I’ve heard a number of times that ‘historically’ a variable rate mortgage saves you money over a fixed rate locked in mortgage. This sounds good, but it’s never been clear to me if that ‘history’ only includes the last 25 years or so when rates went from extremely high levels (in the 20% range) to the extreme lows of this decade.
With the Bank of Canada joining other world banks now expressing concern over inflation the assumption is that mortgage rates will be going up. If you currently have a variable rate mortgage is now a good time to lock in? Rob Carrick at the Globe and Mail says no -although locking in now would get you a pretty good deal, rates would have to rise by at least 1% to make a five year locked in mortgage a better choice.
If you prefer the security of a locked in rate your choices as a Canadian are limited. Unlike mortgages in the US where you can lock in a rate for the entire term of the loan, in Canada the longest lock-in I’ve seen is for 10 years. My own gut feeling is that with a small enough premium the full-term US style lock-in would be the best deal – five years might see you renewing at much higher rates. The problem is that nobody can predict how far or how fast rates will move, and if they start to move quickly the best time to be locked in will have already past.
Even if you’re not a homeowner these expected rate changes will affect on you, either with higher rates on consumer debt, changing bond and equity prices in your portfolio or just higher rates paid to you on high interest savings account. So what do you think – am I being to gloomy in my expectation of higher rates?