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Fixed VS Floating Interest Rate Home Loan

There are two interest payment options you can choose from when applying for a home loan – fixed rate and floating rate.

A fixed rate is where the rate of interest is fixed throughout the tenure of the loan. Generally, most banks keep the rates fixed for a maximum of 5 years.

A floating rate is where the rate of interest is benchmarked against a specific interest rate (usually the bank’s internal rate), and fluctuates according to the benchmark.

Usually, you can strike a floating rate loan at a lower rate than a fixed rate loan, the difference being around 1% to 2%.

If the interest rate of a floating rate loan rises, banks first increase loan term or the duration of your loan. Otherwise, they can even increase the amount of your EMI.

Which rate to choose?
Keep the following factors in mind while deciding whether to opt for a fixed rate or floating rate:

  • Outlook – When interest rates are high, it makes sense to go in for a floating rate loan, as a fall in rates will benefit you. And if interest rates are low, it is advisable to lock in a lower fixed rate for at least 3-5 years.
  • Stage of life – If you are a senior citizen, or somebody with a fixed source of income, you cannot afford an increase in EMI and should go for a fixed rate loan.

Fixed rate loans are not fixed
In the world of finance, nothing is certain especially where the loan segment is concerned. There is a lot of fine print that has to be read carefully before any decision is made because it can come back to haunt the borrower at a later stage. Investors as well as borrowers in India have experienced this in the last few years and hence this area needs extra attention.

In common parlance, the term ‘fixed rate loan’ can be distinguished from the floating rate loan with respect to the manner in which a borrower will pay interest on the loan. In a floating rate loan, the rate paid is linked to some other rate, usually a benchmark rate, fixed by the lending institution. As the situation in the economy changes resulting in an impact on the benchmark rate, the borrower also experiences a change in the rate that he/she will pay. As opposed to this a fixed rate loan will have a fixed rate of interest to be paid on it.

Many people believe that the rate of interest once fixed remains fixed for the entire duration of the loan. This is what is supposed to happen but some clauses in the loan agreement render this false. This means that the fixed rate will also change; the only difference will be the frequency with which it will change will be different from that of a floating rate.

There are two common points that lead to a change as far as the fixed rate is concerned. The first point is that in many agreements the rate is fixed for only a specific duration of time. This time period can be of 3 years or 5 years and the rate of interest can change after this period is complete. After this period, the lender can once again fix the rate for an additional time duration and this will be done based upon the situation prevailing at that point of time. So in case there has been a sharp rise in the rates due to some reason the fixed rates will be revised upwards and the individual could get trapped because the higher rates will then be applicable for the next fixed time period.

The second point in which this happens is through a clause that says that in case of an emergency situation in the economy or massive disruptions in the debt market, the rate of interest might change. It is not clearly defined as what will constitute such a position is open for interpretation. Thus borrowers will always be on the edge because they will realise that in case there is a sharp rise in the rates the clause could well be invoked and the rates on their fixed rate loan will change. In such a position the entire loan will no longer have the characteristics that the borrowers believed were present initially.

A word of caution
All banks lend floating rate loans at a discount to a benchmark rate called ‘Prime Lending Rate’ (PLR). This benchmark rate and the amount of discount are completely internal to the bank,
Major points to note:

  • The rates have increased from 8% to 12% in around 3 years.
  • Chances are that the discounts can go on increasing, but the PLR will not fall.
  • So if you want to avail of better rates, go in for prepayment and take a new loan. It might be worthwhile in spite of the 2% prepayment fee.
  • Most private banks have increased the interest rates heavily, whereas public banks have been much more moderate.
Categories: Home Loans