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How to bag a real estate bargain

How to bag a real estate bargain

Everyone wants to find a bargain when house-hunting and in a real estate market such as this; when house prices are either flat or declining, now could be the time to get a foot on the property ladder.

When it comes to buying real estate, the truth is that you always get what you pay for. However by understanding the market, knowing what to buy and choosing the best finance options, bagging a bargain is possible. Here are some lessons to help you buy, negotiate and secure a home loan like a professional.

Do the research

A property in a bad area may be priced cheaply, but if no one wants to buy or rent it from you there is little chance of achieving capital gains. A true bargain can be a regular-priced property that has something unique about it, which not everyone recognises, or potential for improvement such as with a renovation.

First, you will need to know what to buy and the answer will depend on your circumstances and goals; are you buying to live in a property, or do you want an investment with the potential for high yield? How much income do you have available, and do you have the skills or patience to renovate?

Second, to really understand property values you’ll need to do the legwork. Use free housing data sources, for instance reports from Australian Bureau of Statistics, or RP Data (detailed reports may come at a cost). It also pays to get out and inspect properties; not just online, but also in person. Talk to real estate agents and property managers to gauge demand in the area and local sale prices.

Negotiate to win

At the time of making an offer, amateur buyers can become emotionally involved, losing sight of the bigger picture and even paying too much for a property. Professionals keep financial perspective and as a result have the upper hand when negotiating on price. Set a price ceiling and stick to it, or have an agent or friend negotiate on your behalf.

Finally, choosing the best home loan or investment loan can mean long-term financial gain of tens of thousands of dollars. That’s because the amount of interest paid on say, a $400,000 home loan repaid over 25 years, will differ significantly depending on the interest rate charged.

For example, the average of the big four’s standard variable home loan rates is around 7.4 percent. At this rate, a borrower will repay $2930 per month and $478,997 over the life of the above loan.

By opting for one of the cheapest rates on the market, at around 6.2 percent, the same borrower would cut monthly repayments by more than $300 and save more than $91,000 long term assuming the rate remains steady. Clearly, it is at this stage in the buying process that the real bargains are to be found.

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Learn more about home loans

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.

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.

What is my property value?

Your property’s value is how much your property is worth to a bank or mortgage lender, when it comes to securing a mortgage over a property and calculating the loan to value ratio (LVR).

A professional valuer assesses a property’s value based on data about the property, its sale history, and other recent sales in the area. The valuer may also visit the property to assess its condition in person.

A property’s value may be different to a real estate agent’s appraisal, which indicates how much a property may sell for. It’s also often different to a property’s sale price at auction or private sale, which shows how much a buyer thinks it’s worth in the current market. 

How can I apply for a first home buyers loan with Commonwealth Bank?

Getting a home loan requires planning and research. If you are considering a home loan with the Commonwealth Bank, you can find the information you need in the buying your first home section of the bank’s website.

You can see the steps you should take before applying for the loan and use the calculators to work out how much you can borrow, what your monthly repayments would be and the upfront costs you’d likely pay.

You can also book a time with a Commonwealth first home loan specialist by calling 13 2221.

CommBank publishes a property report that may help you understand the real estate market. The bank has also created a CommBank Property App that you can use to search for property.  The link to download this app is available on the same webpage.

If you are eligible for the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, CommBank will help you process your application. The scheme helps first home buyers to purchase a home with a low deposit. You can read details about this scheme here and speak with a CommBank home lending specialist to understand your options.

What is a secured home loan?

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. 

Is it free to get your house appraised?

A house appraisal, in which a qualified real estate agent assesses a property to make an estimate of its value, is a service that is generally offered to homeowners free of charge.

Local real estate agents tend to offer free property appraisals to homeowners as a way to build a relationship with them, and potentially secure the listing if the homeowner has plans to sell.

It can also be a good opportunity for the homeowner to gauge the agent’s level of expertise and determine whether or not they would be an ideal listing agent for the sale of their home.

You may also like to consider using an online service like RateCity to get a free property value report. Similar to an appraisal, the report is a computer generated valuation based on a significant amount of data and insights, and can provide details including the estimated property price and information about similar properties for sale or recently sold in the area.

Does Real Time Ratings' work for people who already have a home loan?

Yes. If you already have a mortgage you can use Real Time RatingsTM to compare your loan against the rest of the market. And if your rate changes, you can come back and check whether your loan is still competitive. If it isn’t, you’ll get the ammunition you need to negotiate a rate cut with your lender, or the resources to help you switch to a better lender.

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. 

What's wrong with traditional ratings systems?

They’re impersonal 

Most comparison sites give you information about rates, fees and features, but expect you’ll pay more with a low advertised rate and $400 ongoing fee or a slightly higher rate and no ongoing fee. The answer is different for each borrower and depends on a number of variables, in particular how big your loan is. Comparisons are either done based on just today or projected over a full 25 or 30 year loan. That’s not how people borrow these days. While you may take a 30 year loan, most borrowers will either upgrade their house or switch their home loan within the first five years. 

You’re also expected to know exactly which features you want. This is fine for the experienced borrower, but most people know some flexibility is a good thing, but don’t know exactly which features offer more flexibility than others. 

What is the flexibility score?

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.

They’re not always timely

In today’s competitive home loan market, lenders are releasing new offers almost daily. These offers are often some of the most attractive deals in the market, but won’t get rated by traditional ratings systems for up to a year. 

The assumptions are out of date 

The comparison rate is based on a loan size of $150,000 and a loan term of 25 years. However, the typical loan size is much higher than that. Million dollar loans are becoming increasingly common, especially if you live in metropolitan parts of Australia, like Sydney and Melbourne. It’s also uncommon for borrowers to hold a loan for 25 years. The typical shelf life for a home loan is a few years. 

The other problem is because it’s a percentage, the difference between 3.9 or 3.7 per cent on a $500,000 doesn’t sound like much, but equals around $683 a year. Real Time Ratings™ not only looks at the difference in the monthly repayments, but it will work out the actual cost difference once fees are taken into consideration. 

How long does ANZ take to approve a home loan?

The process of applying for a home loan usually stays the same across all lenders. On the other hand, the time it takes for a lender to approve the home loan differs from lender to lender. When it comes to ANZ, it takes anywhere between 15 to 18 business days to approve a home loan from the day of the application to approval. This timeframe is highly dependent on the credibility and availability of your documentation. You can apply for an ANZ home loan in two ways; a Quick Start home loan application or a full online application.

If you opt for the Quick Start home loan option, you’ll need to fill out a form with basic details. During this stage, you don’t need to add any supporting information. An ANZ representative will then call you within 48 hours. The representative will help take your application forward, including assessing all relevant information, documentation and conducting a credit check.

You can also submit your entire home loan application with ANZ online by filling out a comprehensive form with all the information and documentation needed.

Once ANZ has conducted the preliminary checks, you’ll be informed of the pre-approved amount they’re willing to offer. Based on this amount, you can set a budget for your property search and make sure you stay inside your budget. Pre-approval will last for three months but can be extended by applying with ANZ if you don’t find a property. But it’s best to find a property as soon as possible as ANZ may decide to change the amount if your financial situation changes.

After you find a property and have your offer accepted, ANZ may send an assessor to the property to verify it’s value. If everything is per their terms and conditions, ANZ will finalise your home loan’s approval and release the funds.

What does unconditional approval from Aussie Home Loans mean for first time home buyers?

As an Aussie home loan first time home buyer, your loan application passes through multiple stages. Early in the process, you’ll receive conditional approval, which means the lender approves your loan application as long as you meet certain conditions. Some of these criteria include selling another property or repaying existing debt.

The next stage is unconditional approval which is the final decision from the lender. After considering all the relevant information, the lender is willing to offer you a certain amount to buy a specific property.

Unconditional approval is also known as formal or full approval but receiving this doesn’t mean you need to accept the money. If you choose to proceed and accept the funds, you’ll sign the loan documents to finalise the loan and receive the money. You can, at this time, clarify any doubts you have with your Aussie broker.

You’re likely to get conditional approval, sometimes called pre-approval, when you want to get clear on your budget. You’ll then apply for unconditional or formal approval once you’ve found a property and made an offer. This process will involve the lender reviewing your finances and the details of the property you wish to purchase to make sure you can repay a loan on that property.

As a first time buyer, it may help you with the purchasing process to seek pre-approval or conditional approval. This may speed up the final purchasing process and help you through the home loan process in steps rather than all at once.

How do I refinance my home loan?

Refinancing your home loan can involve a bit of paperwork but if you are moving on to a lower rate, it can save you thousands of dollars in the long-run. The first step is finding another loan on the market that you think will save you money over time or offer features that your current loan does not have. Once you have selected a couple of loans you are interested in, compare them with your current loan to see if you will save money in the long term on interest rates and fees. Remember to factor in any break fees and set up fees when assessing the cost of switching.

Once you have decided on a new loan it is simply a matter of contacting your existing and future lender to get the new loan set up. Beware that some lenders will revert your loan back to a 25 or 30 year term when you refinance which may mean initial lower repayments but may cost you more in the long run.

What is a valuation?

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.