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What are some home equity loan alternatives?

What are some home equity loan alternatives?

Need cash fast but aren’t keen to take out an additional loan to dip into the equity you’ve paid into your mortgage? There are alternative options out there if you know where to look, some of which may charge little to no interest.

One popular option you may have come across is a home equity loan. This involves a borrower with an existing mortgage who has paid equity into the loan to take out an additional loan secured by said equity.

For example, if a borrower has a house now worth $1 million and $600,000 outstanding on their mortgage, then they have an equity value of $400,000. A home equity loan may allow you to access your usable equity as a loan. Your usable equity is typically 80% of your home value minus your remaining mortgage – in this case, 80% of $1 million is $800,000, minus your $600,000 mortgage, leaves you with $200,000 in usable equity. Some borrowers may use these funds for renovations to further boost the value of their property, so that they then in turn increase their equity.

Whether you’ve been hit with an unexpected repair bill or are hoping to take the family on a holiday, there are a range of reasons why someone may need to access cash. And not every borrower will want to consider a home equity loan.

Let’s explore some of the alternatives that may be available for mortgage holders looking to access funds:

  • Offset account and redraw facility

If your home loan offers features like an offset account or a redraw facility, an alternative to a home equity loan may be to just withdraw some of these funds.

With an offset account, if you’ve been making payments into the account, you should be able to withdraw some or all without penalty as you need. With a redraw facility, if you’ve been making extra repayments into your home loan, you may be able to withdraw some, or all, of these funds. Some providers may charge a fee for accessing funds in the redraw facility, so double check this before you proceed.

The benefit of using these features instead of taking out a home equity loan is that you’re able to access funds without taking on additional debt. However, by doing so you may again increase the amount owing on your loan and see your regular mortgage repayments increase, as well as the amount of interest you may pay over the life of the loan.

  • Refinance to access equity

One of the many reasons homeowners may consider refinancing is to access the equity in their mortgage. If you’re hoping to avoid a home equity loan, you may want to consider refinancing your mortgage to unlock the equity in it.

When you refinance your mortgage to a new provider you may want to negotiate increasing the loan amount. For example, the hypothetical borrower with a $600,000 mortgage but $400,000 in equity may refinance to a new lender but choose to increase the mortgage to $650,000. The lender may choose to allow this as they know the borrower has enough equity in their property to service this additional $50,000 if the worst occurred and they defaulted on the loan.

Ideally, you would also refinance to a lower rate lender or one that charges lower fees. This is because by adding to your loan amount you’ll understandably increase your ongoing mortgage repayments and the total interest paid over the life of the loan. It may be better for your finances if you balance out the new higher loan amount with a lower interest rate, for example.

  • 0% purchase credit card

Another alternative to taking out a home equity loan may be to instead consider another credit product altogether. If you’re looking to access cash but want to avoid paying interest as much as possible, you may want to consider the benefits of a 0% purchase credit card.

This type of credit card allows borrowers to access credit and avoid interest charges for a set period - typically a few months but up to two years for some card issuers. And unlike a home equity loan or using an offset account or redraw, you won’t be charged additional interest for the interest-free period.

Keep in mind that once the interest-free period ends, your credit card will revert to a higher-than-average interest rate. The balance owing on your account will start to accrue interest. Credit cards typically have much higher interest rates than home loans or personal loans, so if you’re considering this option you’ll want to ensure:

  1. You’ve set a budget that means the purchase you make is repaid within the interest-free period and,
  2. You’re aware of exactly how long before the interest-free period ends.

There are a range of ways mortgage holders can access funds when needed, whether through their existing mortgage or by considering alternative products. Whatever option you choose, be sure to compare all the interest rates, fees, features and any other factors before making your final decision. Taking on additional debt, no matter the method, may hurt your finances if not managed responsibly.

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This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Mark Bristow before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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Learn more about home loans

Can I borrow extra on my mortgage for furniture?

Yes, you may be able to borrow extra on your mortgage for furniture. This may be done by considering a home equity loan. A home equity loan may allow you to access the equity in your mortgage for furniture via:

  • A line of credit – A pre-approved credit limit based on your equity.
  • A lump sum payment – Like a persona loan, with equity in your home loan used as security.

If you want to avoid borrowing more money, consider accessing cash deposited into your offset account or drawing down on extra repayments with a redraw facility to fund furniture purchases.

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 fast can you get a home equity loan?

Completing an application for a home equity loan may only take 20 to 30 minutes. It may take a lender anywhere from a day to a few weeks to process and approve your application. This may be affected by your financial situation, your level of equity, and whether or not your lender needs to organise an in-persona valuation of the property.

 Before you can apply for a home equity loan, you’ll need to build up some equity in your property. The more money you can put towards extra repayments to reduce your home loan principal, the faster you can increase your equity. Also, if property values in your area increase, this may help deliver an instant equity increase once your property has been valued.

What is equity? How can I use equity in my home loan?

Equity refers to the difference between what your property is worth and how much you owe on it. Essentially, it is the amount you have repaid on your home loan to date, although if your property has gone up in value it can sometimes be a lot more.

You can use the equity in your home loan to finance renovations on your existing property or as a deposit on an investment property. It can also be accessed for other investment opportunities or smaller purchases, such as a car or holiday, using a redraw facility.

Once you are over 65 you can even use the equity in your home loan as a source of income by taking out a reverse mortgage. This will let you access the equity in your loan in the form of regular payments which will be paid back to the bank following your death by selling your property. But like all financial products, it’s best to seek professional advice before you sign on the dotted line.

What is equity and home equity?

The percentage of a property effectively ‘owned’ by the borrower, equity is calculated by subtracting the amount currently owing on a mortgage from the property’s current value. As you pay back your mortgage’s principal, your home equity increases. Equity can be affected by changes in market value or improvements to your property.

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.  

What is a line of credit?

A line of credit, also known as a home equity loan, is a type of mortgage that allows you to borrow money using the equity in your property.

Equity is the value of your property, less any outstanding debt against it. For example, if you have a $500,000 property and a $300,000 mortgage against the property, then you have $200,000 equity. This is the portion of the property that you actually own.

This type of loan is a flexible mortgage that allows you to draw on funds when you need them, similar to a credit card.

Can I get a home renovation loan with bad credit?

If you're looking for funds to pay for repairs or renovations to your home, but you have a low credit score, you need to carefully consider your options. If you already have a mortgage, a good starting point is to check whether you can redraw money from that. You could also consider applying for a new home loan. 

Before taking out a new loan, it’s good to note that lenders are likely to charge higher interest rates on home repair loans for bad credit customers. Alternatively, they may be willing to lend you a smaller amount than a standard loan. You may also face some challenges with getting your home renovation loan application approved. If you do run into trouble, you can speak to your lender and ask whether they would be willing to approve your application if you have a guarantor or co-signer. You should also explain the reasons behind your bad credit rating and the steps that you’re taking to improve it. 

Consulting a financial advisor or mortgage broker can help you understand your options and make the right choice.

Can I take a personal loan after a home loan?

Are you struggling to pay the deposit for your dream home? A personal loan can help you pay the deposit. The question that may arise in your mind is can I take a home loan after a personal loan, or can you take a personal loan at the same time as a home loan, as it is. The answer is that, yes, provided you can meet the general eligibility criteria for both a personal loan and a home loan, your application should be approved. Those eligibility criteria may include:

  • Higher-income to show repayment capability for both the loans
  • Clear credit history with no delays in bill payments or defaults on debts
  • Zero or minimal current outstanding debt
  • Some amount of savings
  • Proven rent history will be positively perceived by the lenders

A personal loan after or during a home loan may impact serviceability, however, as the numbers can seriously add up. Every loan you avail of increases your monthly installments and the amount you use to repay the personal loan will be considered to lower the money available for the repayment of your home loan.

As to whether you can get a personal loan after your home loan, the answer is a very likely "yes", though it does come with a caveat: as long as you can show sufficient income to repay both the loans on time, you should be able to get that personal loan approved. A personal loan can also help to improve your credit score showing financial discipline and responsibility, which may benefit you with more favorable terms for your home loan.

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. 

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.

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.

Can you borrow the deposit for a home loan?

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.

What is an interest-only loan? How do I work out interest-only loan repayments?

An ‘interest-only’ loan is a loan where the borrower is only required to pay back the interest on the loan. Typically, banks will only let lenders do this for a fixed period of time – often five years – however some lenders will be happy to extend this.

Interest-only loans are popular with investors who aren’t keen on putting a lot of capital into their investment property. It is also a handy feature for people who need to reduce their mortgage repayments for a short period of time while they are travelling overseas, or taking time off to look after a new family member, for example.

While moving on to interest-only will make your monthly repayments cheaper, ultimately, you will end up paying your bank thousands of dollars extra in interest to make up for the time where you weren’t paying off the principal.