Refinancing: Benefits or Risky Business?

Refinancing Benefits or Risky Business?

By Amy Bradney-George
September 14, 2009

As the economic downturn continues to impact our financial stability, refinancing your home loan is a more promising option for many home owners.

Paying off a mortgage can sometimes seem like financial burden, and the seemingly never-ending repayments place added financial pressure on many families.

But with the right knowledge, mortgage stress can be significantly reduced through refinancing.

Home loan rates and products change regularly and as Damian Smith, RateCity’s CEO explains, comparing loans and taking action can save a lot of money.

“By looking at what loan you have and what is out there you can save money and protect yourself from further interest rate rises.”

Mr Smith said it’s now easier to find great deals than it has been in the past.

“One of the underlying factors, which I hope we can fix, is having access to the right information. The internet is a great tool for people considering refinancing because it provides up-to-date information and comparisons on interest rates and features.”

While changing loans can be challenging, Bankwest‘s Head of Mortgages, Dean Gillespie, said it’s often worth it.

“It’s important to have a good understanding of what home loan offers are out there so customers can keep competitive. With the right loan you can save thousands,” he said.

Adding it up
Working out how much money can be saved is the most important step in figuring out whether refinancing is right for you.

For instance, Mary is paying off a $275,000 mortgage at 5.78 percent p.a. Her monthly repayments would be about $1,735. The total financial cost over the life of this 25-year loan would be about $520,500.

If this loan was swapped for one with a lower interest rate, like Homestar’s Standard Variable Home Loan which has a comparison rate of 5.03 percent p.a., repayments for the same loan would be $123 less each month.

The total financial cost for this loan would be about $483,730. If Mary paid a $10,000 break cost to cancel her original loan, she would still be about $26,770 better off switching home loans.

What are the risks?
Before signing up to switch home loans, talk to both lenders to find out what process you will have to take with them.

In many cases, Mr Smith said, lenders will do as much as they can to keep you as customers.

“Financial institutions may have a lot more discretion than they let on. The only way you can negotiate these things is if you have the right information to back up your position.”

Be aware of what sort of exit fees you would have to pay. Business consultancy firm Fujitsu Australia and New Zealand, found that in April this year, 42 percent of households with fixed rate mortgages would have to pay $10,000 or more to switch loans.

The ‘deferred establishment fees’ on many variable rate home loans are harder to estimate with rate changes, but it’s vital to find out how much you would have to pay to refinance.

Mr Gillespie said exit fees should not deter people from seriously thinking about refinancing.

“Some banks hit hard with exit fees on their home loans. But before this discourages you, weigh these fees against potential savings because it can still be worth it,” he said.

The three steps to refinancing
Below are three important steps in the refinancing process that will help maximise how much you can save.

  1. Comparing rates – The most important step is comparing home loans online to find out the current rates, fees and features. This will help you determine how much you can save if you switched.
  2. Read the fine print – Check out the terms and conditions of your current loan and compare them with all prospective home loans. If you’re not happy with your mortgage, think about whether it’s because of the repayments, the service or the features. Comparing the different features and conditions available by other lenders will help you find a loan that suits your needs.
  3. Take action – Don’t be afraid to speak to your lender before things get ugly and explain your situation. Most financial institutions offer a variety of services including branch officers, information online or over the phone.

 

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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.  

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 the Home Loan Rate Promise?

The Home Loan Rate Promise is RateCity putting its money where its mouth is. We believe that too many Australians are paying too much for their home loans. We’re so confident we can help Aussies save money, if we can’t beat your current rate, we’ll give you a $100 gift card.*

There are two reasons it pays to check your rate with the Home Loan Rate Promise:

  • You can find out how much you could save on your home loan by switching to a loan with a lower interest rate
  • If we can’t beat your current rate, you can claim a $100 gift card with our Home Loan Rate Promise*

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.

 

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.

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. 

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.

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 is interest charged on a reverse mortgage from IMB Bank?

An IMB Bank reverse mortgage allows you to borrow against your home equity. You can draw down the loan amount as a lump sum, regular income stream, line of credit or a combination. The interest can either be fixed or variable. To understand the current rates, you can check the lender’s website.

No repayments are required as long as you live in the home. If you sell it or move to a senior living facility, the loan must be repaid in full. In some cases, this can also happen after you have died. Generally, the interest rates for reverse mortgages are higher than regular mortgage loans.

The interest is added to the loan amount and it is compounded. It means you’ll pay interest on the interest you accrue. Therefore, the longer you have the loan, the higher is the interest and the amount you’ll have to repay.

How to use the ME Bank reverse mortgage calculator?

You can access the equity in your home to help you fund your needs during your senior years. A ME Bank reverse mortgage allows you to tap into the equity you’ve built up in your home while you continue living in your house. You can also use the funds to pay for your move to a retirement home and repay the loan when you sell the property.

Generally, if you’re 60 years old, you can borrow up to 15 per cent of the property value. If you are older than 75 years, the amount you can access increases to up to 30 per cent. You can use a reverse mortgage calculator to know how much you can borrow.

To take out a ME Bank reverse mortgage, you’ll need to provide information like your age, type of property – house or an apartment, postcode, and the estimated market value of the property. The loan to value ratio (LVR) is calculated based on your age and the property’s value.

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.

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.

How do I apply for Westpac’s first home buyer loan?

If you’re a first home buyer looking to apply for a home loan with Westpac, they offer an online home loan application. They suggest the application can be completed in about 20 minutes. Based on the information you provide, Westpac will advise you the amount you can borrow and the costs associated with any possible home loan. 

You can use Westpac’s online mortgage calculators to estimate your borrowing power. You can also work out the time it might take to save up for the deposit, and the size of your home loan repayments

When applying for a home loan with Westpac, you’re assigned a home finance manager who can address your concerns and provide information. The manager will also offer guidance on any government grants you may be eligible for. 

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.