year to date (YTD) income, and instead calculate your yearly income from that.

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 a honeymoon rate and honeymoon period?

Also known as the ‘introductory rate’ or ‘bait rate’, a honeymoon rate is a special low interest rate applied to loans for an initial period to attract more borrowers. The honeymoon period when this lower rate applies usually varies from six months to one year. The rate can be fixed, capped or variable for the first 12 months of the loan. At the end of the term, the loan reverts to the standard variable rate.

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).

Why should I get an ING home loan pre-approval?

When you apply for an ING home loan pre-approval, you might be required to provide proof of employment and income, savings, as well as details on any on-going debts. The lender could also make a credit enquiry against your name. If you’re pre-approved, you will know how much money ING is willing to lend you. 

Please note, however, that a pre-approval is nothing more than an idea of your ability to borrow funds and is not the final approval. You should receive the home loan approval  only after finalising the property and submitting a formal loan application to the lender, ING. Additionally, a pre-approval does not stay valid indefinitely, since your financial circumstances and the home loan market could change overnight.

 

 

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.