Does a fixed-rate mortgage make sense, in the current market?
Author: Andy Bedford » Publish Date: 3 February 2011
Probably the biggest mortgage-related question on everyone’s lips is whether to fix their mortgage and at present, it is certainly difficult to predict future interest rates.
I can remember a conversation with a client almost 18 months ago where media coverage suggested interest rates were going to shoot up, and they were worried the tracker product I had recommended might become very expensive.
In my opinion, whether to fix your interest rate or not is a two-part question. Firstly consider your attitude to risk and the severity of that risk.
If you have ample income to afford higher rates, it comes down to your preference of whether to gamble on variable-type products. But, if you cannot afford for your mortgage payments to go above current figures, you should not only be considering a fixed rate but also trying to reduce your borrowing levels asap.
The second part of the answer comes down to the difference between fixed rates and variable products. If the difference between a suitable variable product and fixed deals is relatively low, even if you are a risk taker, it may be worth opting for a fixed rate. However, with bigger differences, it becomes harder to say.
Let us compare a 5-year deal currently on offer with one lender of 6.49% with a 25% deposit to their 2-year fixed and 18month tracker product; this is 3-4% higher, and that means the chances of it being good value for money long term are much lower as it would require average interest rates over the next five years to be over 5% or so.
That is a significant increase from current rates, so I would only recommend a fixed in this scenario to someone on the borderline of what they could afford and needing absolute long-term security.
Many lenders are touting products with an option to switch to a fixed deal at a later date; without early repayment charges. But for those who would be at serious risk of being unable to afford their mortgage if rates went up, this is likely to be a poor option, as the fixed deals available at the time are likely to be higher then as well.
It remains likely that while interest rates must increase at some point, overall market competition will do too, and to some extent, increases in bank base rates are likely to be met with at least some reduction in lenders’ margins.
Current two-year fixed deals come with an average margin of about 3% over the bank base rate, which would have been unthinkable three years ago, so at some point, slowly but surely, these differences must be eroded by competition as the market improves.