This guide page assist you to understand the basics of taking out your mortgage.
It’s understandable that finance brokers are now the number one choice for consumers who are seeking a home loan or to refinance an existing loan. Businesses are also engaging finance brokers to help them with their finance needs from car and equipment leasing to loans to help their businesses expand.
What can a credit adviser do for you?
Finance brokers already know the industry, the lenders, their products and their requirements, saving you a lot of time and energy on research. They will also put the time into finding out about your particular credit situation and have a wealth of experience to draw on to help you simplify it.
Translate industry jargon
Finance brokers are able to make sense of what loan documents and lenders are saying – put it into lay-person’s language, so to speak.
Get you what you want
Advisers will determine your borrowing needs and fiscal ability, and choose the only an appropriate product to suit your requirements.
Give you a broader choice
Being brokers, finance brokers have to offer a larger selection of loan products. While a bank can only offer you its own products, finance brokers can help you choose from a selection of loans provided by different lenders.
Help you compare apples, oranges and the whole fruit basket
Finance brokers have the knowledge and tools to compare often hundreds of products and you get a loan suitable for your circumstances and needs.
Find you a good deal
Loan providers are always spruiking a special deal or two, and these could make a big difference to your repayments or success rate. A finance broker will know which of the deals on the market at the moment will be appropriate for you.
Act as your advocate
A good finance broker wants the best for you, the client. They will be your cheer squad, middle-man, team player and coach throughout the process.
They’re in it for the long haul
A finance broker won’t just love you and leave you – they will oversee and manage the loan’s progression right through to the end on your behalf. By the way, ‘the end’ isn’t when you sign the documents and buy your property; you can expect your finance broker to keep track of you and your changing needs, helping you should you need to switch products or wish to purchase another property.
The key is to choose a finance broker who is MFAA-accredited. The Mortgage & Finance Association of Australia (MFAA) is the peak national body representing professional finance broker across Australia, and all members must adhere to professional development standards and a stringent code of conduct.
If you apply for a home loan, particularly if the loan is for more than 80 per cent of a property’s value, you’ll more than likely have to prove to lenders that you have a satisfactory amount of savings. This is to demonstrate your ability to funnel a portion of your income into repayments.
Although it can differ, in most cases lenders generally look for consistent additions to savings over a period of at least three months and preferably a year or more. This means that the following are not considered genuine savings:
- a cash gift
- an inheritance
- casino/other gambling winnings
- proceeds of the sale of a non-investment asset
- government grants and other finance offered as incentives
For those who don’t have any genuine savings but still want to obtain finance, there are options.
- Guarantor loans – Having a guarantor on your loan may mean that no deposit is required, with the equity or asset the guarantor stakes standing in for a deposit.
- Other significant assets such as shares, managed funds and/or equity in residential property – Depending on your chosen lender, cash isn’t the only thing accepted as genuine savings. There are even situations where the sale of a vehicle can be considered as genuine savings if proved that it was owned for three months or more.
- A strong rental record may see a lender allow you to forgo the genuine savings route – Some lenders will waive the requirements if a letter can be produced from a licensed real estate agent confirming that rent has been paid on time and in full for the preceding 12 months, as it highlights your ability to make repayments on time and on an ongoing basis.
With interest rates at an all-time low, taking the option of locking in an interest rate on your home loan to guard against possible future fluctuation may be attractive. However, it pays to know the ins and outs of fixed-rate loans before committing to one.
When purchasing a property, borrowers can decide between fixed-interest loans that maintain the same interest rate over a specific period of time, or variable-rate loans that charge interest according to market rate fluctuations.
Fixed-rate loans usually come with a few provisos: borrowers may be restricted to maximum payments during the fixed term and can face hefty break fees for paying off the loan early.
However, locking in the interest rate on your home loan can offer stability.
“For those conscious of a budget and who want to take a medium-to-long term position on a fixed rate, they can protect themselves from the volatility of potential rate movement,” the finance broker says.
Fixed rates are locked in for an amount of time that is prearranged between you and your lender.
“There are some lenders that offer seven-year or 10-year fixed terms, but generally one to five years are the most popular terms,” the finance broker says. “The three- or five-year terms are generally the most popular for customers because a lot can change within that amount of time.”
Further to this, fixed-rate loans can also be pre-approved. This means that you can apply for the fixed-rate loan before you find the property you want to buy.
“When you apply for a fixed rate, at the point of application you can pay a fixed rate lock-in fee which will, depending on the lender, give you between 60 and 90 days from the time of application to settle the loan at that fixed rate,” the broker explains.
“You pay a fee to protect your interest rate. Alternatively, you can choose to lock the rate in at the time of actual approval.”
Pre-approval helps you to discern how much money you are likely to have approved on official application. Knowing that your potential lender will offer a fixed-term interest loan grants further peace of mind for those borrowers looking to budget precisely rather than be susceptible to rate fluctuations.
Save for a higher deposit
The purpose of LMI is to protect lenders in case the borrower fails to make repayments and, when the loan-to-valuation ratio (LVR) exceeds 80 per cent, so the loan amount is more than 80 per cent of the value of the property being mortgaged, the risk of a lender not recouping their costs should the borrower default is increased. A higher deposit means a smaller loan amount, so will decrease the LVR and the perceived risk, and may be the key to avoiding paying LMI.
Get a guarantor
If you don’t have the financial capacity to meet a 20 per cent deposit but still want to avoid LMI, you do have the option of getting a guarantor on your loan. Normally a close relative, such as a parent, guarantors can use the equity in their property to help you secure yours. In some instances, having a guarantor on your loan may mean that you won’t need a deposit at all.
Take advantage of professional benefits
Although special offers based on the borrower’s profession are not limited to medical professionals, doctors are the big winners when it comes to waived LMI fees. Due to the perceived stability and high income, some lenders consider professionals earning a minimum of $150,000 a year as ‘low risk’ borrowers and therefore offer them special loan benefits.
What information will your broker ask you to provide?
When you ask to enlist the services of a broker, they will probably ask you for the following documentation:
- Identification, including photo ID such as driver licence
- Income verification documentation such as recent payslips
- Birth certificate, if you are applying for a government funded first home owner grant
Depending on the lender or bank you would like your broker to apply to for your loan, you may also be asked to provide:
- A recent PAYG summary
- A notice of assessment from the Australian Taxation Office
- Tax returns
- Proof of your contribution toward the transaction, such as savings or deposit statements
- Purchase contracts for a home loan, including building contracts, or plans if building
Why is this information important?
While it may seem that you are climbing the Mount Everest of paperwork, a broker will ask for all of this to ensure they are protecting you and that they get the best possible deal.
“Gathering various forms of documentation allows brokers to do a fact find, which is an important part of the loan process,” explains Mortgage Consultant Justin Lidgerwood from Mortgage and Finance Solutions.
This is the process by which brokers ensure that they match a client with a loan that helps them achieve their property goals, whether that is buying a home to live in, one to renovate and sell, or a long-term investment, and one that matches their financial positions. “Brokers do not want to put prospective loan clients into a situation where they cannot afford to repay their new loan commitments,” says Lidgerwood.
Will a bank ask for the same documentation?
If you apply for a loan with a bank that you do not currently have an account with, they will require much of the same information as a broker would.
Although borrowers may be able to avoid the paperwork by applying for a loan with their current bank (which will already have a lot of information on file), this means being constrained by the products that bank offers and risking missing out on a great deal.
“The benefit a broker has compared to an individual bank, is the broker has access to most banks and lenders across Australia,” Lidgerwood says. “Lending policies and pricing vary greatly across the lending market and some clients do not realise this, so why waste time going direct to a bank?”
Saving you time and money
Lidgerwood says a broker can usually tell a client within 10 minutes whether they have a chance of obtaining loan approval.
“Brokers have access to bank loan affordability and serviceability calculators, which show clients’ potential borrowing capacity,” he explains. “Depending on the size of the funding required, and the loan to valuation ratio, these days the banks are extremely competitive, and we can quite often get a better price deal than advertised.”
If a client is not yet in a position to obtain a loan or has a credit issue on their file, such as a default, having a broker on-side can be invaluable.
“We can guide the client with a view of getting default removed, or waiting until the default drops off the client’s credit file,” Lidgerwood explains. “Most brokers are accredited to gain access to client’s credit files these days, which is an extremely important issue due to the banks’ risk scoring.”
In a nutshell, a broker will shop around to get the best possible deal for you, their client.
It is also likely to mean missing out on having a broker match a loan to longer-term goals, rather than just a purchase price and interest rate.
- Shop around for lenders
Different lenders define income in so many different ways that it pays to use a credit adviser who knows their way around what’s included and what’s not. One lender may allow share dividends as income, while another lender may not.
- Shop around for the right mortgage
A good credit adviser will help you choose the most appropriate mortgage. Even with one lender, your borrowing capacity can vary due to the loan type that you choose. If you add features such as a line of credit this can reduce the amount you can borrow.
- Update your financial records
Try to have your PAYG income tax return as up-to-date as possible. This gives a better historical view of your income than just the two most recent payslips.
- Check your credit rating
Check your credit rating before applying for a mortgage. Due to changes to the Privacy Act from 12 March 2014, your rating may not be as healthy as you thought. The national credit reporting agencies are Veda, Dun &Bradstreet and Experian. Find out more here.
- Roll your debts into your mortgage
Unsecured debts such as personal loans and credit cards have expensive monthly repayments, and these monthly repayments cut in to the amount you can repay on a mortgage.
- Reduce debt and credit limits
If you have unused credit cards with limits that are more than you need, then cancel those cards. Also, cancel any other cards – such as department store cards – that give you credit. Every $1000 on a credit limit – even if not spent – detracts from the amount you can borrow.
- Investigate family pledges
Guarantor or family pledges may let your parents or family take out a second mortgage on a percentage of their own property to guarantee repayment to the bank if you fall behind.
- Consider shared equity
Some lenders will give you a larger mortgage in return for a certain share of the profits when you sell. If you don’t make a profit, then the lender does not take a share.
- Take a long loan
While 25-year mortgages have been the norm, that’s changing to 40 years in some cases. A longer loan cuts your repayments, but increases the total interest you will pay over the life of the loan.
- Save more of the deposit
Lenders look for consistent saving records, preferably for more than six months. Saving more can be as simple – or as hard – as doing without that extra coffee, or taking your lunch to work each day. It all adds up and reduces the amount you need to borrow.
Lenders mortgage insurance (LMI) may be an added expense, but it offers buyers the opportunity to dive into the property market earlier, without saving up an entire 20 per cent of the property’s purchase price as a deposit.
What is it?
LMI protects the bank or lender, should a home loan go into default, guaranteeing that the lender will get its money back if the property needs to be sold and there is a shortfall in repaying the loan.
While a 20% deposit generally provides a good buffer against any drops in property value over the life of a loan, LMI can also provide the same protection, meaning borrowers can purchase property with a smaller deposit.
What’s in it for you?
For the borrower, it may seem LMI it is just another expense to cover. But insurance can mean that some buyers will be able to enter the property market with, for example, only a five per cent deposit saved. In the example above, a $500,000 property, this brings the deposit down from $100,000 to just $25,000.
And, if the market is hot and prices are rising rapidly, paying LMI so that you can buy now could be cheaper than taking the time to save a bigger deposit. In the time it takes to save a higher deposit amount, property prices may well have surged by more than cost of the insurance so, for some properties and purchasers, it can make good financial sense to purchase earlier even with the added cost of LMI, especially when you consider the rent that you would pay while you’re saving.
What you need to know
The insurance premium is generally a one-off payment, but you may be able to roll it into the loan amount so that you are paying for it month-by-month along with your mortgage.
There can be a big difference between premiums paid if you have, for example, a 10 per cent deposit saved compared with a five per cent deposit, so it may well be worth trying to gather together some extra funds, even if you despair of reaching the full 20 per cent.
When you are working out what amount you can borrow to purchase a property, the size of deposit you need to save and whether you are eligible for a particular mortgage product, the loan-to-valuation ratio (LVR) is one of the most important considerations.
In the simplest terms, the LVR is the percentage of the property’s value, as assessed by the lender, that your loan equates to. So, if the property you want to purchase is valued at $500,000, and you need to borrow $400,000 to pay for it, the loan is 80 per cent of the property value, making your LVR 80 per cent.
Comparing apples with oranges doesn’t make sense. To make finding the right loan easier, and to make advertised rates as transparent as possible, we have comparison rates.
You’re looking for the best mortgage deal and you see an ad. It shouts ‘3.8% INTEREST!’ and, underneath that seemingly too-good-to-be-true rate, ‘7.9% comparison rate’. What does this mean?
“Because a comparison rate includes all of the fees and charges that can be applied to a home loan, it helps to show customers what the true cost of a loan is. In some instances, lenders offering the lowest rate may not actually boast the cheapest loan, which is what a comparison rate shows,” explains Mortgage Choice Head of Corporate Affairs, Jessica Darnbrough.
“In 2003, an amendment was made to the Uniform Consumer Credit Code (UCCC) that required comparison rates to be included in advertising. This change was made so that customers were not easily misled when it came to home loan interest rates.” The UCCC has since been replaced by the National Credit Code and the comparison rate requirement remains.
This allows consumers to compare apples with apples, to an extent. It does make it much simpler to hold two loan products side by side and, regardless of whether one has a slightly higher interest rate and no fees while the other is a super-low interest rate with high fees, see at a glance which one is the better deal financially.
However, it isn’t always this simple. Fees and charges, the rate at which principle is paid down and the total interest paid over the loan term all change depending on the loan amount and on the term, so you need to delve a little further into how that comparison rate is calculated.
While the comparison rate itself must be as prominently displayed as the interest rate – not buried in tiny fine print – somewhere on the advertisement, there will be a statement along the lines of ‘Comparison rate calculated on a loan of $150,000 for a term of 25 years, with monthly repayments’. If your loan is going to be for $900,000, the comparison rate for your loan will be vastly different.
“In order to get an idea of the comparison rate that applies to a loan, it is a good idea for borrowers to look at the comparison rate for the amount and term closest to the amount and term of their loan,” Darnbrough suggests. “It is always a good idea to look at a comparison rate that is specific to their circumstances, otherwise they can be misled.”
There’s no such thing as a free lunch, but that doesn’t mean you will receive lower levels of service or expertise from a finance broker who doesn’t charge you. It just means that someone else is paying for it. Each business will have its own reasons for its revenue model, and each structure offers different advantages.
Approximately 90 per cent of the more than 10,000 MFAA accredited finance brokers don’t charge a fee for their advice, relying on lender commissions for their income. Others rate their intellectual property as a service worth paying for upfront.
As part of the majority, Mortgage Choice has never once charged a client an engagement fee in 23 years of business. Jessica Darnbrough, Head of Corporate Affairs, says that, while she can understand why some people have introduced a fee-for-service structure to cover costs even when a client takes their business elsewhere, recent survey results reveal that it’s not something Mortgage Choice’s borrowers would agree to take on at this stage.
“It’s a tricky thing to introduce, and those who do tend to be independent players,” she says.
“But the truth is, buyers do shop around these days and brokers can end up doing a lot of work and not getting paid for it, especially since the introduction of the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009 – that prompted a lot of brokers to start charging. So, we might very well see an increased level of brokers charging in the future.”
Robinson Sewell Partners (RSP) has done just that. After several years in business, agribusiness finance specialist RSP recently introduced a fee-for-service model that allowed it to help clients even when it would not make business sense to do so if the only income would be commission. It also allowed RSP to assign a clear value to its services and the experience in its team.
“It’s been a learning curve, but we realised that trying to engage clients without charging any fee, and just relying on the back end of success, really undermined how we evaluate our propositions,” says Director, Ian Robinson.
Clients have been increasingly committed to the process because they wanted to guarantee a return on their investment and, contrary to the Mortgage Choice experience, the company saw little debate about the new fee structure.
“We value our intellectual property very highly. We’ve been in the trenches with the banks for years and we understand the internal mechanics – this is very powerful information to have when we’re operating on the client’s side.”
A clear advantage of seeing a fee-for-service broker is having someone onside who isn’t worried about the volume of your business. They are paid to do a job for you, and they do that whether your loan is $200,000 or $2 million.
The main and very obvious advantage of seeing a finance broker who does not charge a fee is that it lowers the cost of procuring finance and, despite public debate, the different commission structures offered by the various lenders do not impact the finance broker’s recommendations.
Not only are MFAA accredited finance brokers bound by ethics agreements that demand they do not suggest loan products that are unsuitable for a client, an broker who prioritised commissions over their clients would see their business suffer as clients realised that they would get a better deal elsewhere.
Despite owning a growing business and supplementing his income with a pension from the ADF, former soldier Jake Briggs was told by his bank that he could not secure finance to purchase a home. So he found a broker who knew better.
With his service in the army behind him, Jake Briggs was looking forward to pursuing property investment, but had trouble securing a loan due to his pensioner status.
“The bank had told him that he wouldn’t qualify for a loan,” the finance broker Jake found explains. “So he came to see us and we had a look at his circumstances.”
Jake had been discharged from the army at the age of 25 due to a medical condition that left him unfit to serve.
“He was on a lifetime pension and the people at the branch told him, ‘no, no, you’re a pensioner, you won’t qualify for a loan’,” Jake’s broker says. “He was actually running his own business as a personal trainer. So he had lifetime pension plus he had his own business.”
With the expert guidance and help of his broker, Jake managed not only to secure a home loan, but also go onto secure many more for investment properties all around Australia.
“We put the inquiry through a normal broker-lending channel and it was fine. He is and always was an ideal candidate, and they just didn’t realise,” explains the broker.
“With a lot of my clients it comes down to the fact that today, most of the branch staff haven’t been trained in home lending so they don’t always have all the right answers.”
** Names have been changed to protect clients’ privacy.
Although loans taken out after 1 July 2011 are not subject to deferred establishment, or exit, fees, those taken out prior may still be. Also known as ‘early termination’ or ‘early discharge’ fees, they can sometimes be paid by your new lender but are normally applied to an early contract exit.
Also known as ‘application’, ‘up-front’ or ‘set-up’ fees, these cover the lender’s cost of preparing the necessary documents for your new home loan. They are payable on most new loans, and the alternative to not paying this particular fee is being charged higher ongoing fees for the life of the loan.
Mortgage discharge fee
Covering your early legal release from all mortgage obligations, this fee is not to be confused with an exit fee. Also known as a ‘settlement’ or ‘termination’ fee, its purpose is to compensate your lender for the revenue it may lose due to the contract break.
Lender’s mortgage insurance (LMI)
The non-transferrable premium means that if you hold less than 20 per cent equity at the time of your refinance, you may have to pay LMI even if you paid it on the original loan. Extra care is also needed here because, whether or not you hold 20 per cent of the original valuation of the property, you may not if the property’s value has decreased and; while LMI may not have been a consideration at all in the original loan, it may be payable on the refinance.
If your purpose for making the switch is to increase your loan amount, for example to fund renovations, then stamp duty will apply only to the difference between the original loan amount and the refinanced loan amount. Different rules apply in different states, so it’s worth speaking to your broker to see if this charge applies.
Other government charges
Fees are applied for the registration and deregistration of a mortgage so that all claims on a property can be checked by any future buyers. Varying from state to state, these can potentially add up to $1000 or more.
If you were on a fixed rate loan, your lender is likely to charge you a fee for ‘breaking’ out of the loan term. This fee varies depending on the amount owed, the interest rate you were locked into, the current interest rate and the duration of your loan.
Although some of these fees can be negotiated by a broker, the total cost can be substantial. NBS Home Loans can ensure that refinancing will help you achieve your goals while maintaining your capacity to service the debt. A finance broker can also ensure you are only paying the relevant fees for your unique circumstance.
Entering the property market is no easy feat for a first homebuyer, but even parents who aren’t prepared to hand over cash for a deposit may help by being a guarantor on a loan. Before taking the plunge however, it’s crucial to be aware of the implications involved. Here are three questions to ask yourself to see if a family guarantee is right for you:
- Am I financially fit to be a guarantor?
The very first thing you should be certain of is whether or not you are in a financially capable position to pay off the loan if the borrower finds that they can no longer do so. There can be many disruptions to an income, such as loss of employment or a serious accident, and some types of guarantor loans hold the guarantor legally accountable to ensure the mortgage is paid off.
- Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
It’s no secret that it can take a long time to save for a deposit and by becoming a guarantor, you offer the borrower the chance to enter the property market sooner.
“Lenders may treat the loan like an 80 per cent lend, so you avoid the costly lender’s mortgage insurance (LMI),” the broker advises. “You also don’t have to save up for a full deposit for the purchase, or sometimes any deposit at all.”
However, any time you borrow money or a bank places a mortgage over your property, there are definitely things that need to be taken into account, the broker explains. “While in some instances I would recommend it, it’s definitely not a first option as there are certain factors that can put you or your property at risk. Your ability to borrow will also be reduced after using a guarantor.”
“You need to be in a strong financial position and have enough equity in your property to be a guarantor,” says a finance broker. “Some banks even want to make sure that the guarantor can service the full debt as well, so it’s always advisable to get independent legal or financial advice if you’re considering it.”
- Are there other ways I can help without being a guarantor?
If contributing to a deposit is an option, it allows you a little help without needing to put yourself or your property at risk, but there are some extra hoops to jump through if a deposit includes gifted funds.
“With gifted funds, if [the deposit is] less than 20 per cent of the property’s purchase price, then the banks will most likely want to see five per cent of genuine savings,” the broker explains. “Having said that, there are a few lenders that will allow you to use rent as genuine savings. So, if you’ve been renting for a while, it shows that you have the propensity to make repayments and then the reduced (less than 20 per cent) deposit may be used in that regard.”
MFAA accredited finance brokers can provide access to tailored loan products and expert knowledge, and meet the highest educational and ethical standards.
As property prices continue to rise, purchasing in a centrally-located or sought-after area is out of reach for the average working millennial. Instead, many are opting to rent rather than buy as it means not having to compromise their inner city or beachside lifestyle. But for those who are still eager to enter the market, there is a way to get the best of both worlds.
‘Rentvesting’ is the term coined for when you purchase a property for investment purposes in an affordable location and continue to live and rent in the area of your choice. An example of how the market is evolving, it is a wealth creation strategy that is popular among the younger generation due to the flexibility it offers in comparison to being an owner-occupier.
“Millennials aren’t interested in purchasing a property in the outer suburbs and then having to commute into the CBD,” says an MFAA accredited finance broker. “Rentvesting allows your rental income to cover the mortgage expenses, so you can keep living the lifestyle you want without it costing you any money.”
For this strategy to work, you’ve got to be a good saver and there needs to be a focus on delayed gratification, advises the broker. “It’s all about living within your means. Don’t spend big at the start while you’re building it up. Step away from the mentality of negative gearing and tax minimisation and buy neutrally, or ideally, a positively geared property as this provides higher rental yields.”
A recent Mortgage Choice survey highlighted an increase in ‘rentvesting’ from 21 per cent of investors to 37 per cent over the past twelve months alone. But while this strategy may appear ideal to many, it’s not suited to everybody.
“It’s still a foreign way of thinking,” says the finance broker. “In the past, the great Australian dream was to buy a home on a quarter acre block and then do everything you can to pay that down as fast as possible in the hope of living debt-free. ‘Rentvesting’ is quite the opposite. It says we’re okay with good debt as long as we stick to our budget and keep using the money to invest further. You’ve got to have an open mind and be comfortable with debt.”
To ensure you have the means to make ‘rentvesting’ work for you, contact NBS Home Loans for advice on good debt and other strategies that will allow you to maintain your current lifestyle.