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.

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. 

Cash or mortgage – which is more suitable to buy an investment property?

Deciding whether to buy an investment property with cash or a mortgage is a matter or personal choice and will often depend on your financial situation. Using cash may seem logical if you have the money in reserve and it can allow you to later use the equity in your home. However, there may be other factors to think about, such as whether there are other debts to pay down and whether it will tie up all of your spare cash. Again, it’s a personal choice and may be worth seeking personal advice.

A mortgage is a popular option for people who don’t have enough cash in the bank to pay for an investment property. Sometimes when you take out a mortgage you can offset your loan interest against the rental income you may earn. The rental income can also help to pay down the loan.

What are the features of home loans for expats from Westpac?

If you’re an Australian citizen living and working abroad, you can borrow to buy a property in Australia. With a Westpac non-resident home loan, you can borrow up to 80 per cent of the property value to purchase a property whilst living overseas. The minimum loan amount for these loans is $25,000, with a maximum loan term of 30 years.

The interest rates and other fees for Westpac non-resident home loans are the same as regular home loans offered to borrowers living in Australia. You’ll have to submit proof of income, six-month bank statements, an employment letter, and your last two payslips. You may also be required to submit a copy of your passport and visa that shows you’re allowed to live and work abroad.

Remaining loan term

The length of time it will take to pay off your current home loan, based on the currently-entered mortgage balance, monthly repayment and interest rate.

What do people do with a Macquarie Bank reverse?

There are a number of ways people use a Macquarie Bank reverse mortgage. Below are some reasons borrowers tend to release their home’s equity via a reverse mortgage:

  • To top up superannuation or pension income to pay for monthly bills;
  • To consolidate and repay high-interest debt like credit cards or personal loans;
  • To fund renovations, repairs or upgrades to their home
  • To help your children or grandkids through financial difficulties. 

While there are no limitations on how you can use a Macquarie reverse mortgage loan, a reverse mortgage is not right for all borrowers. Reverse mortgages compound the interest, which means you end up paying interest on your interest. They can also affect your entitlement to things like the pension It’s important to think carefully, read up and speak with your family before you apply for a reverse mortgage.

How is interest charged on a reverse mortgage from IMB Bank?

An IMB Bank reverse mortgage allows you to borrow against your home equity. You can draw down the loan amount as a lump sum, regular income stream, line of credit or a combination. The interest can either be fixed or variable. To understand the current rates, you can check the lender’s website.

No repayments are required as long as you live in the home. If you sell it or move to a senior living facility, the loan must be repaid in full. In some cases, this can also happen after you have died. Generally, the interest rates for reverse mortgages are higher than regular mortgage loans.

The interest is added to the loan amount and it is compounded. It means you’ll pay interest on the interest you accrue. Therefore, the longer you have the loan, the higher is the interest and the amount you’ll have to repay.

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 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 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 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.