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.

Tips For Getting the Lowest Mortgage Rate

If you are in the market for a mortgage, getting the best mortgage rate is essential to your financial security and well-being. You absolutely must do your research before settling on a mortgage, as there may be a lower rate out there. If you do not research the lowest mortgage rates and go with the first mortgage company and rate you come across, you may deeply regret your decision later on down the road. Here are some tips that will help you research the lowest mortgage rates out there.

Check Mortgage Rates Daily

Regardless of industry, interest rates fluctuate frequently, sometimes on a daily basis. Because of this fluctuation, it is wise to check the mortgage rates on a daily basis. If you want just a day or two before locking in your mortgage, you may end up saving yourself a ton of money in interest each month. The less interest you pay on your mortgage the less you end up paying annually; this is money that can be put into savings accounts, investments, or household maintenance.

Check Mortgage Company Policy

Some mortgage companies will allow you to lock in a lower interest rate once you have already committed to working with them. For example, if the interest rates drop more than half a point within thirty days of locking in your rate, some companies will allow for the lower rate on your mortgage. Other mortgage companies are not so lenient. Therefore, research the company policy before you commit to working with them.

Shop Around

There are plenty of lenders and mortgage brokers out there, so do your homework and shop around. Comparing loan offers from these different companies will help you find the most competitive rates, and the best option for your finances. When shopping around, be sure to look at more than just one Annual Percentage Rate (APR) or interest rate. And remember, you will need to compare all aspects of the mortgage offers, including closing costs, lender fees, and any other hidden charges.

Avoid Paying Points

Try to avoid paying points on your mortgage. Initially, paying points may seem appealing, but can end up costing you more in the long run. Remember, paying points means that you are just paying more upfront on your mortgage, which reduces the amount of your down payment. Avoid points if you are planning to stay in your home for only a short amount of time as well. Talk to your mortgage broker about this upfront.

Fixed vs. Adjustable Mortgage Rates

Make sure that you look into the options you have when it comes to fixed versus adjustable mortgage rates. You should not automatically expect your mortgage rate and payment to go up in a few years. Stick with a fixed rate mortgage and you will not only save money, but you will also be able to plan for your budget long-term.

Improve Your Credit Score

Your credit score will directly affect the mortgage rate you will end up getting, so be aware of what your credit rating and score is. The better your score the lower the mortgage rate will be because you are less of a risk to the lender. If you have some negative marks on your credit report, you should repair that before buying a home, if possible. This may delay your purchase, but will help you in the long run.

Put More Money Down

As you research mortgage rates and fees, you will quickly pick up on the idea that if you put more money into the down payment of your home, the less your monthly payment will be. Now, this will not necessarily help your mortgage rate become lower, but it will help your monthly payment. The ideal amount for a down payment is at least 20% and if you don’t have that, you may be forced to pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). This is an additional fee that goes right to the bank.

Buy a Home During Economic Turmoil

During times of economic turmoil, mortgage rates tend to drop. This is a great time to buy a home, if you are able to, because the real estate industry is struggling. The lower your mortgage rate is, the less interest you will pay and the lower your monthly payments will be. This may be an ideal time to buy a first home, if you can afford it.

Buying a home is an exciting adventure, but should only be taken on if you can actually afford it. If you cannot afford the home, or purchase one outside of your means, you may quickly find yourself in a downward spiral of debt and uncertainty. Always do a bit of research before choosing a mortgage company and settling on a particular interest rate.

What You Need to Know About Mortgage Rates

Mortgage rates involve a number of factors and it is helpful to have a better understanding of how they work before choosing a mortgage.

Mortgage Rate vs. Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

To put it simply, the mortgage rate is the rate of interest charged on a mortgage. In other words, it is the cost involved in borrowing money for your loan. Think of it as the base cost. Mortgage rates differ from the annual percentage rate (APR). The mortgage rate describes the loan interest only, while APR includes any other costs or fees charged by the lender. The US Government requires mortgage lenders to provide their APR through the Truth in Lending Act. It allows consumers to have an apples to apples comparison of what a loan will cost them through different lenders. Keep in mind that lenders may calculate APR differently and APR also assumes you will hold the loan for its full amortization so it is still important to carefully compare and consider when selecting a loan.

How is the Mortgage Rate Determined?

First, the Federal Reserve determines a rate called the Federal Funds Rate. The Federal Reserve Bank requires that lenders maintain a percentage of deposits on hand each night. This is called the reserve requirement. Banks will borrow from each other to meet their reserve requirements. When the Federal Funds Rate is high, banks are able to borrow less money and the money they do lend is at a higher rate. When low, banks are more likely to borrow from each other to maintain their reserve requirement. It allows them to borrow more money and the interest rate goes down as well. The interest rates fluctuate with the Federal Funds Rate because it affects the amount of money that can be borrowed. Because money is scarcer, it is more expensive.

Also, when the Fed decreases their rates, we tend to spend more. Because loans are more inexpensive, people are more likely to use them to invest in capital. Also, because interest rates are low, savings accounts are reduced because they are not as valuable. This creates a surplus of money in the marketplace which lowers the value of the dollar and eventually becomes inflation. With inflation, mortgage rates increase so the Fed must carefully monitor their rate to ensure that our economy remains level.

Basically, the Federal Funds Rate is a large determinant of what the mortgage rate will be on a given day. And the Federal Funds Rate is largely determined based on the market including factors such as unemployment, growth, and inflation. However, there is no single mortgage rate at a given moment that every borrower will pay. This is because there are also other factors which determine an individual’s mortgage rate, and why they different people will have different rates.

Individual Determinants

There are several things that a lender can examine when determining your mortgage rate. One key factor is your credit score. A higher credit score makes you less risky to lend to and can significantly improve the rate you have to pay. You can also purchase “points” which are pre-payments on your loan interest. Speak with your lender to discuss points and how they might affect your loan. Finally, the amount of down payment can also change the interest rate. Typically, if you have more money up front, you have to borrow less, and you reduce the risk for the lender and your cost for the loan.

Mortgage rates are generally changing daily. Some lenders will stabilize their rates more than others, but it is always wise to compare rates between lenders at the same time and on the same mortgage type. It is also important to know that when a lender provides you with a rate, it is not a guarantee that tomorrow, the rate will still apply. Until you have chosen a mortgage and lock your rate in place with the lender, fluctuations can occur. As with any financial decision it is important to do your research and understand what you are getting into. It’s always wise to consult with your lender for personalized advice.