We’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions about lending and property finance to provide you with a better understanding of the lending process, the various mortgage options available, and what to expect during the application and approval process.
We address common questions related to mortgage rates, loan types, eligibility criteria, credit requirements, income verification, documentation requirements, and more.
Ongoing fees are any regular payments charged by your lender in addition to the interest they apply including annual fees, monthly account keeping fees and offset fees. The average annual fee is close to $200 however there are almost 2,000 home loan products that don’t charge an annual fee at all. There’s plenty of extra costs when you’re buying a home, such as conveyancing, stamp duty, moving costs, so the more fees you can avoid on your home loan, the better. While $200 might not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, it adds up to $6,000 over the life of a 30 year loan – money which would be much better off either reinvested into your home loan or in your back pocket for the next rainy day.
Example: Anna is tossing up between two different mortgage products. Both have the same variable interest rate, but one has a monthly account keeping fee of $20. By picking the loan with no fees, and investing an extra $20 a month into her loan, Josie will end up shaving 6 months off her 30 year loan and saving over $9,000* in interest repayments.
Additional payments to your home loan above the minimum monthly instalments, which can help to reduce the loan’s term and remaining payable interest.
Deciding whether to buy an investment property with cash or a mortgage is a matter or personal choice and will often depend on your financial situation. Using cash may seem logical if you have the money in reserve and it can allow you to later use the equity in your home. However, there may be other factors to think about, such as whether there are other debts to pay down and whether it will tie up all of your spare cash. Again, it’s a personal choice and may be worth seeking personal advice.
A mortgage is a popular option for people who don’t have enough cash in the bank to pay for an investment property. Sometimes when you take out a mortgage you can offset your loan interest against the rental income you may earn. The rental income can also help to pay down the loan.
Here we are asking you to estimate only. It’s often hard to get an accurate estimate of your property value.
Some real estate websites such as Domain, Realestate.com.au and Onthehouse will give you an estimate. However, be aware that a bank valuer might assume a lower estimate, so it can be a good idea to make your estimate slightly lower.
If you do apply to refinance, the lender might send a valuer out to your home, so it is worth being prudent.
If you’re a first-time homebuyer applying for a home loan, you could qualify for some tax deductions, but only if your property is a source of income for you. For instance, if you rent out the property, you could get tax deductions on the cost of constructing or renovating it, the loss in value of depreciating assets such as furniture or electrical fixtures, and the home loan interest.
Homeowners using their property as a residence could also get a tax deduction if a part or all of it is used for business. These deductions include tax write-offs for depreciating assets and deductions for operating expenses like utilities’ payments and service charges for phones and the internet. However, people running businesses from their residences don’t qualify for a tax deduction on the interest paid on their home loans.
When the lender creates a mortgage on your property, they’re offering you a secured home loan. It means you’re offering the property as security to the lender who holds this security against the risk of default or any delays in home loan repayments. Suppose you’re unable to repay the loan. In this case, the lender can take ownership of your property and sell it to recover any outstanding funds you owe. The lender retains this hold over your property until you repay the entire loan amount.
If you take out a secured home loan, you may be charged a lower interest rate. The amount you can borrow depends on the property’s value and the deposit you can pay upfront. Generally, lenders allow you to borrow between 80 per cent and 90 per cent of the property value as the loan. Often, you’ll need Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI) if the deposit is less than 20 per cent of the property value. Lenders will also do a property valuation to ensure you’re borrowing enough to cover the purchase.
Mortgage brokers act as the go-between for borrowers looking for a home loan and the lenders offering the loan. They offer personalised advice to help borrowers choose the right home loan for their needs.
Mortgage brokers are obliged to comply with “responsible lending” and “best interest” obligations.
Responsible lending obligations mean brokers have to suggest “not unsuitable” home loans. This means loans that meet your needs, which you can easily qualify for, and that you can afford to repay without too much financial stress.
Best interest obligations require mortgage brokers to act in the best interest of their customers and to also prioritise their customers’ interests over their own. For instance, a mortgage broker may not recommend a lender who gives them a commission if that lender’s home loan offer does not benefit that particular customer.
A mortgage calculator is an extremely helpful tool when planning to take out a home loan and working out the costs. Although each mortgage calculator you come across may be slightly different, most will help you estimate how much your repayments will be. The calculator will often also show you the difference in repayments if you repay weekly, monthly or fortnightly.
To calculate these figures, you’ll be asked to enter a few details. These include the amount you plan to borrow, whether you’re an owner-occupier or an investor, the proposed interest rate and the home loan term. It will also often show you the total interest you’ll be charged and the total amount you’ll repay over the life of the loan.
Understanding how the mortgage calculator works, helps you to use it to see how different loan amounts, interest rates and terms affect your repayments. This can then help you choose a home loan that you can repay comfortably and save on interest costs. The mortgage calculator lets you compare the benefits and costs of home loans from different lenders to help you make a more informed choice. Use a mortgage calculator to help identify which home loan is most suitable for your requirements and financial situation.
How do multiple credit inquiries affect your credit score?
Credit inquiries are records on your credit file that appear when you apply for a loan. If you have multiple credit inquiries on your file, lenders may see you as a high-risk borrower.
- Hard inquiries appear on your credit file when the lender reviews your credit report before approving.
- Soft inquiries do not appear on your credit file.
When you have multiple credit checks for mortgage or other loans, reflecting on your file can negatively impact your credit score. These remain on your credit report for two years; however, their impact reduces over time.
Generally, lenders prefer if you’ve had one or two hard inquiries over the previous six months. More than this may result in the lender declining your mortgage application. However, your overall credit history is important, and if you have a consistent history of timely payments and low revolving credit balances, the impact of multiple inquiries may be lower.
A property valuation is a formal assessment of how much your home is worth, to determine the Loan to Value Ratio (LVR) when you’re applying for a mortgage.
A valuation is carried out by a certified practicing valuer on behalf of a bank or mortgage lender, and is often based on available data about the property and recent sales of other similar properties in the local area. The valuer may also visit the property to assess its condition in person.
A valuation is typically different to an appraisal from a real estate agent, which is an informal estimate of how much a property could sell for at auction or via private sale.
A mortgage default occurs when you are 90 days or more behind on your mortgage repayments. Late repayments will often incur a late fee on top of the amount owed which will continue to gather interest along with the remaining principal amount.
If you do default on a mortgage repayment you should try and catch up in next month’s payment. If this isn’t possible, and missing payments is going to become a regular issue, you need to contact your lender as soon as possible to organise an alternative payment schedule and discuss further options.
You may also want to talk to a financial counsellor.
Some lenders will allow you to apply for a mortgage if you are a contractor or freelancer. However, many lenders prefer you to be in a permanent, ongoing role, because a more stable income means you’re more likely to keep up with your repayments.
If you’re a contractor, freelancer, or are otherwise self-employed, it may still be possible to apply for a low-doc home loan, as these mortgages require less specific proof of income.
Most lenders should let you fix your interest rate for anywhere between one and five years. While rare, a few lenders may offer fixed rate terms for as long as 10 years.
Fixing your home loan interest rate for a longer term can keep your budgeting fairly straightforward, as you shouldn’t have to factor in changes to your mortgage repayments if variable rates change, such as when the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) changes its rates at its monthly meeting. Additionally, if variable rates rise during your fixed rate term, you can continue to pay the lower fixed rate until the fixed term ends, potentially saving you some money.
Of course, a longer fixed term also means a longer length of time where you may have less flexibility in your home loan repayments. It’s also a longer period where you won’t be able to refinance your mortgage without paying break fees. If variable rates were to fall during this period, you may also be stuck paying a higher fixed rate for a longer period.
Most lenders will want the majority of your home loan deposit to be made up of ‘genuine savings’ which is income earned from your job. While a small number of lenders may let you use a personal loan or a credit card to help cover the cost of your deposit, this may potentially cost you more in interest, and put your finances at higher risk.
If you haven’t saved a full deposit, it may be possible to effectively borrow the deposit for a mortgage with the help of a guarantor. This is usually a parent of other family member who guarantees your mortgage with the equity in their own property.
It may also be possible to borrow the money for a home loan deposit from a family member (e.g. the Bank of Mum & Dad) or a friend, provided you draw up a formal legal agreement to pay this money back, showing your mortgage lender that you’re taking responsibility.
A home loan is a finance product that allows a home buyer to borrow a large sum of money from a lender for the purchase of a residential property. The home is then put up as “security” or “collateral” on the loan, giving the lender the right to repossess the property in the case that the borrower fails to repay their loan.
Once you take out a home loan, you’ll need to repay the amount borrowed, plus interest, in regular instalments over a predetermined period of time.
The interest you’re charged on each mortgage repayment is based on your remaining loan amount, also known as your loan principal. The rate at which interest is charged on your home loan principal is expressed as a percentage.
Different home loan products charge different interest rates and fees and offer a range of different features to suit a variety of buyers’ needs.
‘Principal and interest’ loans are the most common type of home loans on the market. The principal part of the loan is the initial sum lent to the customer and the interest is the money paid on top of this, at the agreed interest rate, until the end of the loan.
By reducing the principal amount, the total of interest charged will also become smaller until eventually the debt is paid off in full.
A failure to follow all or part of a contract or breaking the conditions of a contract without any legal excuse. A breach of contract can be material, minor, actual or anticipatory, depending on the severity of the breaches and their material impact.
Today’s home loans often try to lure borrowers with a range of flexible features, including offset accounts, redraw facilities, repayment frequency options, repayment holidays, split loan options and portability. Real Time Ratings™ weights each of these features based on popularity and gives loans a ‘flexibility score’ based on how much they cater to borrowers’ needs over time. The aim is to give a higher score to loans which give borrowers more features and options.
An ‘upfront’ or ‘application’ fee is a one-off expense you are charged by your bank when you take out a loan. The average start-up fee is around $600 however there are over 1,000 loans on the market with none at all. If the loan you want does include an application fee, try and negotiate to have it waived. You’ll be surprised what your bank agrees to when they want your business.
Once a home loan’s contracts are exchanged between the borrower and the lender, a five-day cooling-off period follows, during which the contracts may be cancelled if needed.
An estimation of a property’s value before beginning the mortgage approval process. An appraiser (or valuer) is an expert who estimates the value of a property. The lender generally selects the appraiser or valuer before sanctioning the loan.
Break fees are charged when a customer terminates a fixed-rate mortgage. The amount is determined at the time you decide to break the loan and is based on how much your bank stands to lose by you breaking the contract. As a general rule, the more the variable rate has dropped, the higher the fee will be.
Also known as the ‘introductory rate’ or ‘bait rate’, a honeymoon rate is a special low interest rate applied to loans for an initial period to attract more borrowers. The honeymoon period when this lower rate applies usually varies from six months to one year. The rate can be fixed, capped or variable for the first 12 months of the loan. At the end of the term, the loan reverts to the standard variable rate.
Saving for a deposit to secure a mortgage when renting is challenging but it can be done with time and patience. If you’re on a single income it can be even more difficult but this shouldn’t discourage you from buying your own home.
To save for a deposit, plan out a monthly budget and put it in a prominent position so it acts as a daily reminder of your ultimate goal. In your budget, set aside an amount of money each week to go into a savings account so you can start building up the ‘0’s’ in your account. There are a range of online savings accounts that offer reasonable interest, although some will only off you high rates for the first few months so be wary of this.
If you aren’t able to save a large deposit, you can consider ways of entering the market that require small or no deposits. This can include getting a parent to act as guarantor for your home loan or entering the market with an interest only loan.
A guarantor is a person, third party or organisation that agrees to guarantee your loan.
The guarantee is a legal assurance given by the guarantor to pay the loan if the borrower defaults and is unable to pay.
As a general rule, mortgage repayments should be less than 30 per cent of your pre-tax income to avoid falling into mortgage stress. When mortgage repayments exceed this amount it becomes hard to budget for other living expenses and your lifestyle quality may be diminished.