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What is a fixed rate mortgage?

Category: Mortgages
Author: Tim Leonard
Updated: 03/05/2018

Fixed rate mortgages may seem simple at first glance, but it's still worth brushing up on how they work, and the things to be aware of if you're considering one.

What is a fixed rate mortgage?

A fixed rate mortgage is simply a means of guaranteeing your mortgage payment over a set period.

Fixed rates are for an initial period, typically anything from a year to 10 years. After the fixed rate period ends, your mortgage will go onto a variable rate – normally a tracker rate or your lender's Standard Variable Rate - which won't give you the same kind of guarantee

How does a fixed rate mortgage work?

During the fixed rate period your payments will remain the same, regardless of what variable mortgage interest rates do.

So, while you're protected if rates go up, you could also end up paying over the odds if interest rates fall during the fixed rate period.

Fixed rate mortgages also normally have an Early Repayment Charge if you want to remortgage or repay your mortgage in full during the initial fixed rate period.

That said, most fixed rate mortgages will allow you to make overpayments, typically up to 10% of the outstanding balance per year.

Fixed rate mortgages: advantages and disadvantages

You know exactly what your mortgage payment will be for a set period The best fixed rate mortgages often charge a high arrangement fee
If interest rates go up, your payments won't If interest rates go down, your payments won't – so you could pay more than the prevailing rate
Your mortgage is likely to be your biggest monthly outgoing. Knowing what you're going to be paying allows you to budget and plan your finances with more certainty If you want to repay your mortgage early, or remortgage during the fixed rate period, you may have to pay an Early Repayment Charge

When the fixed rate period ends you'll go onto a variable rate. Depending on the interest rate climate, this could mean that your payments suddenly jump (although you can remortgage to a different lender, or arrange a new mortgage deal with your existing lender to save money)

When you're coming to the end of a fixed rate period…

Up to six months before the end of your fixed rate period, start looking at the best mortgage deals available to see if you can save money. When your fixed rate ends, you'll go onto your lender's Standard Variable Rate or a tracker rate. These don't offer the same payment security as a fixed rate, and, depending on the interest rate climate, could mean that your payments make a sudden jump.

On the flipside, it can sometimes be the case that the variable rate you go onto is lower than the fixed rate you've been paying. While this may come as a pleasant surprise, remember that if rates go up so will your repayments – you could end up paying a lot more than if you had remortgaged to another fixed rate. If you do decide to stay on a lower variable tracker or standard variable rate, consider keeping your monthly mortgage payment the same. This overpayment will reduce the term of your mortgage more quickly.

Alternatively, you can set the wheels in motion for a remortgage several months before your fixed rate period comes to an end. Then you would simply wait until the fixed rate period finishes (to avoid any Early Repayment Charges) to transfer your remortgage to a new fixed rate.

What next?

Disclaimer: This information is intended solely to provide guidance and is not financial advice. Moneyfacts will not be liable for any loss arising from your use or reliance on this information. If you are in any doubt, Moneyfacts recommends you obtain independent financial advice.