Fixed rate home loans temporarily halted by UOB and DBS

Fixed-rate mortgage packages

The banks have temporarily suspended offering fixed rate home loans to ensure they remain competitive and can meet the mortgage needs of home owners.

fixed rate home loans

Local lenders UOB and DBS Bank are temporarily ceasing their fixed-rate home loans while they review the interest rates on these packages, after yet another big hike from the United States Federal Reserve (Feds).

A UOB spokesman told The Straits Times (ST) that the bank will be ceasing the existing two-year and three-year fixed rate packages for now. The spokesman added that UOB is continuously monitoring market conditions and will review home loan packages to ensure they remain competitive and can meet the needs of home owners.

Meanwhile, DBS is also reviewing the rates for its fixed rate packages. According to ST checks last Tuesday night, DBS’s fixed rate packages have been removed from the bank’s website.

The Feds increased the federal funds rate by 75 basis points, the highest level in 15 years. The market had already witnessed a rise of 75 basis points when the decision on Wednesday was made, which was predictable. The action aims to combat the scorching inflation in the US, which rose by 0.1% from July to August and 8.3% annually in August.

As the name implies, fixed-rate mortgages are home loans with an interest rate (and payment) that remains the same over time. With this fixed rate home purchase loan, you pay the same amount every month for the entire life of the loan, generally 1 to 5 years. There are currently no lenders that offer a perpetual fixed rate for the entire loan tenure.

For fixed rate home purchase loan, in the beginning the portion of your monthly payment going toward interest will be high, and the portion going toward principal payment will be low. The interest portion of the monthly payment tapers off over the term and the principal portion rises to compensate, but the total payment amount does not vary.

Payments over the total term of a floating rate mortgage for your new home purchase will vary by design.

The interest rate usually starts off low (thus the attraction), but it can later rise. If you opt for a floating rate, you will pay a fixed interest rate for a predetermined time period (usually three years or less), followed by periodic rate adjustments for the remainder of your loan’s term.

This rate is normally a set number of points over a widely published rate, such as the Singapore Overnight Rate Average, or SORA. If that rate rises (or falls), so do your monthly payments.

The benefit of fixed rate home loans is that are no surprises.

Your initial payment on the home equals your final payment. For many borrowers, this provides peace of mind in an unpredictable economy. It also is a good strategy for new home purchase when rates are low but likely to rise.

On the flip side, the interest rate on fixed rate home purchase loan is typically higher than an floating rate’s initial interest rate. If you expect to move or trade up in a few years, this means you will pay more than necessary for a short-term investment — money that you could have invested elsewhere or saved. You also would pay more over the long term if interest rates stayed low for an extended period or fell; though in the latter case, you could refinance.

Fixed rate home loans is almost always more expensive than a floating rate package.

As banks are unsure of the future interest rate environment, they will need to enter into hedging contracts, which incur a fee, to guarantee you the future rates. It’s like buying an insurance policy against interest rates going crazy.

For example, if the current borrowing cost of the bank is 1.5%. The bank may then decide to create a fixed rate package that is 2% fixed for 3 years.

However, the bank does not know what will happen in year 2 and year 3. What if the cost of borrowing for the bank rises to 3% for year 2 and 3?

This would mean that the bank’s profit would be:

  • Year 1 = 2% – 1.5% (cost of funds) = 0.5%
  • Year 2 = 2% – 3% (cost of funds) = -1%
  • Year 3 = 2% – 3% (cost of funds) = -1%
  • Total over 3 years = -1.5%

A bank is unlikely to create a product that has a risk of losing money. So banks typically pay a fee to go into a hedging contract.

The bank will buy a hedging product that would guarantee them 2% for year 2 and year 3 and maybe pay a fee of maybe 0.3% to do so. It is similar to insurance.

Hence the bank’s profit would be:

  • Year 1 = 2% – 1.5% (cost of funds) = 0.5%
  • Year 2 = 2% – 1.5% Cost of funds + 0.3% Hedging cost = 0.2%
  • Year 3 = 2% – 1.5% Cost of funds + 0.3% Hedging cost = 0.2%
  • Total (over 3 years) = 0.9%

A guaranteed profit for each mortgage loan product is probably more important for the bank than the potential to make more money, but also open to the possibility to lose money.

Choosing between fixed rate home loans and floating rate loans for your new home residential property buy should be a consideration of a few factors:

  • current rates
  • your personal investment horizon
  • the state of the economy
  • future rate hike risk
  • how long you plan to own your home
  • closing costs
  • your qualification for each type of loan

More recently, banks have started launching a new SORA-based home loan referencing the 3-month Compounded Singapore Overnight Rate Average (SORA) published by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). The interest rates for this types of loans were based on a simple average of the daily SORA rates in the preceding 90 calendar days.

If all these loan jargons seem like alien language to you, you should speak to a home loan specialist. A home loan specialist will be able to simplify the technical terms for you and help you compare mortgages so that you get the best home loan. The services of home loan specialists are free, so new home buyers have nothing to lose and everything to gain by engaging them.

Written by Ravi Chandran

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