Looking beyond the rate, other home loan features to get excited about

Looking beyond the rate, other home loan features to get excited about

Many of us get hung up on interest rates when comparing different home loans. It’s easy to understand why – “the lower the rate, the better the loan” is a very simple formula to understand.

Taking this train of thought further down the track is the Comparison Rate, which combines a home loan’s interest rate with its standard fees and charges, giving you a closer indication of a loan’s overall cost.

But as many a savvy mortgage broker or financial adviser will tell you, there’s much more to a home loan than its interest or comparison rate. Sure, interest is the biggest cost associated with most home loans, so nobody wants to pay too much, but there are other home loan features that can make a massive difference to your finances under the right circumstances.

Here are just a few of them:

Extra repayments

Some lenders lock their borrowers into pre-set payment plans, where they’re required to pay back the scheduled amount of loan principal and interest – no more, no less. These payment plans tend to be especially common for home loans with fixed interest rates.  

While this arrangement allows lenders to enjoy a steady and consistent income stream, it isn’t always ideal for borrowers, who may sometimes have some extra money available to add onto their loan, which can pay off a bit more of their loan principal and shrink their interest charges in the future.

If your long-term financial plan involves paying off your home loan ahead of schedule by slowly but surely dropping a bit extra onto the loan each month, make sure your mortgage includes the option to make extra repayments.

Redraw facility

Let’s say that financially speaking, you’ve had a good couple of months. Not too many bills, plus some unexpected windfalls means you have a small stockpile of savings sitting in your bank account. If you were to put this money onto your home loan, you’d pay off a bit more of your principal, thus making one small step towards paying your loan off ahead of schedule and saving on interest charges. So far, so good.

Fast-forward a couple more months. They haven’t been the best – extra bills and unexpected expenses have left your household budget coming up short. You find yourself in real need of those extra savings you recently had available, but because you paid them onto your home loan, you’ll need to look elsewhere for financial relief. 

If you’d like to avoid this kind of unfortunate situation, it’s worth looking for a home loan that includes a Redraw Facility, which offers you access to your extra home loan repayments, allowing you to withdraw them from your loan when you need them back in your pocket. You’ll still need to keep up to date with your loan’s repayment schedule, and will only be able to redraw your loan’s surplus funds, but a redraw facility remains a handy addition to a home loan that can prove very valuable in the right circumstances.

Offset account 

As we’ve established, reducing interest charges on your home loan is a Good Thing. So is flexible and convenient access to your money when you need it most.

Another feature that can help you to enjoy both benefits is an offset account – a savings or transaction account that’s linked to your loan, so that any money you pay into it is accounted for when calculating your loan’s interest charges.

For example, if you owe $500,000 on your mortgage, but have $100,000 in your offset account, you’ll be charged interest on your home loan as if you only owed $400,000. Some home loans have partial offset accounts, which only count a percentage of the account’s savings when calculating your loan’s interest. For example, $100,000 in a 50% partial offset account in the previous example would only effectively contribute $50,000 towards your home loan, meaning for a $500,000 loan, you’d be charged interest as if you owed $450,000.

Otherwise, offset accounts typically work a lot like other bank accounts, allowing you to deposit, withdraw or transfer money as required. It’s usually worth trying to keep a minimum balance available in your offset account to make the most of its benefits. For example, if you keep enough money in your offset account that your interest savings will effectively cover you home loan’s annual fee, you’re already ahead of the pack.

Line of Credit

Once you’ve been paying a mortgage for a few years, you’ll have likely built up a fair amount of equity in your property, especially if rising house prices have increased your property’s overall value.

So, what if you wanted to put some of this equity to work for you? What if you wanted to pay for renovations to your property, invest in shares, or start a business? While it is possible to refinance a home loan and borrow some extra money, this does mean paying more in interest over time.

One alternative option is a Line of Credit home loan – effectively functioning as a home loan combined with a credit card with a MUCH higher limit than usual, typically based on your level of equity in your property. You can borrow any amount up to this limit, and only pay interest on what you borrow, which can prove useful in the right circumstances, such as if you’re not quite certain how much finance you’ll need to cover your new venture.

Home loans for refinancing:

 

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Learn more about home loans

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.  

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. 

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 are the different types of home loan interest rates?

A home loan interest rate is used to calculate how much you’ll pay the lender, usually annually, above the amount you borrow. It’s what the lenders charge you for them lending you money and will impact the total amount you’ll pay over the life of your home loan. 

Having understood what are home loan rates in general, here are the two types you usually have with a home loan:

Fixed rates

These interest rates remain constant for a specific period and are a good option if you’re a first-time buyer or if you’re looking for a fixed monthly repayment. One possible downside of a fixed rate is that it may be higher than a variable rate. Also, you don’t benefit from any lowering of interest rates in the market. On the flip side, if rates go up, your rate won’t change, possibly saving you money.

Variable rates

With variable interest rates, the lender can change them at any time. This change can be based on economic conditions or other reasons. Changes in interest rates could be beneficial if your monthly repayment decreases but can be a problem if it increases. Variable interest rates offer several other benefits often not available with fixed rate home loans like redraw and offset facilities and free extra repayments. 

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.

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.

 

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 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.

How does an offset account work?

An offset account functions as a transaction account that is linked to your home loan. The balance of this account is offset daily against the loan amount and reduces the amount of principal that you pay interest on.

By using an offset account it’s possible to reduce the length of your loan and the total amount of interest payed by thousands of dollars. 

Example: If you have a mortgage of $500,000 but holding an offset account with $50,000, you will only pay interest on $450,000 rather then $500,000.

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 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.

How to apply for a home loan pre-approval from St. George?

By applying for a home loan pre-approval, you can establish how much you can afford to borrow and look for houses within that pre-approved budget. Getting home loan pre-approval from St. George is a fairly simple process that can be completed within 15 minutes. 

The first step in this process is completing a home loan application. Once that application is submitted, a home loan expert from St. George will contact you to understand your requirements and your current financial position. You could also directly contact a home loan expert at the bank by calling 13 33 30 or by visiting your nearest branch. 

Once the application has been processed, the home loan expert will ask for some basic documentation to confirm your borrowing capacity. After this, you should be issued a home loan pre-approval, subject to certain conditions. 

Based on your home loan pre-approval from St. George, you can then find a property and make an offer. Your home loan expert will arrange to have the property valued and may request for more documentation, taking your home loan application to the next step. 

 

 

How do you qualify for a CBA home loan with casual employment?

Qualifying for a home loan without a full-time job may be challenging, but it can be done. The first step is to understand how a CBA home loan is assessed when you have casual employment.

Most lenders will assess your expenses and savings while checking your loan eligibility, checking on factors crucial to home loan approval, such as if your bills are paid on time and what your credit score presently looks like. 

Your income can be one of the most critical factors to determine your final approved home loan amount. As such, you’ll need to provide payslip copies to lenders to assist them in assessing your income during the loan tenure, regardless of your employment status, full-time, part-time, or otherwise.

Casual employees will want to be casually employed for at least 12 months to be eligible for a home loan. Alternatively, you want to have worked as a permanent casual worker (working for a fixed number of hours per week) for at least one month, or you should have been in your current job for a minimum of three months (if the hours are irregular) to be eligible for the loan.