Are Australia's houses affordable?

Are Australia's houses affordable?

With a low cash rate enabling borrowers to take out home loans with competitive interest rates, you might think buying property is as easy as pie. But are Australia’s houses affordable enough to make the home ownership dream a reality? We delve into the three biggest housing affordability factors!

Home loan rates at record lows

The Reserve Bank of Australia’s cash rate, which is usually passed on to borrowers by lenders, is a defining factor in home affordability. Record low interest rates have been positive for new and current home buyers, but when they go up — how will that impact home owners?

The Inquiry into Affordable Housing is addressing the homeownership quandary. Malcolm Edey, Reserve Bank of Australia Assistant Director (Financial System), recently addressed the inquiry board.

“Housing loan interest rates are currently as low as they have been in a generation, and households are not artificially constrained from borrowing as much as they can reasonably be expected to repay,” Edey said.

“[I]f there is a perceived affordability problem in Australia, it is not due to a lack of finance.”

But RateCity’s Product Director, Peter Arnold, warned Australian home buyers that they need to be realistic about how much they borrow in case of a future rate rise.

“Variable rates are very low now. But it’s really when, not if, rates will go up,” Arnold said.

“We’re likely to return to historical highs or at least historical averages around seven percent so borrowers need to plan now for those higher rates in coming years.”

So is affordable finance the answer for families and couples looking to secure that humble home?

Supply factors a big issue

It’s not only interest rates driving housing affordability but also supply and demand. It’s not unusual to see large groups of buyers queuing for open houses today, and with so many buyers bidding on the same properties, the prices can be driven up.

In presenting points to the Inquiry into Affordable Housing, Edey explained that affordability and property prices are influenced by both supply and demand factors, with household incomes, loan availability and loan costs affecting market demand. These factors tend to have the “predominant influence” on movements in home prices over the short to medium term.

But it’s important not to forget supply issues, either. Edey also noted that “supply factors are critically important” in the long term. This means the opening up of new land lots and property developments are essential actions to address affordability in the future.

House price growth slows down

The good news for buyers is that housing prices have begun to stabilise.

New findings have shown a softening of the Australian house market, which could bode well with would-be buyers, eager to get their leg up on the property market, without breaking the bank.

Dwelling value growth was flat last month, with 0.1 percent growth across the combined capitals, according to the RP Data CoreLogic September Hedonic Home Value Index Results. In the three months to September 30, dwelling values increased by 2.9 percent.

Adelaide experienced the most significant monthly growth in relative terms (0.9 percent), while Sydney and Brisbane followed closely behind, with growth of 0.8 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.

Tim Lawless, RP Data Research Head, explained that annual appreciation in residential property values has moderated since April. He explained that the housing market is still “buoyant”, though the 12-month capital growth trend has been softening since mid-2014.

“A moderating annual trend, as well as the relatively flat September result, is likely to be welcome news to policy makers and potential buyers after the winter months recorded the largest capital gain since 2007,” Lawless said.

Taking in all these factors, the most important consideration when buying a property is calculating what you can comfortably afford to borrow and repay now — and in the future.

Buyers should use a home loan calculator to ensure they’re getting a suitable finance product for their needs and not borrowing beyond their means.

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Learn more about home loans

When do mortgage payments start after settlement?

Generally speaking, your first mortgage payment falls due one month after the settlement date. However, this may vary based on your mortgage terms. You can check the exact date by contacting your lender.

Usually your settlement agent will meet the seller’s representatives to exchange documents at an agreed place and time. The balance purchase price is paid to the seller. The lender will register a mortgage against your title and give you the funds to purchase the new home.

Once the settlement process is complete, the lender allows you to draw down the loan. The loan amount is debited from your loan account. As soon as the settlement paperwork is sorted, you can collect the keys to your new home and work your way through the moving-in checklist.

When does Commonwealth Bank charge an early exit fee?

When you take out a fixed interest home loan with the Commonwealth Bank, you’re able to lock the interest for a particular period. If the rates change during this period, your repayments remain unchanged. If you break the loan during the fixed interest period, you’ll have to pay the Commonwealth Bank home loan early exit fee and an administrative fee.

The Early Repayment Adjustment (ERA) and Administrative fees are applicable in the following instances:

  • If you switch your loan from fixed interest to variable rate
  • When you apply for a top-up home loan
  • If you repay over and above the annual threshold limit, which is $10,000 per year during the fixed interest period
  • When you prepay the entire outstanding loan balance before the end of the fixed interest duration.

The fee calculation depends on the interest rates, the amount you’ve repaid and the loan size. You can contact the lender to understand more about what you may have to pay. 

Cash or mortgage – which is more suitable to buy an investment property?

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.

Why does Westpac charge an early termination fee for home loans?

The Westpac home loan early termination fee or break cost is applicable if you have a fixed rate home loan and repay part of or the whole outstanding amount before the fixed period ends. If you’re switching between products before the fixed period ends, you’ll pay a switching break cost and an administrative fee. 

The Westpac home loan early termination fee may not apply if you repay an amount below the prepayment threshold. The prepayment threshold is the amount Westpac allows you to repay during the fixed period outside your regular repayments.

Westpac charges this fee because when you take out a home loan, the bank borrows the funds with wholesale rates available to banks and lenders. Westpac will then work out your interest rate based on you making regular repayments for a fixed period. If you repay before this period ends, the lender may incur a loss if there is any change in the wholesale rate of interest.

What are the features of home loans for expats from Westpac?

If you’re an Australian citizen living and working abroad, you can borrow to buy a property in Australia. With a Westpac non-resident home loan, you can borrow up to 80 per cent of the property value to purchase a property whilst living overseas. The minimum loan amount for these loans is $25,000, with a maximum loan term of 30 years.

The interest rates and other fees for Westpac non-resident home loans are the same as regular home loans offered to borrowers living in Australia. You’ll have to submit proof of income, six-month bank statements, an employment letter, and your last two payslips. You may also be required to submit a copy of your passport and visa that shows you’re allowed to live and work abroad.

Can first home buyers apply for an ING home loan?

First home buyers can apply for an ING home loan, but first, they need to select the most suitable home loan product and calculate the initial deposit on their home loan. 

First-time buyers can also use ING’s online tool to estimate the amount they can borrow. ING offers home loan applicants a free property report to look up property value estimates. 

First home loan applicants struggling to understand the terms used may consider looking up ING’s first home buyer guide. Once the home buyer is ready to apply for the loan, they can complete an online application or call ING at 1800 100 258 during regular business hours.

How do you determine which home loan rates/products I’m shown?

When you check your home loan rate, you’ll supply some basic information about your current loan, including the amount owing on your mortgage and your current interest rate.

We’ll compare this information to the home loan options in the RateCity database and show you which home loan products you may be eligible to apply for.

 

Does the Home Loan Rate Promise apply to discounted interest rate offers, such as honeymoon rates?

No. Temporary discounts to home loan interest rates will expire after a limited time, so they aren’t valid for comparing home loans as part of the Home Loan Rate Promise.

However, if your home loan has been discounted from the lender’s standard rate on a permanent basis, you can check if we can find an even lower rate that could apply to you.

How do I apply for a home improvement loan?

When you want to renovate your home, you may need to take out a loan to cover the costs. You could apply for a home improvement loan, which is a personal loan that you use to cover the costs of your home renovations. There is no difference between applying for this type of home improvement loan and applying for a standard personal loan. It would be best to check and compare the features, fees and details of the loan before applying. 

Besides taking out a home improvement loan, you could also:

  1. Use the equity in your house: Equity is the difference between your property’s value and the amount you still owe on your home loan. You may be able to access this equity by refinancing your home loan and then using it to finance your home improvement.  Speak with your lender or a mortgage broker about accessing your equity.
  2. Utilise the redraw facility of your home loan: Check whether the existing home loan has a redraw facility. A redraw facility allows you to access additional funds you’ve repaid into your home loan. Some lenders offer this on variable rate home loans but not on fixed. If this option is available to you, contact your lender to discuss how to access it.
  3. Apply for a construction loan: A construction loan is typically used when constructing a new property but can also be used as a home renovation loan. You may find that a construction loan is a suitable option as it enables you to draw funds as your renovation project progresses. You can compare construction home loans online or speak to a mortgage broker about taking out such a loan.
  4. Look into government grants: Check whether there are any government grants offered when you need the funds and whether you qualify. Initiatives like the HomeBuilder Grant were offered by the Federal Government for a limited period until April 2021. They could help fund your renovations either in full or just partially.  

Is a home equity loan secured or unsecured?

Home equity is the difference between its current market price and the outstanding balance on the mortgage loan. The amount you can borrow against the equity in your property is known as a home equity loan.

A home equity loan is secured against your property. It means the lender can recoup your property if you default on the repayments. A secured home equity loan is available at a competitive rate of interest and may be repaid over the long-term. Although a home equity loan is secured, lenders will assess your income, expenses, and other liabilities before approving your application. You’ll also want  a good credit score to qualify for a home equity loan. 

How to apply for a pre-approval home loan from Bendigo Bank?

Applying for pre-approval on your home loan gives you confidence in your ability to secure finance while looking at potential new homes. You can get a free and personalised pre-approval home loan from Bendigo Bank in just a few minutes, without any credit checks or paperwork. 

Bendigo Bank offers pre-approval for home loans that allow you to understand the home loan size you may be able to get before looking for a new home. 

With the pre-approval, Bendigo Bank provides an estimate of your borrowing power. This figure incorporates stamp duty, lenders mortgage insurance (LMI) and any first home buyer incentives you may be eligible for. You may also qualify for the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme initiative, depending on your circumstances. 

To apply for a pre-approval on your home loan from Bendigo Bank, all you need to do is fill in a smart form. You could also contact the bank directly on 1300 236 344.

What happens to my home loan when interest rates rise?

If you are on a variable rate home loan, every so often your rate will be subject to increases and decreases. Rate changes are determined by your lender, not the Reserve Bank of Australia, however often when the RBA changes the cash rate, a number of banks will follow suit, at least to some extent. You can use RateCity cash rate to check how the latest interest rate change affected your mortgage interest rate.

When your rate rises, you will be required to pay your bank more each month in mortgage repayments. Similarly, if your interest rate is cut, then your monthly repayments will decrease. Your lender will notify you of what your new repayments will be, although you can do the calculations yourself, and compare other home loan rates using our mortgage calculator.

There is no way of conclusively predicting when interest rates will go up or down on home loans so if you prefer a more stable approach consider opting for a fixed rate loan.

How do I apply for Westpac’s first home buyer loan?

If you’re a first home buyer looking to apply for a home loan with Westpac, they offer an online home loan application. They suggest the application can be completed in about 20 minutes. Based on the information you provide, Westpac will advise you the amount you can borrow and the costs associated with any possible home loan. 

You can use Westpac’s online mortgage calculators to estimate your borrowing power. You can also work out the time it might take to save up for the deposit, and the size of your home loan repayments

When applying for a home loan with Westpac, you’re assigned a home finance manager who can address your concerns and provide information. The manager will also offer guidance on any government grants you may be eligible for. 

What is a variable home loan?

A variable rate home loan is one where the interest rate can and will change over the course of your loan. The rate is determined by your lender, not the Reserve Bank of Australia, so while the cash rate might go down, your bank may decide not to follow suit, although they do broadly follow market conditions. One of the upsides of variable rates is that they are typically more flexible than their fixed rate counterparts which means that a lot of these products will let you make extra repayments and offer features such as offset accounts.