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Consumer Sentiment surges, housing confidence reaches a seven year high

Consumer Sentiment surges, housing confidence reaches a seven year high

The backdrop of a pandemic is unlikely to affect people spending money over the Christmas holidays -- and that could include signing the deed to a new house.

People didn’t want to spend their money at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but relief measures have buoyed their spirits and pushed consumer confidence to a high not seen in seven years, according to the Westpac-Melbourne Institute Index of Consumer Sentiment.

The monthly index, based on a national survey of 1200 adults conducted in the first week of November, lifted by 2.5 per cent to 107.7. The index is now 35 per cent higher than it was in August, and at a high not seen since November 2013.

“Given the high degree of uncertainty this Christmas, and the headwinds from the high unemployment rate, it is a very encouraging sign that Australians are planning for a ‘normal’ Christmas,” Bill Evans said, chief economist at Westpac.

Similarly, the ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence rating increased over the week. Its level of 103.11 still trails the 30 year average of 112.6, but has improved by 57.9 since the pandemic caused it to hit a record low in March.

We’re in a pandemic, so why the confidence?

Promising COVID-19 numbers coming out of Victoria left people feeling the pandemic could be managed while allowing some semblance of ordinary life, the Index found.

“Victoria’s ‘ring of steel’ has come down (reuniting Melbourne and regional Victoria) and NSW continues to successfully suppress virus flare-ups,” Ryan Felsman said, senior economist at CommSec.

“... With health authorities’ successfully containing the virus, Aussie households -- armed with record-low mortgage repayments, savings and government income support -- are showing increased appetite for making a major household purchase.”

Confidence in Victoria surged by 9 per cent for the month of November. New South Wales, however, coming off a 17.5 per cent jump a month earlier, dropped by 5.5 per cent.

A housing resurgence

During the week the survey was being conducted, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) announced the cash rate would be extraordinarily cut to 0.10 per cent, leading to multiple banks offering fixed interest rates below the “psychologically uplifting” 2 per cent.

The boost to housing affordability -- already at its best levels in a decade -- led to the Index’s ‘time to buy a dwelling’ sentiment to jump 8 per cent to 132, its highest level in seven years.

“Without doubt this survey is signalling a strong resurgence in the housing market,” Westpac’s Mr Evans said.

“For now, the boost from record low interest rates is clearly over-riding negatives around high unemployment; the overhang of deferred loans; the prospect of withdrawal of significant fiscal support; slow population growth; and rising vacancy rates.”

Sentiment jumped in NSW by 9 per cent and Queensland by 12 per cent. Even Victoria posted a lift of 5 per cent, indicating a “solid recovery” could be underway.

High unemployment, but Christmas spending within normal levels

The RBA anticipates the unemployment rate will reach 8 per cent by the year’s end, a notable increase over its typical level of about 5.5 per cent.

And the sentiment was reflected in the Unemployment Expectations Index. It posted a 6.2 per cent increase -- indicating an expected rise -- but was 19.7 per cent below its peak following the COVID-19 pandemic in April.

The high unemployment isn’t expected to affect Christmas shopping by much -- due in part to comprehensive government stimulus payments. About 11.5 per cent of people surveyed expected to spend more, while 32.3 per cent of people planned to spend less -- but the latter was within the five year average.

“This will be a particularly welcome sign for Australia’s retailers heading into the critical Christmas high season,” Mr Evans said.

Spending has already increased, CommSec said.

“Aussies have already begun spending with their pay packets boosted this week by the Federal Government’s tax cuts,” Mr Felsman said.

Citing CBA’s credit and debit card data, he said spending had increased by 13.2 per cent in the week when compared to the same period a year ago, and the rise was coming off an increase of 5.7 per cent the week before.

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This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Mark Bristow before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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Learn more about home loans

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.

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.

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 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 much debt is too much?

A home loan is considered to be too large when the monthly repayments exceed 30 per cent of your pre-tax income. Anything over this threshold is officially known as ‘mortgage stress’ – and for good reason – it can seriously affect your lifestyle and your actual stress levels.

The best way to avoid mortgage stress is by factoring in a sizeable buffer of at least 2 – 3 per cent. If this then tips you over into the mortgage stress category, then it’s likely you’re taking on too much debt.

If you’re wondering if this kind of buffer is really necessary, consider this: historically, the average interest rate is around 7 per cent, so the chances of your 30 year loan spending half of its time above this rate is entirely plausible – and that’s before you’ve even factored in any of life’s emergencies such as the loss of one income or the arrival of a new family member.

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).

Does Australia have no-deposit home loans?

Australia no longer has no-deposit home loans – or 100 per cent home loans as they’re also known – because they’re regarded as too risky.

However, some lenders allow some borrowers to take out mortgages with a 5 per cent deposit.

Another option is to source a deposit from elsewhere – either by using a parental guarantee or by drawing out equity from another property.

How much deposit will I need to buy a house?

A deposit of 20 per cent or more is ideal as it’s typically the amount a lender sees as ‘safe’. Being a safe borrower is a good position to be in as you’ll have a range of lenders to pick from, with some likely to offer up a lower interest rate as a reward. Additionally, a deposit of over 20 per cent usually eliminates the need for lender’s mortgage insurance (LMI) which can add thousands to the cost of buying your home.

While you can get a loan with as little as 5 per cent deposit, it’s definitely not the most advisable way to enter the home loan market. Banks view people with low deposits as ‘high risk’ and often charge higher interest rates as a precaution. The smaller your deposit, the more you’ll also have to pay in LMI as it works on a sliding scale dependent on your deposit size.

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. 

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.

How to apply for ANZ home loan during maternity leave?

Qualifying for an ANZ home loan while you’re on maternity leave may require some research.

Much like other home loan applications, you'll need to be able to show the lenders that you’ll be able to pay the mortgage instalments on time, even during maternity leave, which can improve  chances of your home loan being approved. Your chances improve if you have savings, home equity, or if you receive any government-related benefits.

You’ll likely need  to provide no less than three payslips you received before the start of your maternity leave and a letter from your employer, with the letter stating the maternity leave terms such as the date on which you’ll return to work and the kind of employment (full-time, part-time, or casual) when you resume.

Your lender will likely consider the tenure of your maternity leave while assessing your loan application. Lenders also prefer if you are paid while on maternity leave; however, you may receive only half your salary, so the lender may not consider your regular income to determine the loan amount.

How long does ANZ take to approve a home loan?

The process of applying for a home loan usually stays the same across all lenders. On the other hand, the time it takes for a lender to approve the home loan differs from lender to lender. When it comes to ANZ, it takes anywhere between 15 to 18 business days to approve a home loan from the day of the application to approval. This timeframe is highly dependent on the credibility and availability of your documentation. You can apply for an ANZ home loan in two ways; a Quick Start home loan application or a full online application.

If you opt for the Quick Start home loan option, you’ll need to fill out a form with basic details. During this stage, you don’t need to add any supporting information. An ANZ representative will then call you within 48 hours. The representative will help take your application forward, including assessing all relevant information, documentation and conducting a credit check.

You can also submit your entire home loan application with ANZ online by filling out a comprehensive form with all the information and documentation needed.

Once ANZ has conducted the preliminary checks, you’ll be informed of the pre-approved amount they’re willing to offer. Based on this amount, you can set a budget for your property search and make sure you stay inside your budget. Pre-approval will last for three months but can be extended by applying with ANZ if you don’t find a property. But it’s best to find a property as soon as possible as ANZ may decide to change the amount if your financial situation changes.

After you find a property and have your offer accepted, ANZ may send an assessor to the property to verify it’s value. If everything is per their terms and conditions, ANZ will finalise your home loan’s approval and release the funds.

Can I get a home loan if I owe taxes?

Owing money to the Australian Tax Office is not an ideal situation, but it doesn’t mean you cannot qualify for a home loan. Lenders will take into account your tax debt, your history of repaying the debt and your other financial circumstances, while reviewing your home loan application. 

While some banks may not look favourably upon your debt to the ATO, some non-bank lenders may be willing to help. They will look into the reasons for your tax debt and also take into account the steps you have taken to repay it before deciding whether to offer you the loan or not. Having said that, there are no guarantees - it depends on your whole financial picture.

Here are a few steps that you can take to improve your chances of getting approved for a home loan.

  • Demonstrate evidence of income.
  • Manage your debt by paying it off in installments.
  • Offer an explanation for your tax debt and a plan to pay it off.
  • Do what you can to stay out of court or attract debt collection agencies.

 

Can I get a Commonwealth Bank home loan during maternity leave?

The Commonwealth Bank considers several factors like your income, expenses, assets, and liabilities to determine whether you’re suitable for a loan. Being on maternity leave doesn’t mean you won’t get approved for a loan, provided you meet the lender’s other criteria. For example, you may have other savings or spousal income to support your application. 

Having said that, it can be slightly more difficult to get a loan while you’re on maternity leave if you’re not being paid for your time off (which is often the case, depending on how long it’s for). 

If you are looking to apply for a Commonwealth Bank home loan during maternity leave, here are some things that may help your application:

  • Get a letter from your employer including details like your date of resuming work, salary when you return to work, and other employment terms
  • Show the bank you have savings. Putting up a 20 per cent deposit may help and you could also avoid Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI)
  • Calculate your income and expenses to apply for only what you can afford to pay.
  • If you have a partner or guarantor to help with your loan, provide their financial details on your application. 

Some people like to tell the lender they are on maternity leave before applying to see whether they qualify before going through the full process.