Broadly, mortgage deals fall into two categories - variable and fixed rate. Here we explain how fixed rate mortgages work, and how to pick one that's suitable for you:
What is a fixed-rate mortgage?
A fixed rate mortgage has an interest rate that stays the same for a set period. This could be anything from two to ten years. Your repayments are the same every month and you don't need to fear fluctuations in interest rates. The rate will remain the same over the specified period, no matter what happens to the Bank of England's base rate or the lender's standard variable rate (SVR).
You can keep track of how base rate changes will affect your mortgage repayments by using our handy base rate calculator.
A fixed-rate mortgage usually lasts for two to five years, although there are longer terms on the market of ten years or more. At the end of the deal the fixed-rate period the rate will revert to the lender's SVR.
A fixed-rate gives you the security of knowing exactly how much you'll pay for your monthly mortgage repayments, irrespective of what happens to interest rates.
This means you can budget for other household costs more easily, without fearing your mortgage repayments could suddenly shoot up.
For first-time buyers or homeowners on a tight budget, fixed-rate mortgages are particularly appealing, as they provide a stable, monthly repayment.
You typically face paying a fee when arranging your fixed-rate mortgage, and rates can be higher than variable options. This is because you're paying for the security they offer, as variable rates can change, so if the Bank of England puts interest rates up, variable rates will rise while a fixed rate will remain the same.
You may miss out on a more competitive interest rate if the lender's SVR drops to less than the fixed rate.
It's important to think carefully about how long you want to lock yourself into a mortgage for. Most will charge you a penalty - known as an early repayment charge (ERC) - if you need to get out of the deal before the end of the fixed term.
Choosing a fixed rate
Consider how long you want to fix your rate for. There are plenty of deals available on the market, ranging from two to five or more years, but there is a big difference in the time these will fix your mortgage repayments for.
The decision depends on how important this security is for you, and what you think will happen to the Bank of England base rate. For example, you may want to set your repayments for five years, but this will see you miss out on a cheaper deal if rates have further to fall. Alternatively, if they rise, you'll be glad you locked into a fixed-rate deal.
Check how big a deposit you need to have to access the best deal, as many of the cheapest fixed rates will only be available to those with a large deposit of 40% or more. If you have a smaller deposit, then your choice may limited. Look at the maximum Loan to Value (LTV) ratio on offer from each mortgage to work out if you can apply.
Comparing fixed rate deals
Once you know how long you want to fix your mortgage and how big a deposit you have, you can search fixed mortgage rates to find the best and most suitable deal for you.
While you will want to compare interest rates, given this is the determining factor in how much your repayments will be, this isn't the only consideration. Lenders charge a range of fees for mortgage deals, so check out how much these amount to as it can play a large part in which deal is best for you over a certain time period - particularly if there is little difference in rates.
MoneySupermarket makes it easy to choose the right fixed rate mortgage. There is a wide range of mortgages from a variety of lenders, but we make it easy for you to compare them. What's more, our comparison service is free, independent and online.