As interest rates continue to rise sharply, finding the lowest rate on your home loan has never been more important.
There are many different home loan options available including your repayment type and the lender you borrow from. Choosing between a fixed or variable rate is one of the most important loan decisions you’ll need to make and will come down to your personal preferences.
Here’s what you need to know about fixed rate and variable rate home loans and the pros and cons of both choices.
A fixed rate is a defined period on a home loan where the interest rate remains unchanged.
Once the borrower agrees to the fixed interest rate offered by the lender, the rate will be locked in for the ‘fixed rate term’ which typically lasts for 1-5 years.
This means that the mortgage repayments during this period will essentially remain the same (excluding adjustments for inflation). At the end of the term, the borrower can either switch to a variable rate or commit to a new fixed rate agreement.
What are the advantages of fixed rates?
- Fixed rates provide certainty over your mortgage repayments. If you’re concerned about your ability to afford your mortgage if rates rise, a fixed rate ensures that your repayments will not change for the agreed-upon period.
- A fixed-rate home loan makes it easier to budget and organise your spending. Knowing how much your mortgage repayments will cost each month allows you to plan out the rest of your expenditure accordingly.
- If interest rates rise (like they have over the last few months), locking in a fixed rate beforehand may mean you’re on a lower rate than the variable.
What are the disadvantages of fixed rates?
- Fixed-rate home loans offer less flexibility and features than a variable rate. This includes restrictions or fees for options like offset accounts, additional repayments or a redraw facility.
- If interest rates fall, you won’t get the benefits. As your fixed rate is set in stone, you may end up with a higher rate if variable rates fall around you.
- If you wish to refinance or opt out of the fixed-rate term prematurely, you may be subject to expensive break costs.
A variable rate is a rate on a loan that fluctuates over time and will rise or fall based on the current economic climate.
On a variable rate, your repayments can change on a monthly basis (depending on the rate set by the lender). A variable rate period will last for the duration of the home loan unless a fixed-rate term is agreed to.
What are the advantages of a variable rate:
- A variable rate offers you flexibility and allows for a wider range of repayment options and features than a fixed rate. This often includes the ability to make additional repayments, set up an offset account and access surplus funds from your mortgage.
- If rates fall, your repayments decrease in size. As rates had consistently fallen for nearly a decade in Australia (until this year), borrowers on a variable rate have been able to enjoy cheaper mortgage repayments as soon as the rates fell.
- A variable rate home loan makes it much easier to refinance. If you find a more competitive rate or home loan option at another lender, you won’t have to pay break costs to make the switch.
What are the disadvantages of a variable rate:
- You have less certainty over your mortgage repayments. As your mortgage is subject to changing interest rates, a variable rate loan makes it difficult to predict repayment sizes in the future. This can make it much harder to organise your budget and plan your cash flow from month to month.
- If rates rise, you might find it challenging to meet the larger mortgage repayments.
A split loan allows you to have the best of both worlds. It involves having a portion of the loan on a fixed rate and the other portion on a variable rate.
This is when a lender offers the option to split your home loan into two different loans, giving you the security of a fixed rate with the flexibility and features of a variable.
The split loan approach allows you to utilise an offset account or additional mortgage repayments, whilst hedging your bets if interest rates rise or fall.
Should I choose a fixed rate or variable rate for my home loan?
Which do you value more: certainty or flexibility?
Whether a fixed or variable home loan is right for you will ultimately come down to this question.
A lot of borrowers will try to predict where interest rates are heading and make a decision accordingly. This is not necessarily the best strategy.
At any given point in your home loan, fixed rates can be the same, higher or lower than the variable. Banks have expert economists who forecast future rates and these predictions are factored into the fixed rates they offer. If fixed rates are higher than variables, it is based on the lender’s assumption that rates will go up.
As a result, the difference between the fixed and variable rates will likely even out over the course of your loan.
This is why we generally advise our clients not to gamble and recommend they make a decision based on their current life needs.
Homeowners who might be starting a family, changing jobs, running a small business or need financial consistency may be better suited to the security of fixed rate loans.
There’s no doubt that we are currently living in extraordinary economic times with interest rates rising at the fastest pace in decades. Because of this, we recommend you first receive professional help or advice from someone you trust.
To help us understand better understand your situation and find the best rates for your home loan, please get in touch with our finance team for a free chat.