Man looking for the best interest rates. SAM Conveyancing's guide on discounted variable mortgage
Are you certain you can pay off your mortgage early?
Discounted Variable Mortgages have a lower early repayment charge, but you need to understand how it works, so you don't end up with higher monthly payments.

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Discounted Variable Mortgage

(Last Updated: 04/05/2023)
6 min read
Key Takeaways
  • A discounted variable mortgage allows your interest rate to either go up, or down and it is calculated as a set discount, according to the lender's standard variable rate (SVR)
  • It tracks the SVR, and not the Bank of England base rate - The SVR can change for many reasons, while the BOE base rate can stay the same
  • Lower rates and early repayment charges might make it seem more attractive, but you should look into both the pros and cons before applying for it

What is a discounted variable mortgage?

Discounted variable mortgages - or discount mortgages - are a particular type of variable rate mortgage. This means that the interest charged can vary month by month and is calculated as a set discount from the lender's standard variable rate (SVR).

What is the difference between fixed and discounted mortgage?

They clearly differ from fixed rate mortgages, where the interest rate is fixed, but they also differ from tracker mortgages, because although the latter are also variable, they track an underlying index, which in a large majority of cases is the Bank of England base rate.

They are often reported as being the cheapest mortgages in terms of initial set up fees and rates offered, however, if you are considering mortgages, you need to understand how they work and how they compare to other types in different circumstances, in order to make the right choice.

The variable nature of the required interest payments should give you a clue that under unfavourable circumstances, you might end up paying more money than you'd wish on repayments. We cover these matters below.

This article therefore considers discount variable mortgages and examines:

Are you considering a discount mortgage for buying a home?

These are often the cheapest mortgage products to set up but you should understand their Pros and Cons fully particularly in view of their varying rate nature. Our independent mortgage brokers can help you find the right product for your needs from 1000s of mortgage products.

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    How long do discounted variable mortgages last for?

Discount mortgages can run for any length of mortgage term, from 2 years to 25 years (or longer, depending on the lender).

In this way they behave much like fixed rate mortgages (although the fixed period of these tends to be for 10-year periods or less). What is important, however, is to note exactly when the discount period starts - and therefore when it ends - because, as with fixed rate mortgages, after this you'll be put on the lender's SVR, which always means much more expensive monthly payments.


    What affects the lender's SVR which the discount tracks?

While your lender will normally respond to a change in the Bank of England's base rate by varying its SVR to mimic the change, it can alter its rate for any number of other reasons which have nothing to do with this and are not predictable externally. Although it might seek to avoid changes which mean mortgagors are charged too much - thus encouraging people to change provider or product - you must understand that the SVR can change without warning.


    Can you pay off a variable rate mortgage early?

You can change from a discount mortgage to another type without penalty once the term of the discount has finished. The challenge, however, is when you want to change out before the term is finished.

Although there are mortgages where you don't have to pay an early repayment charge (ERC) (also known as an early redemption charge), these tend to be ones with much higher interest rates and/or are only offered when you are borrowing a maximum 80% loan-to-value (LTV) or below. If you are getting a standard 90% mortgage or higher, it's uncommon for lenders not to charge an ERC and these can be very expensive.

The way the ERC is calculated varies greatly from mortgage type to mortgage type. With discount mortgages, the ERC may be based on a fixed amount of interest. For example, you might pay 2 or 3 months’ interest if you come out of a discounted or tracker rate early. Fixed rate mortgages charge a percentage on the whole sum - anything from 2% to 6% (6% might be levied on a 10-year fix).

You should ensure you understand the ERC terms of any mortgage you opt for and discount mortgages are no exception. That said, you might find that an ERC for a discount mortgage might be favourable compared to a fixed mortgage of the same term. This is worth bearing in mind if you think there's a chance that you'll want to sell up before the end of the term, particularly if you end up borrowing less on the next purchase you make or there's a gap between your sale and the next purchase: in these situations you're likely to have to pay an early redemption charge.


    Pros and Cons of discount mortgages

Is it a good idea to get a variable rate mortgage?

  • When the lender's SVR rate is low, your payments will be lower.
  • Frequently lower arrangement fees than for fixed rate or tracker mortgages.
  • A capped deal - if you can find one - means you'll never pay above a certain fixed interest rate (i.e. the cap).
  • Early repayment charges might be lower than for comparable fixed rate mortgages.

What are the disadvantages of a variable rate mortgage?

  • Lender can increase its SVR for its own reasons, not just in line with a base rate rise.
  • If the SVR rate goes up, your payments go up. Bear in mind that for a £150,000 mortgage, a 1% increase might add an extra £166 per month to your repayments.
  • There is often a collar, which means that your repayments can only drop to a certain fixed level regardless of the SVR (works almost in the opposite way to caps, see above).
  • If you've a large discount, you might be particularly vulnerable to a sudden jump in repayment level when your term ends and you're put onto the lender's SVR.


    How do you get a discount mortgage?

You can approach any lender or mortgage broker however we recommend that you consult an independent mortgage broker because they are not tied to any particular lender's products: they have access to the whole of the market of tens of 1000s of mortgage products. They can help you select the right mortgage for your own specific needs. We can help you with this service.

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Andrew Boast of Sam Conveyancing
Written by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands-on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.
Caragh Bailey, Digital Marketing Manager
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Caragh is an excellent writer in her own right as well as an accomplished copy editor for both fiction and non-fiction books, news articles and editorials. She has written extensively for SAM for a variety of conveyancing, survey and mortgage related articles.

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