Interest-only loans are back

Interest-only loans are back

Interest-only loans have seen a resurgence, despite questions raised by a regulatory review about their appropriateness for certain borrowers. 

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission kicked off the investigation after it discovered only a few lenders kept documentation on how interest-only loans met borrowers’ specific circumstances. 

It found while there has been an improvement over the last year, with a 12 per cent decrease in new interest-only loans approved by lenders, some borrowers’ understanding of the risks and benefits of interest-only loans was still lacking. 

Interest-only loans see borrowers pay the interest portion only, instead of both interest and principal, for a set period of time. One of the major risks is that the borrower is unable to meet the higher repayments when the interest-only term ends. 

Before taking on an interest-only home loan, it’s important to speak to a professional about the pros and cons and whether the loan meets your individual needs. 

Interest-only costs (source: MoneySmart)

Assuming a $500,000 loan, with interest rate of 6 per cent: 

Principal and interest Interest-only for 5 years Interest-only for 10 years
Monthly repayments during interest-only period $3000 $2500 $2500
Monthly repayments during interest-only period $3000 $3220 $3580
Total repayments made $1,079,000 $1,116,000 $1,159,000
Additional interest paid due to the interest-only period $0 $37,200 $80,500

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Learn more about home loans

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.

What is 'principal and interest'?

‘Principal and interest’ loans are the most common type of home loans on the market. The principal part of the loan is the initial sum lent to the customer and the interest is the money paid on top of this, at the agreed interest rate, until the end of the loan.

By reducing the principal amount, the total of interest charged will also become smaller until eventually the debt is paid off in full.

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. 

How can I calculate interest on my home loan?

You can calculate the total interest you will pay over the life of your loan by using a mortgage calculator. The calculator will estimate your repayments based on the amount you want to borrow, the interest rate, the length of your loan, whether you are an owner-occupier or an investor and whether you plan to pay ‘principal and interest’ or ‘interest-only’.

If you are buying a new home, the calculator will also help you work out how much you’ll need to pay in stamp duty and other related costs.

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.

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.

How do I calculate monthly mortgage repayments?

Work out your mortgage repayments using a home loan calculator that takes into account your deposit size, property value and interest rate. This is divided by the loan term you choose (for example, there are 360 months in a 30-year mortgage) to determine the monthly repayments over this time frame.

Over the course of your loan, your monthly repayment amount will be affected by changes to your interest rate, plus any circumstances where you opt to pay interest-only for a period of time, instead of principal and 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.

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.

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.

How long does Westpac take to approve a home loan?

Applying for a home loan at Westpac is fairly simple. The process from initial application to settlement varies in its time frame. Some customers receive in-principle approval within a couple of days. 

You can initiate the process by filling out the bank’s home loan form and requesting a callback. A Westpac representative will get in touch with you within 24 hours. You will need to provide the following information to the representative during the call: 

  • Total income
  • Total expenses
  • Details about all your liabilities and debts
  • Information and value of all your assets. 

The Westpac representative will then share with you information about the types of home loans you may qualify for, along with an estimate of interest rates and applicable fees. 

Once Westpac has received all your details, loan preferences, and documents, the representative will assess all the information. If everything is in order, you may receive an Approval in Principle (AIP) within 2 working days. This specifies the amount Westpac is willing to offer for your home loan. 

Your Approval in Principle will often remain valid for only 90 days and if you don’t find a suitable property within that time frame, you need to apply for a renewal on your Approval in Principle. In this circumstance, if the Westpac representative confirms that there are no changes in your financial circumstances, your Approval can be extended for another 90 days. 

After you have found a home that matches the Approval in Principle, you will need a confirmed contract of sale before Westpac initiates the loan settlement. This process takes about 4-12 weeks or 2-5 days if you’re refinancing. 

How much of a deposit do I need for a home loan from the Commonwealth bank?

The minimum deposit the Commonwealth Bank usually accepts is 10 percent of the amount you wish to borrow. However, a deposit of at least 20 percent of the amount you’re borrowing is needed if you wish to avoid Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI). LMI is charged for smaller deposits to give the lender extra recourse if the borrower fails to repay their loan. 

As an alternative to LMI, some borrowers with smaller deposits may opt to pay the Commonwealth Bank’s low deposit premium fee. It is a one-time, non-refundable charge that is added to a low-deposit home loan.

The deposit and the loan amounts are used to determine the LDP -, the higher the deposit, the lower is this cost. 

When calculating how much you need to save, don’t forget to factor in other expenses like stamp duty, insurance, legal fees, and moving costs.

What do people do with a Macquarie Bank reverse?

There are a number of ways people use a Macquarie Bank reverse mortgage. Below are some reasons borrowers tend to release their home’s equity via a reverse mortgage:

  • To top up superannuation or pension income to pay for monthly bills;
  • To consolidate and repay high-interest debt like credit cards or personal loans;
  • To fund renovations, repairs or upgrades to their home
  • To help your children or grandkids through financial difficulties. 

While there are no limitations on how you can use a Macquarie reverse mortgage loan, a reverse mortgage is not right for all borrowers. Reverse mortgages compound the interest, which means you end up paying interest on your interest. They can also affect your entitlement to things like the pension It’s important to think carefully, read up and speak with your family before you apply for a reverse mortgage.

What is the ANZ home loan settlement process?

Settlement is the procedure for the official transfer of ownership between the seller and buyer. It’s often done without the seller or buyers input but between both parties’ the financial and legal representatives.

Here is how the ANZ home loan settlement process works:

  1. The solicitor or conveyancer prepares the Transfer of Land document at least two weeks before the settlement date.
  2. The signed document is registered at the state or territory land registry office.
  3. Your solicitor or conveyancer will connect with the ANZ home loan settlement contact and the seller’s solicitor or conveyancer to finalise the date, time, and place of settlement.
  4. You must deposit any applicable amount into your ANZ account three days before the settlement date.
  5. After the settlement is completed, your solicitor or conveyancer will send you a Statement of Adjustment confirming the disbursal of funds from your home loan amongst the involved parties.