In case of a fixed rate home loan, the applicable interest rate is constant right through the tenure of the loan. Theoretically, this means that market risks related to rise in interest rates in the future are borne by the lender and your EMI remains constant. But often, there is fine print that allows the lender to raise rates in certain circumstances and you must do your due diligence before signing.
In case of a floating rate home loan, the applicable interest rate fluctuates with market fluctuations and your EMI may rise or fall depending on the prevailing conditions. So you could benefit from fall in market interest rates and get hurt with a rise. In practice, the RBI Monetary Policy Committee meets six times a year and sets the repo rate. If there are changes to this repo rate, commercial banks adjust their retail prime lending rate on which your floating rate home loan is benchmarked. Critics often argue that when RBI increases repo rates, banks are quick to increase their prime lending rates but when RBI reduces the repo rate, banks are slow to pass the benefit to the consumer.
So what is better - fixed rate home loan or floating rate home loan? The optical value of a fixed rate loan is always higher than a floating rate loan because of the interest rate risks that the bank takes. So does this mean that a floating rate loan is always better? The answer is "it depends". If you believe that inflation in India is currently as high as it potentially can get and over the tenure of your loan is likely to slow down, you can assume that RBI will bring down repo rates in the future. This would mean that a floating rate home loan is likely to enjoy a lower interest rate in future. However, if you are concerned about future inflation, you should not take risks on interest rates and must opt for a fixed rate loan. Also, it is noteworthy that for a small fee, most banks allow a switch from fixed rates to floating rates and vice versa.
As of June 2022, RBI repo rate is 4.90%. This follows two recent rate hikes - the first in May 2022 of 0.40% and a second in early June of 0.50%. This has resulted in several banks increasing their benchmark lending rates by close to 0.90%. Depending on one's credit profile and quality of property documentation, banks would quote a certain "spread" on top of their benchmark rates. Thus, it is possible for you to get a better rate than your neighbour at "Bank A" and for your neighbour to get a better rate than you at "Bank B". If you have the time to shop for a home loan, you must get quotes from multiple banks. Remember, tenure on your home loan could range from 20 to 30 years. Hence, a supposedly small difference in interest rate could make a difference of lacs in repayment amount.