Do your homework

Some mortgage rates are rising; shop around before making a choice

As global interest rates fall, you would expect more homeowners to be tempted into taking up mortgages pegged to the Singapore Interbank Offered Rate (Sibor) or Swap Offer Rate (SOR).

After all, the three-month Sibor rate is currently around 0.68 per cent – just shy of its all-time low of 0.63 per cent.

However, instead of resulting in lower mortgage rates, interest payments on these pegged loans have surprisingly started to rise.

Rather than passing on savings from cheaper inter-bank lending, most financial institutions are now charging higher premiums above Sibor and SOR to reflect higher default risk, given that the economy has turned.

Banks have turned increasingly cautious over lending.

Last July, someone taking out a mortgage with DBS Bank would have paid a rate of Sibor plus 1.25 percentage points for an 80 per cent loan.

Today, DBS‚ mortgage rates start at Sibor plus 1.75 percentage points, with no lock-in period.

That means the total interest rate paid would now be 2.43 per cent, up from 2.25 per cent last July.

Similarly, spreads over SOR have widened.

Tellingly, some financial planners Today spoke to suggested that home-buyers should consider fixed-rate loans instead.

“Personally, I would lock in for as far as possible,” said Mr Sani Hamid, Financial Alliance‚s director of wealth management.

That is because Sibor rates – while now low – rose to as high as 3.1875 per cent in 2005.

At DBS, Sibor fixed rate mortgages start at 3.25 per cent for a one year lock-in period on an80 per cent loan.

In contrast, fixed rate mortgages charge interest rates at a stable interest rate that is fixed and guaranteed in the first few years. This means that the monthly instalment amount is fixed for this period.

This brings about stability and certainty about how much you will be expected to pay in the long-run.

Another tip: Shop around for – and even ask – for the best rates possible in the competitive markets, note financial planners. You may just get a rate that is better than those published.

Source : Today – 26 Feb 2009

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