What is the Penalty for Switching a Fixed Mortgage?

What is the Penalty for Switching a Fixed Mortgage?
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Published By Jennifer Jewell

Question: What is the Penalty for Switching a Fixed Mortgage?
Answer: The penalty for switching a fixed-rate mortgage before the end of its term varies depending on factors such as the remaining term, the interest rate differential, and the lender’s specific policies. It is often calculated as the greater of three months’ interest or the interest rate differential.

What is the Penalty for Switching a Fixed Mortgage? Understanding Penalties for Breaking a Fixed Mortgage

Fixed-rate mortgages offer stability and predictability in your monthly payments. However, there might be situations where switching to a different mortgage product becomes tempting. Perhaps you’ve noticed a significant drop in interest rates, or you require a change in loan features. While switching is possible, it’s important to be aware of the potential financial implications, particularly the penalty for breaking your existing fixed-rate mortgage. [ 1 ]

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The Fixed-Rate Contract: A Commitment with Consequences

A fixed-rate mortgage locks you into a specific interest rate for a predetermined term. In return for the stability of fixed payments, there’s a penalty associated with breaking the contract before the term ends. Here’s why understanding the terms of your contract is crucial:

  • Breach of Contract:

    Breaking your fixed-rate mortgage by switching to a different lender or product before the term ends constitutes a breach of contract.
  • Penalty Clause:

    Your mortgage contract outlines the penalty you’ll incur for breaking the agreement early. This penalty compensates the lender for the lost interest income they anticipated receiving for the remaining term of the mortgage.

The penalty amount can vary depending on the lender, the remaining term on your mortgage, and the current interest rate environment.

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Calculating the Cost: Understanding Penalty Formulas

There are two main methods lenders use to calculate the penalty for breaking a fixed-rate mortgage:

  • Interest Rate Differential (IRD):

    This method compares the interest rate you’re currently paying on your mortgage to the current interest rate offered by the lender for a similar mortgage product and term. The penalty is typically the greater of three months’ interest on your current mortgage balance or the difference in interest you would have paid over the remaining term based on the two interest rates.
  • Three Months’ Interest:

    This simpler method applies a flat penalty equal to three months’ interest on your current mortgage balance.

It’s important to note that some lenders may use a combination of these methods or have their own specific penalty calculation formula.

Beyond the Formula: Additional Considerations

When considering the total cost of breaking your fixed-rate mortgage, there are additional factors to keep in mind:

  • Prepayment Charges:

    Some mortgages may have prepayment charges, which are fees applied when you pay off a portion of the principal amount above a certain limit before the end of the term. This can add to the overall cost of switching mortgages.
  • New Loan Costs:

    When switching to a new mortgage, you may incur new loan origination fees, appraisal fees, and lawyer fees associated with the new mortgage product.
  • Impact on Credit Score:

    Breaking a mortgage contract can negatively impact your credit score, potentially affecting your ability to secure loans with favorable terms in the future.

A comprehensive assessment of all these factors is essential before deciding to switch from your fixed-rate mortgage.

Exploring Alternatives: Less Costly Options to Consider

Before committing to the financial penalty of breaking your fixed-rate mortgage, consider some alternative solutions that might address your needs:

  • Renegotiate with Your Current Lender:

    Contact your existing lender and discuss the possibility of renegotiating your mortgage terms. They may be willing to offer a lower interest rate or modify your loan features to meet your changing needs.
  • Wait for Term End:

    If possible, consider waiting until the end of your fixed term before switching to a different mortgage product. This avoids the penalty altogether and allows you to take advantage of potentially better rates at that time.
  • Consider a Second Mortgage:

    Depending on your needs, a second mortgage might be a solution. This allows you to access additional funds without breaking your existing fixed-rate mortgage, but it’s important to understand the higher interest rates typically associated with second mortgages.

Consulting with a mortgage professional can help you explore these alternatives and determine the most cost-effective approach for your situation.

The Bottom Line: Weighing the Costs and Benefits

The decision to switch from a fixed-rate mortgage should not be taken lightly. Here are some key takeaways to consider:

  • Breaking a fixed-rate mortgage incurs a penalty to compensate the lender for lost interest income.

  • The penalty amount can be calculated using the interest rate differential or a flat three months’ interest method.

  • Additional costs like prepayment charges, new loan fees, and a potential credit score dip can add to the overall expense.

  • Exploring alternatives like renegotiating, waiting for term end, or considering a second mortgage might be more cost-effective solutions.

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By carefully evaluating the financial implications, potential benefits, and available alternatives, you can make an informed decision about whether switching from your fixed-rate mortgage is the right financial move for you.


1. https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/mortgages/break-mortgage-contract.html

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