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Why should you compare home loans?

With so many different home loan products on the market, it's easy to feel spoilt for choice. But it can also be difficult to work out which home loan is best for you. With a home loan comparison, you can look at the interest rates, features, fees and benefits of several different home loans side by side, to get a better idea of the value they offer before making any decisions.

How to compare home loans

A home loan comparison is understandably an important part of how you find the right mortgage rate, and can provide insight into how much you might pay for any property, be it for owner-occupiers or investors. As you get started on your home loan comparison, consider asking yourself the following questions:

How much can you afford to borrow?

Generally speaking, the more you choose to borrow for your home loan, the higher the cost of repayments and the bigger the deposit you'll need. So it's important to have a good understanding of what will work comfortably with your budget.

RateCity has a number of home loan calculators that could come in handy when figuring out how much you can afford to borrow. For example, our home loan repayment calculator can help you determine how much the mortgage repayments might be on a particular loan amount, and our borrowing power calculator can give you an idea of how much you could afford to borrow based on different repayment and deposit amounts.

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How much can you afford for a deposit?

Low rate home loans are more likely to require higher upfront security deposits. Which means, the more you're able to save up for a deposit, the more competitive an interest rate you may be able to secure.

It's also important to note that if your loan to value ratio (LVR) is over 80 per cent - meaning your deposit is less than 20 per cent of the property value - you may be required to pay Lender’s Mortgage Insurance (LMI).

Are you buying a home as an owner-occupier or as an investor?

In Australia, lenders typically offer separate home loan products for owner-occupied home loans and investment loans. Borrowers who are taking out a mortgage to buy a home to live in will often be offered lower interest rates than those who are buying an investment property. 

It's important to keep this in mind when shopping for a mortgage as it will determine which loan products may be available to you.

How much is your next property worth?

Your next home could be within your grasp. Find out how much a property is valued at and start comparing home loans to get you closer to buying it.

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What features do you want in a mortgage?

Different lenders and home loan products tend to offer different features, so it's worth figuring out which ones might be beneficial to you. Here are some features that may be available:

Offset account

An offset account is a type of savings or transaction account that works just like a standard bank account, but is linked to your mortgage and gives you the opportunity to reduce your payable interest.

Any money that you put in your offset account is included when your lender calculates the interest owing on your mortgage. For example, if you owe $300,000 but have $50,000 in an offset account, you’ll be charged interest as if you only owed $250,000.

Extra repayments

Making additional repayments onto your mortgage could allow you to get ahead of schedule on your loan term and closer to paying off your home loan, reducing your total interest repayments.

Redraw facility

A redraw facility lets you withdraw any extra home loan repayments you’ve made if you need that money back in your pocket, which can be useful for covering unexpected expenses without having to take on more debt with a credit card or personal loan.

What should you consider when comparing home loan rates?

Big lenders vs small lenders

Larger mortgage lenders such as the big four banks (Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, NAB and ANZ) tend to offer customers more facilities than smaller lenders, including local bank branches for in-person banking.

However, as a result of the cost of added overheads, big banks often charge higher interest rates and fees than smaller lenders. Plus, smaller lenders tend to offer more flexibility and innovative technology.

Deciding what you need from a lender will help you determine what type of home loan provider is right for you.

Interest rates

Another factor to consider when shopping for a home loan is whether you want a fixed rate or variable rate home loan - or perhaps a split loan.

  • Variable -Variable interest rates may increase or decrease during your mortgage term, often in line with changes to Australia's official cash rate, but sometimes independently, depending on your lender. If your lender passes on a rate cut, you could save money on your mortgage repayments, but if rates rise, you could find yourself paying more.
  • Fixed - Home loan interest rates can sometimes be fixed for a limited time, typically from one to five years. During this time, your mortgage repayments will stay the same, which can help with budgeting. This can protect you from higher repayments if interest rates rise, but you could also miss out on savings if interest rates fall. After the fixed term, the interest rate will revert to a standard variable rate.
  • Split - Some borrowers also choose to split their home loan interest rates between fixed and variable interest rates. This can provide a bit of certainty in case of rate rises, while also making the most of low rates when they're available.

Fees

A loan's interest rate is an important factor to consider when making a comparison, but fees can also play a big part in the overall cost. After all, high fees on a home loan can negate the impact of a low interest rate.

Some of the fees you’re likely to encounter during your mortgage comparison include:

  • Application fees
  • Upfront fees
  • Annual fees
  • Ongoing fees
  • Redraw fees
  • Discharge fees

Comparison rate

A handy way to compare the total cost of different home loans is to look at the comparison rate, which combines the cost of interest plus standard fees and charges into a single percentage figure. Keep in mind that not every extra cost will be included in a loan’s comparison rate, so it’s still important to look carefully at your available options.

Repayment type

You can also choose between making principal and interest repayments or interest-only repayments on your home loan.

Principal and interest (P&I) repayments let you gradually repay the money you've borrowed while also covering your interest charges. While P&I repayments tend to be more expensive from month to month than paying interest only, they let you make steady progress towards clearing your debt, and can help to minimise the total interest you’re charged over the loan term.

Some lenders allow you to delay repaying your debt and simply pay the interest charges for a limited time (generally between one and five years). These interest-only (IO) repayments can be more affordable in the short term, though you may end up paying more total interest over the loan’s full term as your repayments won’t be reducing the principal amount owing.

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Do lenders expect you to compare home loans?

Some borrowers might choose to simply apply for a mortgage with the bank they've been a customer of most of their lives, while others will make a comprehensive comparison to ensure they're choosing a home loan that best suits their needs.

If you find that you could use some extra help or personalised advice during your home loan search, you might like to enquire with a mortgage broker.

A broker is a loan industry expert who can assist you throughout the home loan application process, whether you're a first home buyer, investor, or looking to refinance.

RateCity has compiled the details of mortgage brokers located throughout Australia, to help you find a broker who's local to you.

How to compare home loan rates on RateCity

Shopping for the most suitable home loan options might seem overwhelming when there are so many factors to consider, but RateCity's home loan comparison tools could help take some of the hassle out of it:

Comparison tables

Our comparison tables can help you narrow down your search to the products that best suit your specific needs. Just use the filters to search by interest rate type, borrow amount, lender type, features, repayment options and more.

Real Time Ratings™

RateCity's Real Time Ratings™ can be a helpful tool when comparing how much value a home loan product might offer you. The rating system gives each home loan a score out of five stars, based on loan costs and flexibility. It also factors in your loan size, deposit amount and borrowing type.

Home loan calculators

Our home loan repayment calculator can give you an estimate of how much your repayments might cost based on the information you provide.

You can find out your estimated weekly, fortnightly, or monthly repayments, total interest payable, total amount payable, plus your repayment schedule.

RateCity also has a number of other calculators that may come in handy at different stages of your home buying process.

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Do you compare mortgages using the comparison or advertised rate?

A lot of Australians compare home loans using the advertised interest rate, which indicates how much interest you’ll be charged on your mortgage repayments. The lower your rate, the cheaper your home loan should be.

However, interest charges aren’t the only cost associated with home loans. Most mortgage lenders also charge fees on their home loans. A mortgage with a low interest rate and high fees can sometimes cost more than a mortgage with a high interest rate and low fees.

A home loan’s comparison rate combines the cost of interest with the cost of standard fees and charges into a single percentage rate. Mortgage lenders are required to display a comparison rate alongside their advertised rate to better indicate the home loan’s overall cost.

Keep in mind that to ensure consistency, all comparison rates are calculated assuming a $150,000 principal and interest mortgage with a 25 year term. As your home loan may be different, the comparison rate may not accurately reflect exactly how much your home loan may cost. Also, the comparison rate doesn’t include every home loan fee and charge, so it’s still important to compare home loans and read the fine print before you apply.

What is a mortgage rate?

The interest rate on a home loan is sometimes called the mortgage rate. This percentage indicates how much interest the lender will charge you with each home loan repayment. Your interest rate is effectively the “cost” of “buying” the money you’re using to buy a property – the higher your mortgage rate, the more your home loan repayments may cost.

Using a home loan calculator, you can estimate how much your home loan repayments may cost, based on your mortgage rate, loan term, and loan amount. This may also be affected by whether you’re making principal and interest repayments or interest-only repayments, if you have a fixed rate or variable rate mortgage, and any fees and other charges that may apply.

What is a home loan?

A home loan is a finance product that allows a home buyer to borrow a large sum of money from a lender for the purchase of a residential property. The home is then put up as "security" or "collateral" on the loan, giving the lender the right to repossess the property in the case that the borrower fails to repay their loan.

Once you take out a home loan, you'll need to repay the amount borrowed, plus interest, in regular instalments over a predetermined period of time.

The interest you're charged on each mortgage repayment is based on your remaining loan amount, also known as your loan principal. The rate at which interest is charged on your home loan principal is expressed as a percentage.

Different home loan products charge different interest rates and fees, and offer a range of different features to suit a variety of buyers’ needs.

How do you find cheap home loans?

With so many interest rate options and repayment types available, finding the cheapest home loan may depend on the type of loan you choose.

Whether you’re looking for an owner-occupier or investor loan, with interest-only or principal and interest repayments, on a fixed or variable interest rate, the cheapest home loan rate available may vary greatly.

One way to find the cheapest option for you is to narrow down your search and compare the options that best suit your individual requirements. RateCity’s home loan comparison tables can help you get started on your search and take the hassle out of shopping around.

Is the lowest home loan rate always the cheapest?

The home loan with the lowest interest rate may not always be the cheapest mortgage option for you. Sometimes a home loan with a low interest rate may charge high fees, which may cost more in total than a mortgage with a higher interest rate and no fees.

Consider checking the comparison rate, which combines interest and standard fees, to get a better idea of the overall cost of different home loan options.

Fact Check Verification

The information on this page was fact checked by Matthew Tinson, a broker in Queensland specialising in home loans, car financing, personal loans, debt consolidation, and asset financing. For more information on how brokers like this can assist you, look for a broker near you