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EXPLAINED: What the steep rise in Swiss interest rates could mean for you

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) raised the key interest rate by 0.75 percentage points, putting it back in positive territory at 0.5 percent.

EXPLAINED: What the steep rise in Swiss interest rates could mean for you
Depending on what you are buying, your purchasing power ma go up or down. Photo by Emil Kalibradov on Pexels

As announced by Switzerland’s central bank on Thursday, the rate change applies from Friday, September 23rd.

“The bank’s aim is to counter the renewed rise in inflationary pressure and the spread of inflation to goods and services that have so far been less affected”, according to SNB.

The SNB has not said how long the current rate will be in place, but noted that “it cannot be ruled out that further increases in the SNB policy rate will be necessary to ensure price stability over the medium term”.

READ MORE: Swiss central bank announces big rate hike in inflation fight

Inflation rate in Switzerland currently stands at 3.5 percent. While it is much lower than in the eurozone, where it exceeds 9.1 percent, it is still higher than its usual rate of below 1 percent.

Why has the SNB raised the interest rate for the first time since 2015?

For the same reason that other central banks have done so, including the European Central Bank and the Federal Reserve in the US: price stability

In general, central banks see increasing interest rates as a response to rising inflation: higher rates help reduce the overall level of demand and, subsequently, also the upward pressure on prices.

Whether this strategy will work is another matter.

The SNB rate hikes will “have a fundamentally dampening effect on inflation”, Felix Oeschger, analyst at Moneyland price comparison platform, told The Local.

“However, it is far from clear whether these alone will be enough to curb inflation”, he added.

One for the reasons for this uncertainty, Oeschger said, is that “the energy crisis and the high prices of some agricultural commodities, such as wheat, are a result of the Ukraine war. These prices are more difficult to influence with key interest rate increases”.

In its inflation forecast, the SNB predicted the inflation will drop to 2.4 percent in 2023.

But “considering that the SNB has continuously revised its inflation forecasts upward since December 2021, it is quite conceivable that inflation in Switzerland will continue to rise or at least remain high”, Oeschger pointed out.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: The groups most affected by inflation in Switzerland

Will the Swiss consumers benefit (or not) from the higher interest rates?

It depends on what you are looking to buy.

If you are planning to buy big-ticket items that are usually purchased with credit — like homes — then you may have to dig deeper into your pockets.

If you already have a fixed-rate mortgage, then you are safe from rate increases for the term of your mortgage.

But for new buyers or those with variable-rate mortagages, things may be more problematic.

“It is not excluded that mortgage interest rates will reach 3 to 4 percent next year”, from the current 2.6 to 3.1 percent, according to Donato Scognamiglio, director of real estate platform Iazi.

What about rents?

Tenants may not be better off than homeowners.

Many have already received notices of higher rents to compensate for increased costs of energy.

Now another charge could be added as well, though probably not immediately.

“Rents will go up, but only when the reference interest rate itself is raised”, Scognamiglio said.

The benchmark interest rate is the average of all mortgage interest rates. If the reference rate increases by 0.25%, tenants will have to pay 3 percent more rent. “I expect this to happen next year”, he said.

But it is not all bad news; higher interest rates will yield some benefits as well.

For instance, if you have certain types of investments, you may see more money coming in.

“I expect yields on fixed-income financial products such as bonds to continue to rise”,  Oeschger said.

“In the case of medium-term notes issued by Swiss banks, we have already seen significant increases since the beginning of the year”, he added.

As for savings accounts, however, “the banks have so far been very hesitant to raise interest rates, but if monetary policy tightens further, we can expect interest rates to rise slightly here as well”.

Generally speaking, what will become cheaper and more expensive for consumers?

The bad news here is that everything that has to do with energy, even indirectly, will become more expensive.

This includes “heating, transport costs, electricity and also food”, another Moneyland expert, Ralf Beyeler told The Local.

READ MORE: Pasta up by 13 percent: How food and energy prices in Switzerland are rising

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PROPERTY

Swiss mortgage rates ‘climb drastically’ with more hikes on the way

Due to inflation and Switzerland’s new monetary policy, mortgages are now twice as expensive as they were a year ago.

Swiss mortgage rates 'climb drastically' with more hikes on the way

A bit of bad news for owners, or prospective buyers, of Swiss properties: they will have to pay more than double of 2022 prices for a 10-year fixed rate mortgage, Moneyland consumer platform reported on Wednesday. 

“Swiss mortgage index has climbed drastically over the past year,” Moneyland said.

Currently, the average interest rate is 2.54 percent for five-year fixed mortgages and 2.76 percent for 10-year terms. As a comparison, at the beginning of 2022, these rates were 1.01 percent and 1.26 percent, respectively. 

“On average, the cost of a ten-year fixed-rate mortgage is around double of what it was at the start of 2022,” according to Moneyland’s CEO Benjamin Manz.

Five-year mortgages are 2.5 times higher than they were in early 2022, he said.

This is not exactly a surprising development, as experts had predicted the hike when Switzerland’s central bank (SNB) raised its key rate sharply last year to fight inflation, which, in turn, caused mortgage rates to go up as well.
 
The upward trend could continue well into 2023, as the SNB’s chief Thomas Jordan recently said that another hike is likely, further increasing the current interest rate of 1 percent.

READ MORE: Switzerland set for another interest rate hike, central bank chief warns 

This means that mortgages will remain “very expensive, and could well climb further as 2023 progresses,” Moneyland said.

If you already have a fixed-rate mortgage, then you are safe from rate increases for the term of your mortgage.

However, for new home buyers, or those with variable-rate mortgages, things may be more problematic.

“It is not excluded that mortgage interest rates will reach 3 to 4 percent next year,” according to Donato Scognamiglio, director of real estate platform Iazi. 

READ MORE: What’s the outlook for the Swiss property and rental market in 2023?

Are there any cheaper mortgage options in Switzerland?

These articles could help you find alternatives to traditional models:

Reader question: What is a reverse mortgage in Switzerland, and will it benefit me?
 
EXPLAINED: What is Switzerland’s ‘SARON’ mortgage?

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