Rental gone sour

Rental gone sour

Pet tarantulas, freeloading friends, amateur band practice in the living room; many of us have experienced living with a housemate from hell. Nevertheless a rental squeeze is pushing more Australians towards sharing leased accommodation to better afford a home in a convenient location, with more appeal and better amenities.

While this might sound sensible sharing accommodation throws up countless questions about co-habitation; how should you split the rent? When should a guest help pay the pills? And at what point is a girlfriend a roommate?

To avoid conflict, housemates should set up some house rules right from the start including a financial plan to simplify expenses.

Ideally, you will draw up a written agreement you will all sign. Room share website, Easy Roommate, has a boarder and house-share agreement to download for $14.95. The agreements specify terms of the lease, bond protection and house rules to help resolve any disputes should they arise.

Flatmate finances

An agreement will also help housemates to decide how utility bills will be divvied up; how to split the cost of shared household items; and a strategy to cover costs should one or more tenants decide to move out.

Without a written agreement, expenses can become confusing particularly if each roommate is forking out for a different utility or amount of rent. Sharing a bank account or credit card might be suitable if you’re moving in with a partner, but what’s the best way to divvy up finances with a friend or someone you’ve just met?

Housemates will need to decide if all tenants will sign individual leases with the landlord, opt for a co-tenancy agreement or have one as head tenant with others as boarders or subtenants. With one head tenant, a nominated person will be legally responsible for maintaining the property and paying the rent. Other housemates can pay the head tenant by direct debit from their transaction account each week to avoid dispute over money.

And then there’s the added challenge of splitting rent fairly, based on room size, closets, bathrooms and car spaces, to name a few. A number of rent calculators exist online to help simplify the process, including one at www.splitwise.com, which tracks spending and habits, provides a shared record of expenses and bills and even sends email reminders to pay up!

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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 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.

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.

How much money can I borrow for a home loan?

Tip: You can use RateCity how much can I borrow calculator to get a quick answer.

How much money you can borrow for a home loan will depend on a number of factors including your employment status, your income (and your partner’s income if you are taking out a joint loan), the size of your deposit, your living expenses and any other debt you might hold, including credit cards. 

A good place to start is to work out how much you can afford to make in monthly repayments, factoring in a buffer of at least 2 – 3 per cent to allow for interest rate rises along the way. You’ll also need to factor in additional costs that come with purchasing a property such as stamp duty, legal fees, building inspections, strata or council fees.

If you are planning on renting the property, you can factor in the expected rental income to help offset the mortgage, but again it’s prudent to add a significant buffer to allow for rental management fees, maintenance costs and short periods of no rental income when tenants move out. It’s also wise to factor in changes in personal circumstances – the typical home loan lasts for around 30 years and a lot can happen between now and then.

What if I can't pay off my guaranteed home loan?

If you can’t pay off your guaranteed home loan, your lender might chase your guarantor for the money.

A guaranteed home loan is a legally binding agreement in which the guarantor assumes overall responsibility for the mortgage. So if the borrower falls behind on their mortgage, the lender might insist that the guarantor cover the repayments. If the guarantor fails to do so, the lender might seize the guarantor’s security (which is often the family home) so it can recoup its money.

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 does RateCity make money?

For details on how RateCity makes money, please see here.

Am I guaranteed to be approved for all the loans I’m shown?

No. While we will do our best to show a list of loans that may suit your needs, if you choose to apply to refinance, it is up to the lender to approve or disapprove your loan based on your individual circumstances, after you have submitted all your paperwork.

This can sometimes take up to 30 days, so it is important to find out exactly what the criteria is for the loan, and what you need in terms of paperwork. RateCity does not make any suggestions taking into account your personal and individual needs.

How do you calculate how much you could save with a lower rate?

To work out how much you could save, we run the home loan details you’ve provided through our database, and search for similar home loan options that we think would be suitable for you.

We then calculate the costs of these loan options over 15 years (to keep our calculations consistent) and compare them to the cost calculations for your current home loan.

How do I find out my current interest rate and how much is owing on my loan?

Your bank statements and/or your internet banking should show these details. If you are not sure, call your bank or estimate.

How does it work? What are the steps involved?

To check your rate, start by entering your contact details and home loan information at ratecity.com.au. We’ll compare your current home loan to other options in our database, and let you know how much you could save by refinancing.  

If we can’t beat your current rate, you can claim a $100 gift card by confirming your home loan details with us.*

Who can enter?

Any Australian resident who is over 18 and currently has a personal home loan is eligible for our Home Loan Rate Promise. See terms and conditions.

What do mortgage brokers do?

Mortgage brokers are finance professionals who help borrowers organise home loans with lenders. As such, they act as middlemen between borrowers and lenders.

While bank staff recommend home loan products only from their own employer, brokers are independent, so they can recommend products from a range of institutions.

Brokers need to be accredited with a particular lender to be able to work with that lender. A typical broker will be accredited with anywhere from 10 to 30 lenders – the big four banks, as well as a range of smaller banks, credit unions and non-bank lenders.

As a general rule, brokers don’t charge consumers for their services; instead, they receive commissions from lenders whenever they place a borrower with that institution.