MORTGAGES fall into two main categories of fixed-rate and variable-rate. When comparing deals, make sure you look at the fees
MORTGAGES fall into two main categories of fixed-rate and variable-rate. When comparing deals, make sure you look at the fees for taking them out, as well as exit penalties.
With a fixed rate, the interest rate you pay will stay the same throughout the length of the deal no matter what happens to interest rates. You’ll see them advertised as “two-year fixed” or “five-year fixed”, for example, along with the interest rate charged for that period.
• Peace of mind that your monthly payments will stay the same, helping you to budget.
• Fixed-rate deals are usually slightly higher than variable rate mortgages.
• If interest rates fall, you won’t benefit.
Watch out for:
• Charges if you want to leave the deal early — you are tied in for the length of the fixed period.
• The end of the fixed period — you should look for a new mortgage deal two to three months before it ends or you’ll be moved automatically on to your lender’s standard variable rate, which is usually higher.
With variable-rate mortgages, the interest rate can change at any time. Make sure you have some savings set aside so that you can afford an increase in your monthly payments when rates do start to rise — which they are expected to from next year. Variable-rate mortgages come in various forms...
Standard variable rate
This is the normal interest rate your mortgage lender charges homebuyers and it will last as long as your mortgage or until you take out another mortgage deal. Changes in the interest rate may occur after a rise or fall in the base rate set by the Bank of England.
• Freedom. You can overpay or leave at any time.
• Your rate can be changed at any time during the loan.
This is a discount off the lender’s standard variable rate (SVR) and only applies for a certain length of time, typically two or three years. But it pays to shop around. SVRs differ across lenders, so don’t assume that the bigger the discount, the lower the interest rate.
For example, say two banks have discount rates. Bank A has a two per cent discount off an SVR of six per cent (so you’ll pay four per cent). Bank B has a 1.5 per cent discount off an SVR of 5 per cent (so you’ll pay 3.5 per cent). Though the discount is larger for Bank A, Bank B will be the cheaper option.
• Cost. The rate starts off cheaper which will keep monthly repayments lower.
• If the lender cuts its SVR, you’ll pay less each month.
• Budgeting. The lender is free to raise its SVR at any time.
• If base rates rise, you’ll probably see the discount rate increase too.
• Watch out for charges if you want to leave before the end of the discount period.
Tracker mortgages move directly in line with another interest rate — normally the Bank of England’s base rate plus a few per cent. So if the base rate goes up by 0.5 per cent, your rate will go up by the same amount.
Usually they have a short life, typically two to five years, though some lenders offer trackers which last for the life of your mortgage or until you switch to another deal.
• If the rate it is tracking falls, so will your mortgage payments.
• If the rate it is tracking increases, so will your mortgage payments.
• You may have to pay an early repayment charge if you want to switch before the deal ends.
• Watch the small print. Check your lender can’t increase rates even when the rate your mortgage is linked to hasn’t moved. It’s rare, but it has happened in the past.
Capped rate mortgages
Your rate normally moves in line with the lender’s SVR. But the cap means it can’t rise above a certain level.
• Certainty. Your rate won’t rise above a certain level. But make sure you could afford repayments if it rises to the level of the cap.
• Your rate will fall if the SVR comes down.
• The rate is generally higher than other variable and fixed rates.
• The cap tends to be set quite high and your lender can change the rate at any time up to the level of the cap.
These work by linking your savings and current account to your mortgage so you only pay interest on the difference. You still repay your mortgage every month as usual, but your savings act as an overpayment which helps to clear your mortgage early.