If the fluctuation of a variable becomes too much, there's also usually the option to lock in at any time.
Homeowners looking to renew their mortgages should resist the urge to lock in to a fixed-term mortgage in the face of rising rates if they can stomach the more nerve-wracking ride of a variable mortgage, experts say.
The prospect of a mortgage that rises and falls with prime rate changes may cause some unease, especially following the recent announcement by the Bank of Canada not to cut interest rates and the subsequent hike in mortgage rates by several of the country's biggest banks. But experts say variable rates may still be worth the trouble because they will save more in the long run. Many people who opt for fixed mortgages do so for the security of knowing what their payments will be every month, and may be spread too thin financially to afford much more. But variable mortgages often offer more flexibility, and have more pre-payment options for those wishing to pay their mortgages off faster.
"If it becomes important to pay off the mortgage faster, they can lose a little bit of those pre-payment options if they do fix in for a longer period of time," said Mark Olkowski, regional manager at Invis, one of Canada's largest mortgage brokers, noting that a fixed mortgage may allow for a 15 per cent pre-payment option, while variables are usually around 20 per cent or higher. If the fluctuation of a variable becomes too much, there's also usually the option to lock in at any time.
"Studies have shown that in general, the variable rate will cost you less, but there may be times, if rates go up fairly quickly for example, that you're going to be kicking yourself for not having locked-in," said Adrian Mastracci, president of KCM Wealth Management in Vancouver.
Mastracci suggests assessing the risk of your budget and income to help you decide which kind of mortgage to pick. Most economists are expecting prime to go up over the next 12 to 18 months, but some warn against basing too much of your decision on where interest rates may go in the future. Peter Veselinovich, vice-president of banking and mortgage operations at Investors Group, says individuals have to think of mortgages in broader terms than just a focus on where rates are at on any given day. Above all, Mastracci said, borrowers should focus on getting a mortgage that can be paid off as quickly as possible.
Courtesy of The Real Estate Weekly, THE source for Real Estate information, with 16 publications delivered to over 500,000 homes and Real Estate offices throughout the Lower Mainland each week.