What is an interest only home loan?

What is an interest only mortgage?

An interest only mortgage differs to a standard variable rate loan. Standard variable home loans are the most popular loan type in Australia today, and generally consist of a good degree of flexibility and allow for home owners to make additional repayments on their loan early without being slapped with a fee. Because the interest rate of a standard variable home loan fluctuates with the cash rate set by the Reserve Bank of Australia, when interest rates rise, so do all your repayments. The same applies to rate cuts, so if interest rates go down, so do your repayment amounts.

Assuming the borrower has whipped out a home loans calculator to calcuate their budget and has been consistent with their repayment amounts they should find themselves free of debt at the end of the loan period. But still, with ever increasing housing prices and today’s tough economic climate, interest only home loans have become more popular.

How does an interest only loan work?

Interest only loans are a type of loan whereby the borrower only has to pay the interest on the principal balance. Because they are only required to repay the interest section, the major benefit lies in lower monthly repayments, which is why these loans are primarily intended for people purchasing investment properties. In theory, the loan will never need to be completely paid off, provided that the interest payments are made regularly.

Some loans can also be split with an interest-only portion to trim down the repayments necessary in the first few years of the loan. This will essentially reduce repayment amounts and keep cash flow at a higher level. Use our home loans calculator to see the difference between the principal and interest loan repayments and interest only loan repayments.  

Is interest only the best loan for me?

Interest only loans will generally work to the advantage of the regimented investor or people who are building or renovating their own home and have not stretched their borrowing power or loan to value ratio (LVR) to the breaking point.

They are a good option in the short term and can provide some ease if you are just settling into making repayments on your mortgage. These loans are best to be considered for terms between five and seven years as this is the average time a home is occupied before re-financing and selling. As with any investment, the larger the amount the more substantial the savings will be. Therefore larger mortgages will receive the most savings benefits from an interest only loan.

To compare a large range of competitive Australian home loans visit our online comparison page and work out your finances with the mortgage calculator. For all the latest home loan related tips and information read our news articles and home loan guides

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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.

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 happens to my home loan when interest rates rise?

If you are on a variable rate home loan, every so often your rate will be subject to increases and decreases. Rate changes are determined by your lender, not the Reserve Bank of Australia, however often when the RBA changes the cash rate, a number of banks will follow suit, at least to some extent. You can use RateCity cash rate to check how the latest interest rate change affected your mortgage interest rate.

When your rate rises, you will be required to pay your bank more each month in mortgage repayments. Similarly, if your interest rate is cut, then your monthly repayments will decrease. Your lender will notify you of what your new repayments will be, although you can do the calculations yourself, and compare other home loan rates using our mortgage calculator.

There is no way of conclusively predicting when interest rates will go up or down on home loans so if you prefer a more stable approach consider opting for a fixed rate loan.

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 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.

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 extra repayments?

Additional payments to your home loan above the minimum monthly instalments, which can help to reduce the loan’s term and remaining payable interest.

Interest Rate

Your current home loan interest rate. To accurately calculate how much you could save, an accurate interest figure is required. If you are not certain, check your bank statement or log into your mortgage account.

Remaining loan term

The length of time it will take to pay off your current home loan, based on the currently-entered mortgage balance, monthly repayment and interest rate.

What is a fixed home loan?

A fixed rate home loan is a loan where the interest rate is set for a certain amount of time, usually between one and 15 years. The advantage of a fixed rate is that you know exactly how much your repayments will be for the duration of the fixed term. There are some disadvantages to fixing that you need to be aware of. Some products won’t let you make extra repayments, or offer tools such as an offset account to help you reduce your interest, while others will charge a significant break fee if you decide to terminate the loan before the fixed period finishes.

What is a variable home loan?

A variable rate home loan is one where the interest rate can and will change over the course of your loan. The rate is determined by your lender, not the Reserve Bank of Australia, so while the cash rate might go down, your bank may decide not to follow suit, although they do broadly follow market conditions. One of the upsides of variable rates is that they are typically more flexible than their fixed rate counterparts which means that a lot of these products will let you make extra repayments and offer features such as offset accounts.

How do I know if I have to pay LMI?

Each lender has its own policies, but as a general rule you will have to pay lender’s mortgage insurance (LMI) if your loan-to-value ratio (LVR) exceeds 80 per cent. This applies whether you’re taking out a new home loan or you’re refinancing.

If you’re looking to buy a property, you can use this LMI calculator to work out how much you’re likely to be charged in LMI.

What happens when you default on your mortgage?

A mortgage default occurs when you are 90 days or more behind on your mortgage repayments. Late repayments will often incur a late fee on top of the amount owed which will continue to gather interest along with the remaining principal amount.

If you do default on a mortgage repayment you should try and catch up in next month’s payment. If this isn’t possible, and missing payments is going to become a regular issue, you need to contact your lender as soon as possible to organise an alternative payment schedule and discuss further options.

You may also want to talk to a financial counsellor.