Why the Five-year Fixed-rate Mortgage is OverratedApril 8, 2010
At the root of every borrower’s search for the right mortgage product is the fundamental question, “Should I go fixed or variable?” In their quest for the answer, people will read economic reports, consult their finance friends, search the business section or ask any number of other experts or gurus for the answer to this all important question. For people who ask me, the answer is simple:
If greed is your primary instinct, then paying a dollar more than the lowest rate costs you more sleep than worrying if your payment will go up. And the stats are on your side, since historical comparisons of five-year fixed versus floating rates show that in the vast majority of cases you would have saved money by choosing variable over fixed. (Click here for a very good report on this topic, done by Moshe A. Milevsky, a professor of Finance at York’s Schulich School of Business.) The greedy among us would also point out that even if rates go up, they have to go up quite a bit (and early in the term) for you to be worse off. Choosing a variable rate product is an excellent option for borrowers who have built up equity in their property, who have enough income to withstand a significant increase in rates, and who have the discipline to put aside the extra money they are saving with the lower rate. For those of you who do choose a variable product, make sure you partner with a mortgage agent who will keep an eye on your mortgage after it funds. This will help you stay informed about what rates are doing, and it never hurts to have an expert in your corner.
So when the real estate section is calling and you’re trying to decide whether to choose fixed or variable, instead of scouring the business section for unreliable interest rate forecasts, look within yourself for the answer to the pivotal question of whether fear or greed is your governing instinct.