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What is a home equity loan?
A home equity loan is where you use the equity in your home as security to borrow money.
There are two main types of home equity loan:
- Lump sum – Similar to a personal loan, car loan or mortgage, this uses your equity as security to borrow a large sum of money, which you’ll pay back with interest over time.
- Line of credit – Similar to a credit card, this let you borrow and repay money when you need it, up to a maximum limit based on your available equity. You’ll only be charged interest on the money you’ve borrowed.
Another type of home equity loan is the reverse mortgage. Typically, only available to retirees who own their home outright, a reverse mortgage lets you access part of the value of your home as a lump sum or as a regular income stream. This money can be repaid whenever you choose, including when you sell your home, move into aged care, or pass away.
How can I use a home equity loan?
Depending on your financial situation, you may be able to use your home equity to access a lump sum or a line of credit to:
- Consolidate debts – You may be able to clear maxed-out credit cards or other outstanding loans, and often pay a lower interest rate than you would by clearing each debt separately.
- Improve the home – Paying for renovations, extensions, repairs or other construction projects around the house can help improve your quality of life and/or increase the property’s value
- Invest in the future – Pay for education, start a business, invest in shares… there are a lot of options that could help you build wealth and/or value in the future.
- Pay for goods and services – Buy a car, pay for a wedding, go on holiday… however you choose to spend your money, you may be able to enjoy a lower interest rate than many personal loans or credit cards.
What is accessible equity?
It’s important to remember that just because you have equity in your home, that doesn’t always mean all of your equity is available for you to use.
Mortgage lenders typically want you to hold at least 20 per cent of your home’s value as security on your home loan. If you owe money on more than 80 per cent of your home’s value, whether it’s through your mortgage, a home equity loan, or both, you may need to pay for a lenders mortgage insurance (LMI) policy.
To find your usable equity, you can use the following formula:
- (Current home value x 0.80) – outstanding mortgage = usable equity
For example, if your home is currently valued at $500,000, and you still have $300,000 to pay off on your mortgage, you have $200,000 in equity. However, 80 per cent of your home value is $400,000, so once you subtract the $300,000 you still owe on your mortgage, you’ll have $100,000 available in usable equity.
How can I grow or increase my home equity?
The simplest way to increase the equity in your home is to pay off your mortgage. The more extra repayments you can make onto your home loan principal, the more equity will become available in your property.
If you’ve been keeping up with your home loan repayments for a few years, you may find that you have more equity available in your property than you expect. This is because equity is calculated using the current value of your home – if house prices have been rising in the local area, your property may hold more value today than it did when you first applied for your mortgage.
You may also be able to increase the value of your home (and your home equity with it) by renovating the property. This could be as simple as replacing old fixtures or as complex as replacing the kitchen or bathroom, adding bedrooms, or even putting an extra storey on your house.
You may even be able to use money from a home equity loan to pay for renovations. If they help increase your home’s value, you may find you have more equity available in the future to borrow more money when you need it. Just be mindful of the risk of overcapitalising, where the cost of the renovations is higher than the potential value increase.
How else can I use home equity?
There are other options available for using your home equity. As well as accessing a lump sum or a line of credit, your equity may be able to help you refinance your home loan, or take out a second mortgage for an investment property.
The more equity you have available in your home, the more security you may be able to offer a mortgage lender when you refinance. If your property’s value has increased and you have more equity available in your home, this may allow you to refinance to a home loan with a lower interest rate or fees, or that lets you access more useful features and benefits than your current deal.
You may be able to use your usable equity as security on a second mortgage to buy an investment property. A common rule of thumb is to look for an investment property priced at four times your usable equity, so your loan can cover the cost of the property plus stamp duty and other fees and charges.
Some property investors purchase multiple houses using this strategy, using the equity in one property as security to purchase the next, and so on. Keep in mind that this strategy can be risky – if you find yourself unable to afford one loan, you could end up losing both properties.
Consider contacting a financial adviser and/or a mortgage broker before you look at buying an investment property with your home equity.
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Can you have two home equity loans?
A home equity loan can help put the value of your property to work for you. Whether used to access a flexible line of credit, or to secure a mortgage over an investment property, your home equity can prove a useful tool for reaching your personal and financial goals.
Home equity loan guidelines
If you’ve been paying off your mortgage for a little while you’ll start to build up a bit of equity, particularly if the housing market in your area is seeing property values increase. However, home equity loans aren’t a one-size-fits-all financing option. Let’s explore some of the basic guidelines so you can deepen your understanding of home equity loans.
Property Personal Finance Writer
A property and personal finance writer, Nick Bendel covered property, loans, credit cards, superannuation, and other bank products. Nick has previously written for The Adviser, Mortgage Business, Lifehacker, Business Insider, Yahoo Finance, and InvestorDaily, and loves getting elbow-deep in the latest ABS, APRA and RBA data.
Frequently asked questions
Is a home equity loan secured or unsecured?
Home equity is the difference between its current market price and the outstanding balance on the mortgage loan. The amount you can borrow against the equity in your property is known as a home equity loan.
A home equity loan is secured against your property. It means the lender can recoup your property if you default on the repayments. A secured home equity loan is available at a competitive rate of interest and may be repaid over the long-term. Although a home equity loan is secured, lenders will assess your income, expenses, and other liabilities before approving your application. You’ll also want a good credit score to qualify for a home equity loan.
What is equity? How can I use equity in my home loan?
Equity refers to the difference between what your property is worth and how much you owe on it. Essentially, it is the amount you have repaid on your home loan to date, although if your property has gone up in value it can sometimes be a lot more.
You can use the equity in your home loan to finance renovations on your existing property or as a deposit on an investment property. It can also be accessed for other investment opportunities or smaller purchases, such as a car or holiday, using a redraw facility.
Once you are over 65 you can even use the equity in your home loan as a source of income by taking out a reverse mortgage. This will let you access the equity in your loan in the form of regular payments which will be paid back to the bank following your death by selling your property. But like all financial products, it’s best to seek professional advice before you sign on the dotted line.
What is equity and home equity?
The percentage of a property effectively ‘owned’ by the borrower, equity is calculated by subtracting the amount currently owing on a mortgage from the property’s current value. As you pay back your mortgage’s principal, your home equity increases. Equity can be affected by changes in market value or improvements to your property.
Can I borrow extra on my mortgage for furniture?
Yes, you may be able to borrow extra on your mortgage for furniture. This may be done by considering a home equity loan. A home equity loan may allow you to access the equity in your mortgage for furniture via:
- A line of credit – A pre-approved credit limit based on your equity.
- A lump sum payment – Like a persona loan, with equity in your home loan used as security.
If you want to avoid borrowing more money, consider accessing cash deposited into your offset account or drawing down on extra repayments with a redraw facility to fund furniture purchases.
How fast can you get a home equity loan?
Completing an application for a home equity loan may only take 20 to 30 minutes. It may take a lender anywhere from a day to a few weeks to process and approve your application. This may be affected by your financial situation, your level of equity, and whether or not your lender needs to organise an in-persona valuation of the property.
Before you can apply for a home equity loan, you’ll need to build up some equity in your property. The more money you can put towards extra repayments to reduce your home loan principal, the faster you can increase your equity. Also, if property values in your area increase, this may help deliver an instant equity increase once your property has been valued.
What is a line of credit?
Equity is the value of your property, less any outstanding debt against it. For example, if you have a $500,000 property and a $300,000 mortgage against the property, then you have $200,000 equity. This is the portion of the property that you actually own.
This type of loan is a flexible mortgage that allows you to draw on funds when you need them, similar to a credit card.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Can first home buyers apply for an ING home loan?
First home buyers can apply for an ING home loan, but first, they need to select the most suitable home loan product and calculate the initial deposit on their home loan.
First-time buyers can also use ING’s online tool to estimate the amount they can borrow. ING offers home loan applicants a free property report to look up property value estimates.
First home loan applicants struggling to understand the terms used may consider looking up ING’s first home buyer guide. Once the home buyer is ready to apply for the loan, they can complete an online application or call ING at 1800 100 258 during regular business hours.
How much deposit do I need for a home loan from ANZ?
Like other mortgage lenders, ANZ often prefers a home loan deposit of 20 per cent or more of the property value when you’re applying for a home loan. It may be possible to get a home loan with a smaller deposit of 10 per cent or even 5 per cent, but there are a few reasons to consider saving a larger deposit if possible:
- A larger deposit tells a lender that you’re a great saver, which could help increase the chances of your home loan application getting approved.
- The more money you pay as a deposit, the less you’ll have to borrow in your home loan. This could mean paying off your loan sooner, and being charged less total interest.
- If your deposit is less than 20 per cent of the property value, you might incur additional costs, such as Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI).
Will I have to pay lenders' mortgage insurance twice if I refinance?
If your deposit was less than 20 per cent of your property’s value when you took out your original loan, you may have paid lenders’ mortgage insurance (LMI) to cover the lender against the risk that you may default on your repayments.
If you refinance to a new home loan, but still don’t have enough deposit and/or equity to provide 20 per cent security, you’ll need to pay for the lender’s LMI a second time. This could potentially add thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in upfront costs to your mortgage, so it’s important to consider whether the financial benefits of refinancing may be worth these costs.
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.
What is a secured home loan?
When the lender creates a mortgage on your property, they’re offering you a secured home loan. It means you’re offering the property as security to the lender who holds this security against the risk of default or any delays in home loan repayments. Suppose you’re unable to repay the loan. In this case, the lender can take ownership of your property and sell it to recover any outstanding funds you owe. The lender retains this hold over your property until you repay the entire loan amount.
If you take out a secured home loan, you may be charged a lower interest rate. The amount you can borrow depends on the property’s value and the deposit you can pay upfront. Generally, lenders allow you to borrow between 80 per cent and 90 per cent of the property value as the loan. Often, you’ll need Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI) if the deposit is less than 20 per cent of the property value. Lenders will also do a property valuation to ensure you’re borrowing enough to cover the purchase.
How can I apply for a first home buyers loan with Commonwealth Bank?
Getting a home loan requires planning and research. If you are considering a home loan with the Commonwealth Bank, you can find the information you need in the buying your first home section of the bank’s website.
You can see the steps you should take before applying for the loan and use the calculators to work out how much you can borrow, what your monthly repayments would be and the upfront costs you’d likely pay.
You can also book a time with a Commonwealth first home loan specialist by calling 13 2221.
CommBank publishes a property report that may help you understand the real estate market. The bank has also created a CommBank Property App that you can use to search for property. The link to download this app is available on the same webpage.
If you are eligible for the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, CommBank will help you process your application. The scheme helps first home buyers to purchase a home with a low deposit. You can read details about this scheme here and speak with a CommBank home lending specialist to understand your options.
What are the pros and cons of no-deposit home loans?
It’s no longer possible to get a no-deposit home loan in Australia. In some circumstances, you might be able to take out a mortgage with a 5 per cent deposit – but before you do so, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons.
The big advantage of borrowing 95 per cent (also known as a 95 per cent home loan) is that you get to buy your property sooner. That may be particularly important if you plan to purchase in a rising market, where prices are increasing faster than you can accumulate savings.
But 95 per cent home loans also have disadvantages. First, the 95 per cent home loan market is relatively small, so you’ll have fewer options to choose from. Second, you’ll probably have to pay LMI (lender’s mortgage insurance). Third, you’ll probably be charged a higher interest rate. Fourth, the more you borrow, the more you’ll ultimately have to pay in interest. Fifth, if your property declines in value, your mortgage might end up being worth more than your home.
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.
How much can I borrow with a guaranteed home loan?
Some lenders will allow you to borrow 100 per cent of the value of the property with a guaranteed home loan. For that to happen, the lender would have to feel confident in your ability to pay off the mortgage and in the security provided by your guarantor.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Can I get a NAB first home loan?
The First Home Loan Deposit Scheme of NAB helps first home buyers purchase a property sooner by reducing the upfront costs required. This scheme is offered based on a Government-backed initiative, with10,000 available places announced in October 2020.
Suppose your application for the NAB first home buyer loan is successful. In that case, you’ll only need to pay a low deposit, between 5 and 20 per cent of the property value and won’t be asked to pay lender's mortgage insurance (LMI). You’ll also receive a limited guarantee from the Australian government to purchase the property.
If you’re applying for the NAB first home buyer home loan as an individual, you need to have earned less than $125,000 in the last financial year. Couples applying for the NAB first home loan need to have earned less than $200,000 to be eligible. To be considered a couple, you need to be married or in a de facto relationship. A parent and child, siblings or friends are not considered a couple when applying for a NAB first home loan.
The NAB First Home Loan Deposit Scheme is currently offered only to purchase a brand new property, rather than an established property.