Should You Lock-in a Fixed Rate Mortgage Now, or Wait for Further Rate Cuts?

Should You Lock-in a Fixed Rate Mortgage Now, or Wait for Further Rate Cuts?
June 7, 2024

Canada's housing market is abuzz after the Bank of Canada's (BoC) surprise interest rate cut on Wednesday. The 25 basis point reduction, the first in over four years, has many potential homebuyers wondering: should I lock into a fixed-rate mortgage now, or wait for potentially deeper cuts in the future? This decision can be a financial tightrope walk, and there's no single answer that fits everyone. Here's a breakdown of the factors to consider, along with some data points to help you navigate this crucial choice.

The Allure of Further Cuts

The BoC has hinted at a potential series of rate cuts throughout 2024. Experts predict this could significantly improve affordability for buyers by the second half of the year.  According to a February 2024 report, over half (56%) of sidelined buyers are waiting for a better interest rate environment. A significant drop in borrowing costs could entice them back into the market, potentially leading to a surge in demand.

However, the exact pace of these cuts remains uncertain. Some economists predict back-to-back reductions, while others believe the BoC will wait to assess the impact of the first cut and its effect on inflation, which currently sits at a concerning 3.4% (year-over-year as of December 2023).

Fixed vs. Variable Rate Mortgages

  • Fixed-Rate Mortgages: These offer stability – your monthly payment remains the same throughout the term, regardless of interest rate fluctuations. However, the current average fixed rates in Canada are hovering around 5.25% (as of June 2024), which may be higher than those available after further cuts.
  • Variable-Rate Mortgages: These are directly tied to the BoC's prime rate. If interest rates decrease, your monthly payment will go down. However, if rates rise again, your payments will increase, potentially straining your budget. Currently, variable rates are averaging around 4.75% (as of June 2024), offering a slight initial advantage.

Understanding Your Risk Tolerance

  • Risk-Averse: If you prioritize stability and dislike surprises, a fixed-rate mortgage might be a better choice, even if it means a slightly higher initial rate.
  • Open to Risk: If you're comfortable with some fluctuation and are confident that rates will continue to decline, a variable-rate mortgage could save you money in the long run. However, remember that interest rates can also go up, potentially impacting your affordability.

Additional Considerations Beyond Rates

  • Your Down Payment: A larger down payment (the minimum is 5% in Canada) will lower your loan amount and make you a more attractive borrower, potentially qualifying you for a lower fixed rate. Aim for at least a 20% down payment to avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI).
  • Your Time Horizon: If you plan to stay in your home for a long time (over 5 years), a fixed rate might be more suitable, as it offers predictability. If you plan to sell within a few years, a variable rate could make sense, but be prepared for potential rate increases during your ownership period.

Making an Informed Decision

In my opinion, the recent rate cut feels like a turning point for Canadian homebuyers. While waiting for further reductions might offer some initial cost savings, the current economic climate, with inflation at a still-concerning 2.7% (year-over-year as of June 6, 2024), makes fixed rates a safer bet for long-term peace of mind. Locking in a predictable payment now could shield you from potential future rate hikes and ensure a stable budget for your new home. Ultimately, the decision depends on your individual circumstances, but for many, the security of a fixed rate might be more valuable than chasing the unknown with a variable option.

Remember, the housing market is dynamic, and interest rates are just one piece of the puzzle. Keep a close eye on the BoC's pronouncements and economic data to stay informed about potential rate changes that may affect your decision. With careful planning and the right financial guidance, you can navigate the current market landscape and find the perfect mortgage solution for your dream home.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial advice. Please consult with a qualified mortgage professional to discuss your specific financial situation and determine the best mortgage option for you.

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