To fix or not to fix? That is the question posed by many home buyers across Australia. So to help you decide whether a fixed or variable interest rate is your borrowing match, we've compiled this quick guide that runs through the benefits of a fixed interest rate and the traps to watch out for. You can also use the above table to compare fixed rate home loans quickly and easily.
Fixed rate loans, what do you need to know?
A fixed home loan rates, as the name suggests, is a home loan that has an interest rate that is set for a fixed period, such as three years. During this period your repayments will be locked in, making it easier to budget and giving you peace of mind that you won't have to factor in any unexpected rate changes that could impact your monthly household budget over the loan term.
Banks will have fixed rate loans available for varying terms (up to 10 years) but the most popular terms for fixed rate home loans are between one and three years. Fixed home loans can have a higher interest rate than variable rate options so if you fix for a longer period of time you could end up paying a lot more if interest rates stay the same or go down over that period. Of course if rates go up the opposite will be true.
At the end of the fixed period, borrowers will have the option to select another fixed term or switch to a variable rate loan. The revert rate, ie the rate that the home loan will automatically revert to when the fixed period is over, is usually higher than the market rate so if you do choose to fix be prepared to shop around at the end of the term or negotiate with your lender to get a better deal for staying with them.
How does a fixed rate home loan compare on features?
There was a time when if you took out a fixed home loan rate you had to give up many of the features that come with most variable rate home loans like offset accounts and the ability to make extra repayments. But this is no longer the case for all fixed rate home loans. There are some restrictions though and these should be weighed up before you choose to fix.
Extra repayments: With a fixed rate home loan you may be able to make extra repayments but generally there will be a cap or limit to how much you can make each year or over the term of the loan.
Redraw. If you can make extra repayments you may also have the ability to redraw this amount. With fixed rate home loans generally there will be a fee for this and a minimum redraw amount.
Offset account: Some fixed loans will have an offset facility but unlike a variable rate home loan where you can offset 100% of the loan amount, with a fixed rate home loan you will only be able to offset a portion say 10 - 40% of the loan.
Repayment flexibility: Fixed rate home loans will enable you to select the repayment frequency that suits you, the same as a variable loan. Options include weekly, fortnightly and monthly repayments.
Loan-to-Value ratio: Fixed home loan rates have different LVR requirements to variable rate loans so while you might need an LVR of 80% for a variable rate loan you may only need a LVR of 90% for a fixed term loan.
Split loan: Many fixed rate loans will have the option of splitting a portion of the fixed loan with a variable rate. There may be some limits to how much you can split but it can mean that you get the benefits of rate certainty for the fixed portion of your loan and added flexibility on the variable.
How do fixed rate home loans compare on fees?
As with variable rate home loans there are some common fees that are payable upfront, and some fees payable on an ongoing basis or at loan termination.
service fee (monthly or annual)
The biggest difference between the fees of a fixed and a variable rate home loan is if you decide to switch loans during the loan period or pay out the loan early. With a fixed rate loan you will be charged a 'break fee' and it can be very high. The break fee would be determined by your lender based on how much you have left of your term and the rate you locked your loan in for so it is very difficult to work out how much this will be in advance. You would need to get your lender to provide you with an estimate for this.
How do fixed rate loans compare on cost?
This is where Mozo's handy calculators come in. We can help you compare fixed rate home loans with variable rate loans or compare fixed rate terms to find the best home loan for you.
Here's a rundown of our top tools:
Market snapshot table: A selection of advertised fixed rate deals to help you compare rates and features of banks with fixed rate loans keen for your business. You'll find this table at the top of this page.
Repayment calculator: Mozo's home loan comparison table will help you to crunch the numbers based on your loan amount and the value of the property. You can then filter by the fixed rate term and our mortgage repayments calculator will show you how much your monthly repayments will be.
Comparison Calculator: Can't decide between two fixed rate loans? Simply plug in the details of each loan into the calculator and it will show you which loan will be cheaper.
Rate change calculator: Wondering how long you should fix for or when it would be cheaper to get a variable rate loan? Play around with our rate change calculator to see how much your repayments would go up on a variable rate if rates were to change.
Reviews. Thousands of customers have reviewed their home loan on Mozo so read up to see what they say about the fees and costs of their fixed loans before you take the home loan plunge. Check out our home loan reviews here.