Mortage Barometer Q2 2020 – coronavirus sends mortgage rates on a rollercoaster ride

| By Frédéric Papp |
Source: iStock / in4mal

Thanks to coronavirus, the mortgage market remains turbulent and hard to predict. The benchmark rates for ten-year fixed-rate mortgages are still as low as ever and do not differ significantly from those of five-year and two-year mortgages.

Coronavirus is causing major volatility on the stock markets, leading to high levels of uncertainty. This is also reflected in mortgage rate movement during the second quarter of 2020.

Mortgage rates seesaw wildly

At the end of the first quarter, the rates for ten-year fixes shot up from their all-time low of 0.98% to almost 1.20% within just a few days, slipping down to 1.07% in April and May. Since then, they have started to rise again. At the end of June, the benchmark rate reached 1.11% – historically a very low value. The mortgage rates for five-year and two-year fixed-rate mortgages have also seen similar movement.

Both upward and downward spikes expected to continue




Right now, it is difficult to predict how the economic recession will impact the banking system. The world may well face a second wave of coronavirus. There is also the danger that the United Kingdom could leave the European Union with no deal. Another source of unrest is the smouldering trade dispute between the USA and China.

Coronavirus further fattens piggy banks

This uncertainty is also reflected in the reticence shown by industry and consumers with regard to investing. In Switzerland, significantly more money is being put aside than before the coronavirus crisis (press release in German, French and Italian only). This greater tendency to save has a deflationary effect to begin with. If the coronavirus crisis loses momentum and uncertainty gives way to confidence, consumption may well start to catch up.

Minor price differences between long-term and short-term fixed-rate mortgages

The price differences between fixed-rate mortgages with short, medium and long terms have shrunk compared to the previous quarter, as the table below shows. As of the end of June, the difference between a ten-year and a five-year mortgage is 16 basis points. A five-year mortgage is only a mere 6 basis points more expensive than a two-year mortgage.

Q2 2020 Q1 2020
Q4 2019
Q3 2019
Q2 2019
Q1 2019
10-year fixed-rate mortgage
1.11% 1.17%
1.09% 1.05%
Difference between 5- and 10-year fixed mortgages (in basis points)
16 20 16
14 15
5-year fixed-rate mortgage
0.95% 0.97%
Difference between 2- and 10-year fixed-mortgages (in basis points)
22 28 22 18 22 28
2-year fixed-rate mortgage
Difference between 2- and 5-year fixed mortgages (in basis points)
6 8 6 4 7 5

As ever, in anxious times, it’s best to keep a cool head. Don’t immediately accept the first best deal your bank offers – it is not usually the cheapest. With some astute negotiation, either by yourself or someone else on your behalf, you can currently obtain a ten-year fix for 0.3-0.4% less on average than what the benchmark rate indicates. This is shown by data collected by independent mortgage broker and Comparis partner service HypoPlus.

Data sources

The interest rate information in the Comparis Mortgage Barometer is based on the benchmark rates of over 50 lenders. They are updated daily and published in the mortgage rate overview. Experience shows that interest rates offered in mortgage quotes are usually below the official benchmark rates. The next Mortgage Barometer will appear at the beginning of October 2020.

Mortgage Barometers from previous quarters

1st quarter 2020 – sharp increase in benchmark rate for 10-year mortgages

Coronavirus is fuelling uncertainty on financial markets, and this is reflected in mortgage rates. The benchmark rate for 10-year fixed-rate mortgages has risen significantly within a short period. On 9 March, the benchmark rate for 10-year fixed-rate mortgages had reached an all-time low of 0.98%. It then suddenly rose by 21% to 1.19%, settling at 1.15% at the end of March. This is slightly higher than the rate of 1.09% recorded in the fourth quarter of 2019.

4th quarter 2019 – effect of negative rates on benchmark rates

After diving below the magic 1% mark, benchmark rates for ten-year fixed-rate mortgages have started to climb slightly once again. Negative interest rates could lead to mortgages becoming more expensive in the future. In the final quarter of 2019, the benchmark rate for ten-year fixed-rate mortgages climbed to 1.10%. This is 11 basis points higher than the record low reached in August 2019.

3rd quarter 2019 – diving below the magic 1% mark

In the third quarter, benchmark rates for ten-year fixed-rate mortgages dropped again in comparison with the previous quarter. They even fell briefly below the “magic” 1% mark for the first time. “However, there are various signs that point to mortgage interest rates reaching a floor,” says Comparis financial expert Frédéric Papp.

2nd quarter 2019 – 10-year mortgages nearly as cheap as 5-year deals

At slightly over 1%, benchmark rates for ten-year fixed-rate mortgages were lower than ever in the second quarter of 2019, and within touching distance of the rates for five-year and two-year fixes. This is revealed by the Mortgage Barometer from

1st quarter 2019 – benchmark rates below 1% for the first time

In the first quarter of 2019, benchmark rates for five-year fixed-rate mortgages slipped below 1% for the first time. Ten-year fixes now also cost less. This is revealed by the Mortgage Barometer from

4th quarter 2018 – significant change in benchmark rates

Some benchmark interest rates for fixed-rate mortgages dropped significantly in the fourth quarter of 2018. Ten-year fixes witnessed the biggest decrease. Demand for short-term mortgages is surprisingly high. This is revealed by the Mortgage Barometer from

3rd quarter 2018 – shift to medium-term mortgages

Interest rates for fixed-rate mortgages increased slightly in the third quarter of 2018, with the steepest climb occurring in September. Coinciding with this rise, demand for long repayment terms eased off for the first time since the end of 2017 – with demand for medium-term mortgages surging in its place. This is revealed by the Mortgage Barometer from

2nd quarter 2018 – interest rate increase has not yet come about

There were virtually no changes to interest rates for fixed-rate mortgages during the second quarter of 2018. The economic and political developments of recent months suggest that interest rates in Switzerland will continue to remain low. Demand for long repayment terms has further increased. 

1st quarter 2018 – mortgage rates have risen appreciably

Interest rates for fixed-rate mortgages increased during the first quarter of 2018. For medium and long repayment terms, rates even reached a two-year high in mid-February. As borrowers generally expected rates to rise further, demand for long-term mortgages grew and has now returned to the level it was the previous year.

4th quarter 2017 – signs point to an increase

At the beginning of the year, rates for fixed mortgages remained steady at around the level of the previous quarter. Since then, signs that rates are set to rise have been multiplying. This is confirmed by the interest rate swap for ten-year fixes. It has been rising sharply since mid-December, which indicates that hedging costs are continuing to go up. Demand for medium-term mortgage terms grew appreciably in the last quarter.

3rd quarter 2017 – mortgage rates stay low

Interest rates for fixed-rate mortgages remained more or less the same during the third quarter of 2017. Surprisingly, despite rates remaining at an all-time low, demand for very short terms increased at the expense of medium terms.

2nd quarter 2017 – mortgage rates have dropped

The benchmark interest rates for fixed-rate mortgages dropped slightly during the second quarter of this year. Nevertheless, demand for fixed-rate mortgages with long terms was still comparatively low. In contrast, demand for medium terms rose appreciably, even though the interest rates for this segment witnessed the smallest reduction.

1st quarter 2017 – mortgage rates show little movement

The mortgage rates for fixed-rate mortgages in Switzerland changed only slightly during the first quarter of 2017. After the historic low that was reached in the autumn of 2016, the situation now appears to be settling down. However, with the forthcoming elections in France, continuing Brexit developments and the still vague status of US economic policy, there is cause for some uncertainty.

4th quarter 2016 – mortgage rates rise again

After interest rates for fixed-rate mortgages hit an all-time low last autumn, it seems that the tipping point has been reached on the mortgage market. Rates for fixed-rate mortgages rose in the fourth quarter of 2016 and have now returned to the level recorded in early 2015.