Whether you’re buying your first home, moving house or remortgaging, our guide will help you decide whether a fixed-rate mortgage is right for you.
What is a fixed-rate mortgage?
A fixed-rate mortgage has an interest rate that remains the same for a set period – typically up to five years, but sometimes for up to 10 years. This means you’ll know exactly how much your monthly repayments will cost, making it easier to draw up a budget.
At the end of the fixed-rate period your interest rate typically returns to the lender’s standard variable rate (SVR). Variable rates tend to be higher than fixed rates, which is why it’s a good idea to arrange a new deal for when your fixed-rate deal comes to an end.
What are the pros and cons of fixed rate mortgages?
- With a fixed-rate mortgage, you’ll know what your outgoings will be every month, which allows you to budget.
- You’ll be protected from interest rate rises if the Bank of England raises the base rate during the period of your mortgage.
- Fixed-rate mortgages can be very good value when interest rates are low.
- If interest rates fall, you could end up paying more than if you had a variable rate mortgage because your payments are fixed.
- Early repayment charges can be high, making it more expensive to remortgage to a cheaper deal if one becomes available – especially when you factor in remortgaging costs.
- If you want to move sooner than the end of the fixed term, you may end up paying early repayment charges or porting your mortgage, when you could have otherwise opted for a new, cheaper deal.
What will my fixed-rate mortgage cost?
The cost of your fixed-rate mortgage depends on the terms of the mortgage:
- The size of the mortgage
- The interest rate
- The length of the mortgage term
- Mortgage fees
Here’s a simple example:
- Size of mortgage - £200,000
- Interest rate – 2%
- Length of mortgage term – 25 years
- Fixed term – 5 years
- Monthly payment - £848
- Mortgage fees - £1,000
What to watch out for with a fixed rate mortgage
Fixed-rate mortgages can often have higher arrangement fees than other deals - typically between £1,000 and £2,000. However, the Annual Percentage Rate of Charge (APRC) that you’ll see quoted for the deal takes into account these fees. The APRC shows the total cost of your mortgage, so you can see exactly how much you’ll be paying over the term of your mortgage.
Sometimes a mortgage rate with a higher interest rate, but lower fees, could work out cheaper – particularly if you’re likely to change mortgages again at the end of a short fixed term, or if the amount of borrowing is relatively low. Check what arrangement fees (the fees you pay for a lender to establish your mortgage) and other costs you might have to pay.
The longer you fix your mortgage for, the less impact any fees would have on the total you pay. But the longer you fix it for, the higher the interest rate is likely to be.
How to decide the length of your mortgage deal
The mortgage term you choose depends on your own personal circumstances and needs. Typically, the longer your rate is fixed for, the higher your interest rate will be. You end up paying a little more for the certainty of knowing that your rate will not increase, whatever happens during that time. This can be good for people who need to know what their outgoings will be.
One of the things you need to think about when deciding how long to fix your rate for, is whether you’re likely to need to move home or remortgage. For example, if you get a five-year fixed rate and move home after three years, you’re likely to have to pay an early repayment charge. Some lenders may charge up to 5% of the original loan.
If you think it’s likely you’ll move within the next five years, then choosing a shorter-term deal or making sure you select a lender with low early repayment charges, might be sensible. If you’re in your ‘forever’ home, then a longer deal might benefit you more, but you’ll have to do the sums. Also, with longer fixed periods you’ll save yourself the hassle of having to go through a remortgage after only a couple of years.
Frequently asked questions
What is the difference between fixed and variable rate mortgages?
With a variable rate mortgage, the interest rate can fluctuate. With fixed rates, the interest rate is fixed for a set period of time and won’t change during that period.
Types of variable mortgages include:
- Tracker mortgages: These deals move in line with the Bank of England base rate. The actual rate is usually around 1% higher than the current base rate.
- Discounted rate mortgages: Rather than the Bank of England base rate, these are linked to the lender’s standard variable rate for a set period, usually one to five years.
What are the advantages of a shorter fixed-term mortgage?
A one or two-year fixed-term mortgage could offer the following benefits:
- They tend to be cheaper because there’s less risk for the lender
- They can be handy if you intend to move home in the next few years. If, for example, you plan to start a family and move to a bigger home, a shorter fixed-rate mortgage would give you the freedom to move when the term ends and avoid paying a hefty early repayment charge.
- If interest rates fall, you won’t have long to wait until the end of the term to switch to a cheaper deal
- If you do decide to pay off your mortgage early, typically the early repayment charges are less than for longer-term fixed-rate mortgages
What are the advantages of a longer fixed-term mortgage?
Being locked in for longer, over five or 10 years for example, can also have advantages, depending on your situation:
- If interest rates go up, you’ll be protected from price hikes on your monthly repayments – they’ll stay the same for the duration of your fixed-term
- You’ll avoid paying upfront fees every year or so. If you’re not intending to move for a good few years, a longer fixed-term mortgage could be a better option – you’ll be saving on fees, so it could work out cheaper in the long run
What is the longest you can fix a mortgage for?
The longest fixed-term mortgages are usually 10 years.
Longer fixed mortgage terms tend to come with higher interest rates, which means you’ll be paying more per month. Being locked in for a longer period can be good if mortgage rates rise, as you’ll be protected and continue to pay your fixed rate. However, if mortgage rates fall, you’ll be stuck on a higher rate.
What happens when the fixed period ends on your mortgage?
When the fixed period is up, your mortgage will switch to the standard variable rate, which is likely to be higher than the fixed rate.
A higher mortgage rate means your monthly outgoings will increase. This makes it a good idea to start looking around six months before the fixed rate comes to an end.
You could consider remortgaging and getting another fixed-rate deal. This could be with your existing mortgage lender or a different one.
It can be worth discussing your options with a mortgage adviser.
When is a good time to fix?
The right time to switch to a fixed rate might be:
- When a fixed-rate term is ending and you want to know what your outgoings will be
- If you’re on a variable rate and the Bank of England has indicated that interest rates are likely to rise
- After a decrease in interest rates and no further cuts in rates are likely, according to the Bank of England
- When competition between mortgage providers has prompted lower rates
If you’re not sure if now is a good time to fix, it makes sense to talk to a mortgage adviser. They’ll also be tracking the market and should know whether more deals are coming to an end or moving up or down.
Can you leave a fixed-rate mortgage early?
Yes, you can leave a fixed-rate mortgage early.
Leaving a fixed-rate mortgage early will mean you’ll have to pay an early repayment charge. This is usually based on a percentage of the outstanding mortgage balance, which could be thousands of pounds. However, if you’re leaving one fixed-rate mortgage to switch to another with a much lower interest rate, it could still be worth it in the long run.
Can I pay off my fixed-rate mortgage before it ends?
Yes, you could pay off your fixed-rate mortgage before it ends.
However, you’re likely to have to pay an early repayment charge, which could run into thousands of pounds. If you’re considering paying off your mortgage, you should check what the early repayment charge is, to see if it’s worth doing.
Can I overpay my fixed-rate mortgage?
Yes, you can usually overpay your fixed-rate mortgage.
However, some mortgage providers will only allow you to overpay by a set amount before they enforce early repayment charges. You’ll need to check the details of your deal to see what your options are. A typical amount that you could overpay with most lenders is 10% of the amount owed. You may be charged on the amount you overpay above the limit in the mortgage agreement.
Will applying for a fixed-rate mortgage affect my credit rating?
Yes, every time you apply for a mortgage, the application will appear on your credit file.
Potential lenders will see this when they do a credit check. Too many applications might raise a red flag and could mean you’re refused a mortgage.
Before applying for a fixed-rate mortgage, check your credit file to make sure there aren’t any mistakes – even a misspelled word could affect your application. You can check your credit file for free with Experian, Equifax or TransUnion credit reference agencies.
Find out more about mortgage eligibility.
What do I need to compare mortgages?
To start comparing, you need to provide a few details including:
- how much you want to borrow
- how long you want to fix your mortgage rate for
- whether you’re looking for a residential or buy-to-let mortgage
- whether you’re a first-time buyer
- the amount of deposit you can provide
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What our expert says...
“The upwards trend in popularity of long-term fixed rate mortgages looks set to continue, as the cost-of-living crisis grows, and the Bank of England recently raised rates even further. By comparing deals online, you can find what looks most appropriate for you. Fee-free mortgage advice can be obtained through Comparethemarket, who have partnered with L&C Mortgages.”
- Alex Hasty, Mortgages expert
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