Many Australians are expecting home loan rates to rise, and nearly one in five are considering switching to fixed-rate loans, according to a new survey conducted by Ipsos for Gateway Credit Union.

The survey found that 38% of those who wanted to switch home loans said they would turn to fixed rates in the next three to six months, and a further 24% indicated they would do so in the next six to nine months.

Australian banks have started to increase home loan rates from a more than five-decade low to cope with increased regulatory capital requirements and curbs, which have been enforced to control speculative lending.

The major banks, who control 80% of Australia’s mortgage market, are also preparing for further capital requirements and a government levy that could erode as much as 6% of their annual earnings.

“Mortgage holders who are concerned about covering their repayments if rates were to rise should be thinking about locking in a fixed rate sooner rather than later to take full advantage of the historically low rates,” said Paul Thomas, CEO of Gateway Credit Union.

Growth in household debt is outpacing growth in household incomes, and the Reserve Bank, in its semi-annual financial stability review in April, noted that about a third of mortgage holders have either no buffer or the capacity to meet less than one month’s repayments. This increases the risk of mortgage default if interest rates were to rise or wages fall.

The last time there was a marked spike in fixed-rate loans was in 2013, when banks lured customers by dropping rates to record levels. Analysts that year urged customers to lock in rates, given the possibility of a rise in global interest rates.

Once again, global monetary tightening is imminent, with the US Federal Reserve raising rates twice more this year. This could increase the cost of funding for Aussie banks, which rely on bond markets to bridge a funding gap.

“The fact that mortgage holders are looking to switch their home loans to fixed-rate products over the next 3 – 9 months just goes to show that there is a sentiment of concern, Thomas said.