All mortgages are not created equal, and some may be a better fit than others, depending on your priorities and risk tolerance. For starters, there are several interest rate options to choose from:10
- Fixed — You’re guaranteed to keep the same interest rate for the entire length of the loan. Many buyers prefer a fixed rate because it offers them predictability and stability. However, you’ll pay a premium for it, as these mortgages typically have a higher interest rate to start. And if rates fall, you’ll be locked into that higher rate.
- Variable — Your interest rate will rise or fall along with your lender’s prime rate. You can choose either an adjustable or a fixed monthly payment. However, if you opt for a fixed payment, the amount that goes towards principal and interest each month will fluctuate depending on the current rate. Variable-rate mortgages typically offer lower interest rates to start but run the risk of increasing.
- Hybrid – Can’t decide between a fixed or variable rate? Hybrid mortgages attempt to address that dilemma. A portion of the mortgage will have a fixed rate and the remainder will have a variable rate. The fixed gives you some protection if rates go up, while the variable offers some benefit if rates fall.
What’s the best choice if you’re looking for the lowest mortgage rate? The answer is…it depends. If mortgage rates don’t rise much higher, or drop back down in a couple of years, you could win by opting for a variable rate. However, if they continue to climb, you may be better off with a fixed rate.
Keep in mind that the spread between variable and fixed rates has narrowed as rates rise.11 However, it's still easier to meet the stress-test requirements for a variable mortgage, since the threshold is lower.12 So, your choice may be limited by your ability to qualify.