Watch your credit habits, Tougher lending on the way

Watch your credit habits - Tougher lending on the way

New credit and privacy laws could make it harder and more expensive to get a home loan so get your credit habits in order now, writes Jackie Pearson.

October 27, 2009

A new national scheme for regulating credit is to be phased in between now and July 2011. It is designed to give consumers more protection from dodgy lenders by ensuring all credit providers adhere to responsible lending practices.

This sounds like good medicine for parts of the credit industry, but watch out for the side effects and make sure you’re ready for lenders to find out much more about your past and current credit habits next time you apply for a home loan.

What will the new rules do?
The new credit laws include a national licensing scheme for credit providers and brokers and will transfer responsibility for credit away from state governments to the Commonwealth.

For the first time mortgage brokers, reverse mortgages and margin loans will be properly regulated. You’ll also be protected by the new laws if you borrow to buy a residential investment property, not just a home to live in. And it should be easier to get a change to your credit contract on the grounds of hardship.

The Federal Government has indicated it will also change the Privacy Act in 2010 to give lenders more access to information about the number of loans you have, how much you’ve borrowed, your credit limits and repayment history.

Will the new rules make it easier to get a home loan?

Both the Australian Bankers Association (ABA) and Abacus (representing mutual credit unions and building societies) have criticised the new National Credit Code for being too “heavy handed”, forcing credit providers to go through more red tape when approving home loans. They say this could push out the amount of time it takes to approve home loans.

There’s also debate about whether the changes to the Privacy Act will make it easier or more difficult to get credit.

Will home loans cost more?

There’s also a range of views about whether the new laws will make credit products, including home loans, more expensive.

Consumer advocates fear some lenders will take advantage of having more information about your credit habits as an opportunity to persuade you to move credit cards and loans from other providers to them as part of your approval process for a home loan.

Abacus and ABA have also argued that loans may end up costing more because of the additional administrative requirements under the new national system.

How should you prepare for the new rules?

  • Get your credit habits and history in order. If you haven’t done so for a while, contact organisations like Veda Advantage to find out your credit file.
  • Always try to pay your bills on time and don’t make too many applications for credit. Keep records of what you earn and spend and do your homework about the approval process before applying for a home loan.
  • It also pays to shop around and look for the loans that provide the best flexibility, features and price. That way if you have the best products in the market you’ll know when a new lender with access to your credit habits is offering you a better deal.

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Learn more about home loans

What is a bad credit home loan?

A bad credit home loan is a mortgage for people with a low credit score. Lenders regard bad credit borrowers as riskier than ‘vanilla’ borrowers, so they tend to charge higher interest rates for bad credit home loans.

If you want a bad credit home loan, you’re more likely to get approved by a small non-bank lender than by a big four bank or another mainstream lender.

How can I get a home loan with bad credit?

If you want to get a home loan with bad credit, you need to convince a lender that your problems are behind you and that you will, indeed, be able to repay a mortgage.

One step you might want to take is to visit a mortgage broker who specialises in bad credit home loans (also known as ‘non-conforming home loans’ or ‘sub-prime home loans’). An experienced broker will know which lenders to approach, and how to plead your case with each of them.

Two points to bear in mind are:

  • Many home loan lenders don’t provide bad credit mortgages
  • Each lender has its own policies, and therefore favours different things

If you’d prefer to directly approach the lender yourself, you’re more likely to find success with smaller non-bank lenders that specialise in bad credit home loans (as opposed to bigger banks that prefer ‘vanilla’ mortgages). That’s because these smaller lenders are more likely to treat you as a unique individual rather than judge you according to a one-size-fits-all policy.

Lenders try to minimise their risk, so if you want to get a home loan with bad credit, you need to do everything you can to convince lenders that you’re safer than your credit history might suggest. If possible, provide paperwork that shows:

  • You have a secure job
  • You have a steady income
  • You’ve been reducing your debts
  • You’ve been increasing your savings

Can I get a home renovation loan with bad credit?

If you're looking for funds to pay for repairs or renovations to your home, but you have a low credit score, you need to carefully consider your options. If you already have a mortgage, a good starting point is to check whether you can redraw money from that. You could also consider applying for a new home loan. 

Before taking out a new loan, it’s good to note that lenders are likely to charge higher interest rates on home repair loans for bad credit customers. Alternatively, they may be willing to lend you a smaller amount than a standard loan. You may also face some challenges with getting your home renovation loan application approved. If you do run into trouble, you can speak to your lender and ask whether they would be willing to approve your application if you have a guarantor or co-signer. You should also explain the reasons behind your bad credit rating and the steps that you’re taking to improve it. 

Consulting a financial advisor or mortgage broker can help you understand your options and make the right choice.

What is a credit file?

A comprehensive summary of your credit history from an authorised credit reporting agency.

It includes your credit details, credit taken in the last five years, any default payments or credit infringements, arrears, repayment history, bankruptcy filings and a list of credit applications (including unapproved credit applications) in addition to your personal details.

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.

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 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.

What happens if I don’t know my monthly repayments?

Your repayments should appear on your bank statements or your internet banking. If you make weekly or fortnightly repayments, make sure you convert them to monthly calculations.

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.

 

Why do I need to enter my current mortgage information?

We use your current mortgage details to calculate the potential savings if you were to change lenders, and also to help us point you to loans that may meet your needs.

For example – if you live in the house you own, we’ll make sure we show you the owner-occupier rates, which are typically cheaper than investor rates. Or if you have less than 20% equity in your property, then we won’t show you the deals that require a greater amount of equity.

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.*

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.