First home buyers beware of intro-rate loans

First home buyers beware of intro rate loans

May 12, 2011

Home buyers are being urged to consider introductory-rate home loans with caution, following an increase in uptake of the often surprisingly expensive honeymoon-period home loans.

The growth in introductory-rate mortgages follows a string of recent advertising campaigns from the banks, which market these types of loans to a public that may be unaware of the real costs involved.

Damian Smith, chief executive of financial comparison site RateCity, says introductory-rate home loans can cause long-term financial strain for a very short-term reprieve.

“Many lenders offer an introductory home loan deal with a discounted interest rate for a short period of time,” he says.

RateCity monitors 70 introductory home loans, most of which offer a discount for the first 12 months.

“While a discounted interest rate might be tempting when entering the property market for the first time, once the honeymoon is over the interest rate always reverts to a much higher rate than what you could find from another home loan,” Smith says.

First home buyers feel the biggest sting
First home buyers are the most vulnerable to sudden increases in interest rates at the end of a honeymoon period and the real concern is that this group will suffer financial strain if they choose an introductory-rate loan, more than other borrowers.

That’s because they are new to the real estate market and are often young and earning less so their proportion of income to repayments is higher.

“Once the honeymoon period ends and you have to pay hundreds of dollars more each month, the extra costs for one year of reprieve probably won’t be worth it,” Smith says.

The real costs of intro-rate mortgages
On average, introductory-rate home loans cost borrowers in excess of $16,000 more than ordinary variable mortgages, according to RateCity date (when comparing variable intro-rate mortgages with a 12-month honeymoon period and for a $300,000 loan).

That’s because the average advertised rate for introductory home loans of $300,000 available through RateCity is 6.8 percent, while the average revert rate is 7.58 percent. By comparison, the average interest rate for all variable rate loans is 7.27 percent.

The financial cost in the first year is around $1000 less for borrowers in their honeymoon period than those with the average variable rate loan. But for the years following, honeymooners pay $60 per month more or $16,000 over the 25-year loan.

“Introductory-rate home loans only suit those that are planning to pay off their mortgage during the honeymoon period or shortly after and borrowers who plan to switch to a better deal directly following the honeymoon period,” Smith says.

So before you sign up for an introductory-rate home loan you’d be wise to consider the ongoing costs of this type of loan. Because by opting for a low-rate mortgage from the beginning instead, you too could potentially save tens of thousands of dollars.

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What is a honeymoon rate and honeymoon period?

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.

What is a comparison rate?

The comparison rate is a more inclusive way of comparing home loans that factors in not only on the interest rate but also the majority of upfront and ongoing charges that add to the total cost of a home loan.

The rate is calculated using an industry-wide formula based on a $150,000 loan over a 25-year period and includes things like revert rates after an introductory or fixed rate period, application fees and monthly account keeping fees.

In Australia, all lenders are required by law to publish the comparison rate alongside their advertised rate so people can compare products easily.

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.

What is a standard variable rate (SVR)?

The standard variable rate (SVR) is the interest rate a lender applies to their standard home loan. It is a variable interest rate which is normally used as a benchmark from which they price their other variable rate home loan products.

A standard variable rate home loan typically includes most, if not all the features the lender has on offer, such as an offset account, but it often comes with a higher interest rate attached than their most ‘basic’ product on offer (usually referred to as their basic variable rate mortgage).

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.

What is the difference between fixed, variable and split rates?

Fixed rate

A fixed rate home loan is a loan where the interest rate is set for a certain amount of time, usually between one and 15 years. The advantage of a fixed rate is that you know exactly how much your repayments will be for the duration of the fixed term. There are some disadvantages to fixing that you need to be aware of. Some products won’t let you make extra repayments, or offer tools such as an offset account to help you reduce your interest, while others will charge a significant break fee if you decide to terminate the loan before the fixed period finishes.

Variable rate

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.

Split rates home loans

A split loan lets you fix a portion of your loan, and leave the remainder on a variable rate so you get a bet each way on fixed and variable rates. A split loan is a good option for someone who wants the peace of mind that regular repayments can provide but still wants to retain some of the additional features variable loans typically provide such as an offset account. Of course, with most things in life, split loans are still a trade-off. If the variable rate goes down, for example, the lower interest rates will only apply to the section that you didn’t fix.

Remaining loan term

The length of time it will take to pay off your current home loan, based on the currently-entered mortgage balance, monthly repayment and interest rate.

What is the average annual percentage rate?

Also known as the comparison rate, or sometimes the ‘true rate’ of a loan, the average annual percentage rate (AAPR) is used to indicate the overall cost of a loan after considering all the fees, charges and other factors, such as introductory offers and honeymoon rates.

The AAPR is calculated based on a standardised loan amount and loan term, and doesn’t include any extra non-standard charges.

What is a fixed home loan?

A fixed rate home loan is a loan where the interest rate is set for a certain amount of time, usually between one and 15 years. The advantage of a fixed rate is that you know exactly how much your repayments will be for the duration of the fixed term. There are some disadvantages to fixing that you need to be aware of. Some products won’t let you make extra repayments, or offer tools such as an offset account to help you reduce your interest, while others will charge a significant break fee if you decide to terminate the loan before the fixed period finishes.

Who has the best home loan?

Determining who has the ‘best’ home loan really does depend on your own personal circumstances and requirements. It may be tempting to judge a loan merely on the interest rate but there can be added value in the extras on offer, such as offset and redraw facilities, that aren’t available with all low rate loans.

To determine which loan is the best for you, think about whether you would prefer the consistency of a fixed loan or the flexibility and potential benefits of a variable loan. Then determine which features will be necessary throughout the life of your loan. Thirdly, consider how much you are willing to pay in fees for the loan you want. Once you find the perfect combination of these three elements you are on your way to determining the best loan for you. 

What is the best interest rate for a mortgage?

The fastest way to find out what the lowest interest rates on the market are is to use a comparison website.

While a low interest rate is highly preferable, it is not the only factor that will determine whether a particular loan is right for you.

Loans with low interest rates can often include hidden catches, such as high fees or a period of low rates which jumps up after the introductory period has ended.

To work out the best value for money, have a look at a loan’s comparison rate and read the fine print to get across all the fees and charges that you could be theoretically charged over the life of the loan.

What is the difference between a fixed rate and variable rate?

A variable rate can fluctuate over the life of a loan as determined by your lender. While the rate is broadly reflective of market conditions, including the Reserve Bank’s cash rate, it is by no means the sole determining factor in your bank’s decision-making process.

A fixed rate is one which is set for a period of time, regardless of market fluctuations. Fixed rates can be as short as one year or as long as 15 years however after this time it will revert to a variable rate, unless you negotiate with your bank to enter into another fixed term agreement

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 however fixed rates do offer customers a level of security by knowing exactly how much they need to set aside each month.

Why should I get an ING home loan pre-approval?

When you apply for an ING home loan pre-approval, you might be required to provide proof of employment and income, savings, as well as details on any on-going debts. The lender could also make a credit enquiry against your name. If you’re pre-approved, you will know how much money ING is willing to lend you. 

Please note, however, that a pre-approval is nothing more than an idea of your ability to borrow funds and is not the final approval. You should receive the home loan approval  only after finalising the property and submitting a formal loan application to the lender, ING. Additionally, a pre-approval does not stay valid indefinitely, since your financial circumstances and the home loan market could change overnight.

 

 

Does Westpac offer loan maternity leave options?

Having a baby or planning for one can bring about a lot of changes in your life, including to the hip pocket. You may need to re-do the budget to make sure you can afford the upcoming expenses, especially if one partner is taking parental leave to look after the little one. 

Some families find it difficult to meet their home loan repayment obligations during this period. Flexible options, such as the Westpac home loan maternity leave offerings, have been put together to help reduce the pressure of repayments during parental leave.

Westpac offers a couple of choices, depending on your circumstances:

  • Parental Leave Mortgage Repayment Reduction: You could get your home loan repayments reduced for up to 12 months for home loans with a term longer than a year. 
  • Mortgage Repayment Pause: You can pause repayments while on maternity leave, provided you’ve made additional repayments earlier.

When applying for a home loan while pregnant, Westpac has said it will recognise paid maternity leave and back-to-work salaries. All you need is a letter from your employer verifying your return-to-work date and the nature of your employment. Your partner’s income, government entitlements, savings and investments will may help your application.