South Africa's interest rate is at a historic 50-year low, giving homeowners a little wiggle room, even in these very challenging times.

But the advice is simple, take a long-term view of the benefits of the rate cut to maximise its positive impact on your finances, especially if you can afford to pay a little bit more than what is required.

The rate cut will leave homeowners with some surplus cash, providing some much-needed relief, given the economic constraints caused by Covid-19

But while the additional cash may come in handy during these tough times, homeowners need to consider maintaining their home loan repayments at pre-rate cut levels. Depending on how long you maintain the additional payments, doing this could significantly reduce the total interest you pay and shorten the loan repayment term.

Here's how paying extra on your home loan will benefit you in the long run:

First-time buyers

The recent interest rate cuts have stimulated interest among buyers, as revealed by an increase in ‘buy a home’ search terms since the rate cut announcements in May.

In 2019 buyers would have needed to earn a household income of R28 951 to afford a R1 million home, now that has significantly reduced to R23 711 almost a 20% reduction in gross income.

Even though the market is under pressure, we have unlocked a new buyer in the market, add that the house prices will not be growing it’s the best time to buy.

While this is also an opportune time for first-time buyers to consider entering the property market, it’s important to do some homework and fully understand all the costs associated with buying a home such as attorney fees, bond registration fees and ongoing costs such as rates, water, electricity and insurance.

Remember to consider not only if you can afford the monthly instalments but also if you can afford the ongoing costs associated with owning a home. Also, do not forget that interest rates can go up as well as down, so consider various future scenarios and incorporate a buffer in your calculations before you make any decisions.

It’s always a good idea to speak to a financial advisor to help you formulate a financial plan. Given the uncertainty of the current economic climate, their advice and insights could be very valuable to you.

Fixed versus variable interest rates

Homeowners and new home buyers also need to explore the pros and cons of opting for a fixed interest rate versus a variable interest rate. A fixed-rate remains unchanged even if interest rates change, while a variable rate follows the adjustments of the rates made by your bank following Reserve Bank announcements.

The disadvantage of a fixed rate is that you may miss out on savings when rates are cut. On the other hand, a variable rate may be costly if the Reserve Bank maintains high-interest rates over a prolonged period.

It’s important to remember that each person’s financial situation and their individual set of circumstances are unique. So, there isn’t a simple answer to the question of fixing, or not fixing, the interest rate on your home loan. But there are some important factors to take into account whenever you consider this question.

Three factors to think about

Some of the most important factors in deciding whether to fix your interest rate or not are:

  1. Market conditions at the time of securing the loan.
  2. Loan term. Fixed interest rates are usually for up to five years. So, with a home loan spanning 20 years, you’ll soon need to renegotiate terms, which could then be less favourable than before.
  3. Amortisation period. This is the total length of time it takes to pay off a loan. By extension, the longer the amortisation period, the bigger influence a change in the interest rate will have on your repayments.

Bring down your debts

The key is not to automatically see a low-interest-rate environment as an opportunity to buy more. It can also be used to help ease your debt load. Apart from paying extra on your home loan, you can consider using it to increase your credit card and personal loan repayments.

Courtesy of PROPERTY24

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This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)