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APRA calls time out on the interest only cap in a bid to breathe life back into home lending

APRA calls time out on the interest only cap in a bid to breathe life back into home lending

APRA’s announcement today that it will remove its temporary benchmark on interest-only lending from 1 January 2019 is a bid to steady the home loan market, says comparison site RateCity.com.au.

The announcement comes a week after APRA’s latest Quarterly ADI Property Exposures statistics showed interest-only loans had fallen to 16.2 per cent of new lending for all authorised deposit-taking institutions (ADIs).

This is down from the record high reached in June 2015 when 45.7 per cent of new loans written were interest-only.

While APRA’s interest-only cap of 30 per cent was only for new lending, the banks entire loan books are now under this mark, at 27 per cent for all ADIs.

Sally Tindall, research director at RateCity.com.au, said today’s announcement is good news for investors.

“APRA’s intervention has had a marked effect on new borrowing and banks have proven that they can remain well under the cap,” she said.

“This announcement today will see banks re-open their books to more interest-only lenders, particularly investors.

“Whether they drop their interest-only rates to attract more borrowers on to their books, will be interesting.

“Banks have grown accustomed to charging borrowers more for interest-only loans. The final ACCC report into residential mortgage pricing released last week found that the big four banks collected an extra $1.1 billion over the last financial year as a result of hiking interest-only rates,” she said.

RateCity.com.au data shows that three years ago the average gap between owner occupiers paying principal and interest and investors paying interest-only was 0.20 percent. Today it is 0.57 per cent.

“With increasing anxiety over the domestic housing market, the government will be hoping this decision will help curb the falls in home lending and steady the Sydney and Melbourne housing markets.

“Investors currently on interest-only terms who were looking down the barrel of having to switch to principal and interest repayments will be hoping this gives them a reprieve as well,” she said.

APRA also noted that “for ADI’s that have provided the necessary assurances on their lending standards and are no longer subject to the investor loan growth benchmark, the interest-only benchmark will also no longer apply.” 

Average rates according to borrowing type

Owner occupier, principal and interest

4.27%

Owner occupier, interest-only

4.68%

Investor, principal and interest

4.60%

Investor, interest-only

4.84%

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This article was reviewed by Research Director Sally Tindall before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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Learn more about home loans

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.

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. 

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 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.

What are the different types of home loan interest rates?

A home loan interest rate is used to calculate how much you’ll pay the lender, usually annually, above the amount you borrow. It’s what the lenders charge you for them lending you money and will impact the total amount you’ll pay over the life of your home loan. 

Having understood what are home loan rates in general, here are the two types you usually have with a home loan:

Fixed rates

These interest rates remain constant for a specific period and are a good option if you’re a first-time buyer or if you’re looking for a fixed monthly repayment. One possible downside of a fixed rate is that it may be higher than a variable rate. Also, you don’t benefit from any lowering of interest rates in the market. On the flip side, if rates go up, your rate won’t change, possibly saving you money.

Variable rates

With variable interest rates, the lender can change them at any time. This change can be based on economic conditions or other reasons. Changes in interest rates could be beneficial if your monthly repayment decreases but can be a problem if it increases. Variable interest rates offer several other benefits often not available with fixed rate home loans like redraw and offset facilities and free extra repayments. 

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.

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.

What does unconditional approval from Aussie Home Loans mean for first time home buyers?

As an Aussie home loan first time home buyer, your loan application passes through multiple stages. Early in the process, you’ll receive conditional approval, which means the lender approves your loan application as long as you meet certain conditions. Some of these criteria include selling another property or repaying existing debt.

The next stage is unconditional approval which is the final decision from the lender. After considering all the relevant information, the lender is willing to offer you a certain amount to buy a specific property.

Unconditional approval is also known as formal or full approval but receiving this doesn’t mean you need to accept the money. If you choose to proceed and accept the funds, you’ll sign the loan documents to finalise the loan and receive the money. You can, at this time, clarify any doubts you have with your Aussie broker.

You’re likely to get conditional approval, sometimes called pre-approval, when you want to get clear on your budget. You’ll then apply for unconditional or formal approval once you’ve found a property and made an offer. This process will involve the lender reviewing your finances and the details of the property you wish to purchase to make sure you can repay a loan on that property.

As a first time buyer, it may help you with the purchasing process to seek pre-approval or conditional approval. This may speed up the final purchasing process and help you through the home loan process in steps rather than all at once.

Is a second mortgage tax deductible?

If you take out a loan to invest in a property, you can claim a tax deduction on the interest you pay as long as the property is earning income. In other words, if you rent the property for the entire year, you can claim a tax deduction for 12 months of interest payments. But, if you use the home for six months and rent it for the other six months, you can claim deduction only for 50 per cent of the interest amount.

You also get tax benefits for items that lose value over the years. But, the entire amount is not allowed as a tax deduction in the same year; instead you’ll have to claim a portion each year over a number of years. 

Additional borrowing costs, such as maintenance fees, stamp duty, offset account setting up fees, Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI), and establishment fees, can also be claimed as tax deductions.

Before you claim second mortgage tax deductions, it’s often worth checking with an experienced tax expert.

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. 

Does the family tax benefit count as income?

The family tax benefits are one of several government support payments that are not considered taxable income. Other such payments include child care subsidies, economic support payments, rent assistance, and carer allowances. If you file a tax return, you typically don’t need to mention such income on the return. However, some home loan lenders may accept family tax benefits as an income source when reviewing your home loan application. You’ll still need to meet other lending requirements, such as having a sufficiently high credit score and enough savings for a deposit before the loan will be approved.

Aussies receiving family tax benefits usually have an adjusted taxable income of no more than $55,626 a year. Alternatively, one spouse can be receiving income support payments from the government to be eligible. Most importantly, they need to have children dependent on them for care at least 35 per cent of the time. Children between the ages of 16 and 19 should be either full-time secondary students or have a somewhat comparable study load unless the government exempts them from these study requirements.