Open vs Closed Mortgages: Differences Explained

The main difference between open and closed mortgages is that there are no prepayment penalties on open mortgages.

Open Mortgage Closed Mortgage
Interest Rates High Low
Prepayments Prepayments are allowed with no restrictions Prepayments are not allowed without payment of a prepayment penalty; partial prepayments are allowed on some mortgage contracts
Term length Six months to five years Six months to ten years
Refinancing Flexible and cheap; no payment of penalty required Restrictive and expensive; payment of penalty required
Key Benefit Prepayments are allowed with no penalty Low-interest rates
Key Risk High-interest rates Payment of prepayment penalty is required to break mortgage contract

What is an Open Mortgage?

An open mortgage provides you with the flexibility to make additional payments during your mortgage term without incurring a prepayment penalty.

You can either increase the size of your regular payment or pay a lump sum amount at your discretion.

Lenders assign higher interest rates to open mortgages.

The reason is that they may lose out on considerable interest revenue should a homeowner decide to accelerate the pace at which they pay down their mortgage.

As compensation, they add a premium on top of open mortgage rates.

Open mortgages aren’t as prevalent as closed mortgages; the higher interest rate is enough to discourage most homeowners.

They’re available with terms ranging from six months to five years.

Is It Right for Me?

Open mortgages appeal primarily to homeowners who value the freedom of contributing additional payments toward their outstanding balance to become mortgage-free faster.

They’re willing to pay a higher interest rate for this privilege and content with larger monthly payments.

An open mortgage is ideal also for those who anticipate selling their home before their term’s ending date.

They can use the proceeds from the sale of their home to settle the outstanding balance without needing to pay a hefty prepayment penalty.

On the other hand, an open mortgage would not suit an individual or household operating with a tight budget, as the inflated mortgage payments could strain them financially.

Open mortgages come with short terms, so individuals seeking to lock in a favourable interest rate for ten years should opt for a closed mortgage.

Family with new home and closed mortgage

What is a Closed Mortgage?

With a closed mortgage, your ability to increase your regular payments or to make any lump sum contributions will be clearly defined in your contract.

In many instances you are allowed to increase your regular payments by a certain percentage or make a yearly lump sum payment equal to a certain percentage of the principal outstanding.

In other cases, you have no ability to make any additional payments.

Regardless of the above terms, you cannot pay off your closed mortgage before the term ends without incurring a prepayment penalty.

Since lenders have a greater assurance of collecting steady interest payments for many years, they’re more inclined to charge low rates on closed mortgage contracts.

When it comes down to choosing between an open and a closed mortgage, most homeowners opt for the latter.

A closed mortgage with a lower rate translates to less interest paid and lower payments overall, which is this mortgage type’s primary selling point.

Closed mortgages are available with terms of up to 10 years.

Is It Right for Me?

Closed mortgages are ideal for homeowners looking to minimize their housing costs, as they come with lower interest rates.

They’re a popular option with those who prefer a stable payment schedule and adhere to a strict budget.

A closed mortgage is also an excellent option for homeowners committed to living in one location for a lengthy period.

Since they’re unlikely to sell their home in the immediate future, they can obtain an extended mortgage term that will provide them with smaller monthly payments.

Conversely, a closed mortgage would not work with a household whose goal is to pay down debt as fast as possible.

Nor would it appeal to homeowners who intend to live in their current home only briefly and wish to avoid the prepayment penalty once they sell it.

Prepayment Penalties on Closed Mortgages

You will trigger a prepayment penalty on a closed mortgage if you:

  • Refinance your mortgage before your term’s maturity date
  • Apply an additional payment(s) beyond what’s allowed as per your mortgage contract.
  • Move your mortgage to another financial institution before your term’s maturity date.
  • Pay off your mortgage before your term’s maturity date.

Lenders impose a prepayment penalty on fixed-rate closed mortgages and variable-rate closed mortgages.

The amount you’ll be responsible for paying will depend on which type of mortgage you hold.

For a fixed-rate mortgage, lenders usually assess the penalty as the greater of:

The IRD represents the interest revenue your lender would forfeit should you break your mortgage.

Lenders typically calculate it in the following way:

  • Determine the difference between your contracted mortgage rate and the rate they currently offer to borrowers.
  • Multiply the result by your remaining principal and divide the result by 12 to get the monthly fee.
  • Multiply the monthly fee by the number of months left in your term

The three-month interest penalty is self-explanatory: it’s simply the equivalent of three months’ interest on your outstanding balance.

The IRD calculation doesn’t come into play for a variable-rate mortgage – your lender will levy a fee based on three months’ worth of interest charges.

Keep in mind that each lender might have its unique formula for calculating the prepayment penalty, especially the IRD. 

Definition

convertible closed mortgage functions like a closed mortgage, but the borrower has the option to extend the term without incurring a prepayment fee.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you pay off a closed mortgage early?
  • What is a 1-year open mortgage?

Mark is a freelance writer who specializes in covering personal finance topics related to investing, mortgages, credit cards, and more.

He is passionate about educating people on how the financial markets work and providing tips to help them better manage their money. Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and has more than a decade of experience as an accountant.

Outside of writing and finance, he enjoys playing poker, going to the gym, composing music, and learning about digital marketing.