Study Says Variable-rate Mortgages Better Deal For Borrowers Most Times

Posted on October 29/2009 by

TORONTO - Fixed mortgage rates may help you feel secure in your budgeting, but the Bank of Montreal (TSX:BMO) says the more volatile variable rate mortgages will save you money in the long run.

The bank put out a report Friday showing that, over the past 30 years, variable-rate mortgages have been more cost-effective about 82 per cent of the time.

That may come as a surprise to some after studies have shown many Canadians prefer a fixed-rate mortgage.

A fixed rate locks the borrower into a set interest rate for a certain period of time.

That gives many borrowers peace of mind knowing how much money to set aside each month for their mortgage payment.

Variable rates change along with interest-rate moves.

BMO said the Bank of Canada's overnight lending rate is at its lowest possible point now, which could mean there are fewer benefits to a variable rate in the foreseeable future.

BMO highlighted two historical periods when fixed rates were considered beneficial - in the late 1970s and late 1980s - and both were just before interest rates started rising again.

The bank added that the current interest environment is similar to both of these periods.

"Short-term rates are at extreme lows and pressure is likely to build for higher rates in the year ahead," said deputy chief economist Doug Porter in the report.

"The question of whether to lock in to a longer-term fixed mortgage rate or stay in a variable rate has become an increasingly complex and important issue."

Canada has been in a long-term declining rate environment since the early 1980s, the bank suggested.

As a result, the spread between five-year fixed mortgages and variable mortgages has been pushed wider in recent years, and is now near an all-time high.


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