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Fixed, Tracker Or Discount – Which Mortgage Rate is Best?

The choice of whether a fixed rate, variable, discounted, capped or tracker rate mortgage is more appropriate to your needs, will take careful consideration. The article that follows provides a breakdown of the individual rates with their advantages and disadvantages as based on your attitude to risk, not all types of mortgage will be suitable.

When considering which type of mortgage product is suitable for your needs, it pays to consider your attitude to risk, as those with a cautious attitude to risk may find a fixed or capped rate more appropriate, whereas those with a more adventurous attitude to risk may find a tracker rate that fluctuates up and down more appealing.

Following is a description of the different mortgage rate options along with a summary of the main advantages and disadvantages for each option.

Fixed Rate Mortgages

With a fixed rate mortgage you can lock into a fixed repayment cost that will not fluctuate up or down with movements in the Bank of England base rate, or the lenders Standard Variable Rate. The most popular fixed rate mortgages are 2, 3 and 5 year fixed rates, but fixed rates of between 10 years and 30 years are now more common at reasonable rates. As a general rule of thumb, the longer the fixed rate period the higher the interest rate. Similarly lower fixed rates are applicable when the loan to value falls below 75% whereas mortgages arranged for 85% or 90% of the property value will incur a much higher mortgage rate.

Advantages

Having the peace of mind that your mortgage payment will not rise with increases in the base rate. This makes budgeting easier for the fixed rate period selected, and can be advantageous to first time buyers or those stretching themselves to the maximum affordable payment.

Disadvantages

The monthly repayment will remain the same even when the economic environment sees the Bank of England and lenders reducing their base rates. In these circumstances where the fixed rate ends up costing more, remembering why the initial decision was made to select a fixed rate, can be helpful.

Discount Rate Mortgages

With a discount rate mortgage, you are offered a percentage off of the lenders Standard Variable Rate (SVR). This takes the form of a reduction in the normal variable interest rate by say, 1.5% for a year or two. Assuming that the higher the level of discount offered the better the deal is a common mistake of those considering a discount rate. The key bit of information missing however, is what the lenders SVR is, as this will dictate the actual pay rate after the discount is applied.

As with a fixed rate, the longer the discount rate period the smaller the discount offered, and the higher the rate. Shorter periods such as 2 years will attract the highest levels of discount. In addition when considering the amount to be borrowed, the increased risk to the lender of providing a 90% loan will be reflected in the pay rate, with lower borrowing amounts attracting more competitive rates.

Advantages

Should the lender reduce their standard variable rate your interest rate and monthly payment will also reduce.

Disadvantages

When the lender or Bank of England increases their base rate, your mortgage payment will also increase. However in some circumstances lenders do not always pass on the full amount of a Bank of England base rate reduction.

Affordability of the mortgage at the end of the discount rate period should be considered at outset. There are no guarantees that follow on rates will be available, and so you should make certain that you are able to afford the monthly payment at the lenders standard variable applicable upon expiry of the discount rate period. Allowing for an increase in interest rates above the SVR would be prudent to avoid a ‘Payment shock’.

Tracker Rate Mortgages

Tracker rate mortgages guarantee to follow the Bank of England base rate when it moves up or down. Tracker rates are expressed as a percentage above or below the Bank of England base rate such at +0.5% over BOE base rate for 2 years.

The most popular tracker rate mortgages have been 2 and 3 year products, but there is now an increasing demand for lifetime tracker rates as borrowers are starting to realise that the Bank of England base rate has been reasonable competitive, and having a mortgage product linked to it could be beneficial in the long term.

Advantages

A tracker rate guarantees to follow the Bank of England base rate for however long the tracker rate is set up for. This means a tracker rate mortgage payment reduces in line with reductions to the base rate by the Bank of England.

The overall cost calculation of a Lifetime tracker rate can be significantly lower than taking shorter term mortgage products with the ongoing costs of remortgaging such as valuation fees, legal fee and lender arrangement fees. Lifetime tracker rates often have no early repayment penalty restrictions.

Disadvantages

The mortgage payment will go up if the Bank of England increases the base rate. As with most other types of mortgage, early redemption penalties will apply for some or all of the tracker rate period and are typically 5% of the loan or six months interest.

Variable Rate Mortgages

Variable rate mortgages are more commonly known as the lenders Standard Variable Rate (SVR), and are the rate that you come onto after the expiry of a fixed, discounted, tracker or capped rate mortgage. A variable rate is similar to a tracker rate in as much as the lender will base their SVR on the Bank of England base rate plus a loading of between say 2.5% and 3.5%. That is where the similarity ends however.

Advantages

The main advantage of being on the lenders Standard Variable Rate (SVR) is that there will be no early repayment charge for redeeming the loan in full. When there is uncertainty about rate movements in the financial markets, this can provide a degree of certainty and flexibility. For those wishing to fix their mortgage rate, an SVR with no early repayment charge can provide the breathing space required to just wait and see before committing.

Historically not all lenders have chosen to pass on through their standard variable rates, reductions made by the Bank of England. This situation is changing and those with SVR mortgages benefit from a reduced payment.

Disadvantages

Generally the SVR will be a higher rate of interest and so your mortgage payment will be greater than if you were on a tracker rate, fixed rate or discounted rate mortgage product. Additionally and in comparison to other types of mortgage, a higher monthly payment can result when lenders do not pass on any or all of a reduction in the Bank of England base rate which has not been uncommon in the past.

Capped Rate Mortgages

The capped rate is a variable rate mortgage which has a fixed limit to how far the interest rate can increase (the cap), and provides the option to know the maximum level of mortgage payment from outset. For those who are risk adverse, but who wish to have the certainty of payment as well as benefit from interest rate reductions, the Capped rate mortgage offers the best of both worlds. For example if the cap is set at 6% and the banks rates go below this rate, then your repayments will go down to reflect the reduction, with the guarantee that should rates go above the 6%, your payments will remain based on the maximum 6% because of the cap.

Advantages

If the Bank of England base rate falls resulting in a fall in the lenders standard variable rate below the level of the capped rate, then your monthly repayment will reduce. For many this provides the peace of mind and certainty for ease of budgeting offered by a know maximum monthly payment.

Disadvantages

Because a capped rate offers the best of both worlds to the borrower, the capped rate is usually uncompetitive as lenders need to price in the risk of rate reductions, leaving those such as first time buyers or those stretching their affordability, exposed to a higher rate than would be available with a fixed rate. This means that competitive capped rates are seldom available with UK lenders who prefer to offer fixed rates instead.

October 2007 – Mortgage Rates in Australia

Mortgage rates are a hot topic in Australia at the moment. Two issues are at the forefront of any discussion on mortgage rates today.

Firstly there is general concern amongst borrowers in Australia that mortgage rates may further increase over the short term. The Reserve Bank has increased the Official Cash Rate (OCR) a number of times this year and it is currently sitting at 6.50% p.a. These increases immediately impact on the cost of funds for lending institutions, both bank and non-bank, and as a result mortgage rates have also increased, with the banks standard variable rate now at 8.32% p.a. and the non-bank lenders generally in the market with mortgage rates around 7.75% p.a. By increasing the OCR the Reserve Bank is well aware that mortgage rates will follow suit. Under its charter, the Reserve Bank is responsible for formulating and implementing monetary policy that will contribute to:

(a) the stability of the currency of Australia;

(b) the maintenance of full employment in Australia; and

(c) the economic prosperity and welfare of the people of Australia.

These objectives have found practical expression in a target for consumer price inflation, of 2-3 per cent per annum. Controlling inflation preserves the value of money and is the main way in which monetary policy can help to form a sound basis for long-term growth in the economy.

So, how does an increase in the OCR and mortgage rates generally help achieve these inflation targets? As the mortgage rates increase across Australia, borrowers have less surplus cash to spend, there is less demand for consumables, businesses have less money to invest and as a result the economy is slowed down and the inflation rate is held in check. If the economy is too slow the Reserve bank can effectively reduce mortgage rates (by reducing the OCR) and thereby provide borrowers with more surplus funds. This increases demand for consumables and one sees greater economic activity.

It is ironical that because in Australia we are enjoying strong economic growth and have employment at an all time high we end up finding our mortgage rates increasing. If we were to save more rather than spend and borrow, inflation would not be increasing at the level it is and mortgage rates would remain steady.

But would they? This brings me to the second issue which has had a significant impact on mortgage rates and has made headlines in newspapers in Australia over the past few months. In the past mortgage rates in Australia have been pretty much domestically driven (i.e. by the Reserve Bank) but more recently we have seen mortgage rates influenced by problems occurring in international financial markets. The main culprit is the United States where there have been unprecedented mortgage defaults which have frightened off would be global lenders and investors in mortgage securities. Even though mortgage rates in Australia remain relatively low and defaults here are not a significant problem (in other words they remain a sound investment), the US default crisis has scared off potential investors. As a result mortgages are no longer flavour of the month and those that are still prepared invest are seeking a higher rate of return. Consequently the cost of funds world wide increases for debt securities and mortgage rates across the world increase as result. As noted earlier the banks current standard mortgage rates sit at 8.32% p.a. variable which is up to .50% more than the non bank mortgage rates of 7.75% p.a. Because the banks’ mortgage rates were considerably higher than the non-banks before the impact of the US situation, to date they have been able to hold their rates. The non-bank lenders, who have historically priced their mortgage rates below the banks, have had to move their mortgage rates sooner because they simply don’t have the profit margins, the “fat” in their pricing, which most banks enjoy.

The banks are endeavouring to gain market share with claims that they are holding their mortgage rates (8.32% p.a.) but hopefully borrowers will recognise that the mortgage rates of the non-bank mortgage manager lenders remain competitive. They might also want to consider where mortgage rates would be without the mortgage manager competing with the banks for their business. Prior to the non- bank mortgage manager entering the market, the banks’ mortgage rates contained profit margins of up to 3 % p.a. Back in the 1990s the non-bank lender was able to enter the market and compete aggressively for business because they were not trying to maximise profit at the expense of borrowers but rather offered mortgage rates that were well below the major banks. The banks were initially quite arrogant, holding their mortgage rates and profit margins, thinking that lower mortgage rates would not be enough to woo borrowers. Little did they realise that the non-bank sector not only offered lower mortgage rates but also professional and friendly service. It took around 3 years before the banks finally reduced their margins and offered mortgage rates that were somewhat more competitive.

The next few months will determine whether the US mortgage crisis will be a short term problem for mortgage rates or whether the meltdown in America will have a long term impact on mortgage rates in Australia. In the meantime keep an eye on mortgage rates across the market, sit tight because no matter which lender you are with, mortgage rates over the next few months will be a little unpredictable but inevitably are likely to settle down again.

How You Can Learn to Predict Mortgage Rates, Too

How you can learn to predict mortgage rates, too.

Many people, particularly, first-home buyers, tend to shop around for the cheapest mortgage rate that they see not knowing, or understanding, that these rates dip and fall. If you get an understanding of how mortgage rates work, you will be in a far better position to land one that really works for you and may even be cheaper than the one you’re ready to commit to, say, today.

Here’s how mortgage rates work.

The firs thing you should know about these rates is that they are unpredictable. They change. A high rate today may be low tomorrow. At one time, these rates were more stable. They were set by the bank. But since the 1950s, Wall Street took over and adjusted them according to supply and demand. Or more accurately, Wall Street linked them to bonds. So that when bonds – that are bought and sold on Wall Street – drop, mortgage rates do, too.

How can I know today’s bonds rates?

It sounds simple: let’s keep up with the prices of bonds and we’ll know when to shop for our mortgage. Unfortunately, only Wall Street has access to this knowledge (called “mortgage-backed securities” (MBS) data). And they pay tens of thousands of dollars for access to it in real-time.

Here’s how you can make an educated guess:

Calculate according to, what’s called, the Thirty-year mortgage rates.

These are the events that lower rates in any given 30 years:

  • Falling inflation rates, because low inflation increases demand for mortgage bonds
  • Weaker-than-expected economic data, because a weak economy increases demand for mortgage bonds
  • War, disaster and calamity, because “uncertainty” increases demand for mortgage bonds

Conversely, rising inflation rates; stronger-than-expected economic data; and the “calming down” of a geopolitical situation tend to elevate rates.

The most common mortgages and mortgage rates

You’ll also find that mortgages vary according to the level of your credit rating. The higher your credit score, the more likely you are to win a lower mortgage rate.

Mortgage rates also vary by loan type.

There are four main loan types each of which has a different level of interest. In each case, this level of interest hinges on mortgage-secured bonds. The four loan types together make up 90 percent of mortgage loans doled out to US consumers.

Which mortgage loan do you want?

Here is the list:

1. Conventional Mortgages – These loans are backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac who have set regulations and requirements for their procedures. The Fannie Mae mortgage-backed bond is linked to mortgage interest rates via Fannie Mae. The Freddie Mac mortgage-backed bond is linked to mortgage-backed bonds via Freddie Mac.

Mortgage programs that use conventional mortgage interest rates include the “standard” 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate for borrowers who make a 20% downpayment or more; the HARP loan for underwater borrowers; the Fannie Mae HomePath mortgage for buyers of foreclosed properties; and, the equity-replacing Delayed Financing loan for buyers who pay cash for a home.

2. FHA mortgage – These are mortgage rates given by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). The upside of these loans is that you have the possibility of a very low downpayment – just 3.5%. They are, therefore, popular and used in all 50 states. The downside is that the premium is split in two parts.

FHA mortgage interest rates are based on mortgage bonds issued by the Government National Mortgage Association (GNMA). Investors, by the way, tend to call GNMA, “Ginnie Mae”. As Ginnie Mae bond prices rise, the interest rates for FHA mortgage plans drop. These plans include the standard FHA loan, as well as FHA specialty products which include the 203k construction bond; the $100-down Good Neighbor Next Door program; and the FHA Back to Work loan for homeowners who recently lost their home in a short sale or foreclosure.

3. VA mortgage interest rates – VA mortgage interest rates are also controlled by GMA bonds which is why FHA and VA mortgage bonds often move in tandem with both controlled by fluctuations from the same source. It is also why both move differently than conventional rates. So, some days will see high rates for conventional plans and low rates for VA/ FHA; as well as the reverse.

VA mortgage interest rates are used for loans guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs such as the standard VA loan for military borrowers; the VA Energy Efficiency Loan; and the VA Streamline Refinance. VA mortgages also offer 100% financing to U.S. veterans and active service members, with no requirement for mortgage insurance.

USDA mortgage interest rates – USDA mortgage interest rates are also linked to Ginnie Mae secured-bonds (just as FHA and VA mortgage rates are). Of the three, however, USDA rates are often lowest because they are guaranteed by the government and backed by a small mortgage insurance requirement. USDA loans are available in rural and suburban neighborhoods nationwide. The program provides no-money-down financing to U.S. buyers at very low mortgage rates.

Mortgage rates predictions for 2016

Wondering what your chances are for getting a mortgage for a good rate the coming year? Wonder no further.

Here are the predictions for the 30-year trajectory:

  • Fannie Mae mortgage rate forecast: 4.4% in 2016)
  • Freddie Mac forecast: 4.7% Q1 2016, 4.9% Q2 in 2016
  • Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) forecast: 5.2% in 2016
  • National Association of Realtors (NAR) forecast: 6% in 2016.

In other words, mortgage rates are projected to rise slightly in 2016.