House buyers tipped to come out on top in the property market

House buyers tipped to come out on top in the property market

House buyers with plans to hold their future properties long-term may be in a strong position to nab a bargain in the property market despite COVID-19, some experts say.

Those who are looking to purchase a house to live in long-term may find themselves with the upper hand when negotiating prices, according to RiskWise Property Research chief executive officer Doron Peleg.

This was particularly the case in Sydney, where the average holding period for houses is 12.2 years, RiskWise figures showed. About three quarters of houses in Sydney are owned by owner-occupiers.

“This means owner-occupiers with secure jobs and no serviceability issues are not impacted by short-term market movements, unless they need to refinance,” Mr Peleg said.

Pete Wargent, co-founder of buyer’s agency Buyers Buyers, said anyone considering buying property in this market would likely come out on top if they stick to playing the long game, as prices are not widely expected to jump in the short term.

“In the current market, the supply versus demand is in far better shape for houses and family-appropriate accommodation than it is for inner-city units and apartments,” he said.

“If you negotiate well, you can secure a very good property and manage the risk of lower prices in the short term by simply paying less.”

Mr Wargent added that while purchasing a property in these times can be intimidating for both experienced and first home buyers, doing thorough research is one of the most important pieces of preparation a buyer can do in this market.

“Understanding the nuances of the local market and negotiating accordingly on price and terms is the key,” he said.

Government incentives and low interest rates give buyers a leg up

On top of this, government incentives, including the First Home Buyers Deposit Scheme and stamp duty exemptions, are expected to help give home buyers, particularly those purchasing for the first time, a leg up in the market.

Record-low interest rates are also helping property buyers pay less on their mortgage. 

The lowest variable rate on offer is 1.89 per cent, from Reduce Home Loans, though it is only available to those with up to 60 per cent loan-to-value-ratio (LVR). 

The lowest two-year and three-year fixed rates are both at 1.99 per cent, offered by:

“Lower interest rates also materially improve housing affordability in terms of serviceability ratio, i.e. the monthly repayments for any price point are simply lower,” Mr Peleg said.

“What this all means is now is the time to buy if you are a first home buyer or an owner-occupier as this current slowdown in the property market is only temporary, with houses in popular areas likely to experience solid capital growth in the medium to long term.

“Once the COVID-19 issue is resolved, most likely in 2021, the traditional connection between low interest rates and increase in dwelling prices is likely to take place.”

However, for property investors buying apartments that may be unsuitable for renting families, Mr Peleg said they could be “taking an enormous gamble” in this environment, as risks to cash flow and equity are tipped to rise. The stability of rental income will be a key concern for investors who rely on this to pay their mortgages and other property-related costs, he said.

CoreLogic’s head of research Tim Lawless said the prices of inner-city apartments could see further falls.

“With high supply and weak rental conditions likely to persist, at least until international borders re-open, inner city, investor-owned unit values are likely to remain under significant downside risk,” he said.

Sydney property prices positive over the long term

Property values in Sydney fell by 3.3 per cent in the three months to October, but remained positive at 3.1 per cent over the year, the latest CoreLogic figures showed. 

House prices in Sydney jumped by 8.7 per cent in the past 12 months, compared with units which saw slower growth of 5.4 per cent.

Demand for houses in the Harbour City has been strong which, combined with a shortage of houses, has delivered double-digit capital growth in the past five years, according to RiseWise. This is despite the property market experiencing:

  • credit restrictions from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA),
  • closer scrutiny of mortgage applications as a result of the Financial Services Royal Commission, and
  • falling prices until mid-2019.

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Learn more about home loans

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.

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.

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.

What is a loan-to-value ratio (LVR)?

A loan-to-value ratio (otherwise known as a Loan to Valuation Ratio or LVR), is a calculation lenders make to work out the value of your loan versus the value of your property, expressed as a percentage.   Lenders use this calculation to help assess your suitability for a home loan, and whether you need to pay lender’s mortgage insurance (LMI). As a general rule, most banks will require you to pay LMI if your loan-to-value ratio is 80 per cent or more.   LVR is worked out by dividing the loan amount by the value of the property. If you are looking for a quick ball-park estimate of LVR, the size of your deposit is a good indicator as it is directly proportionate to your LVR. For instance, a loan with an LVR of 80 per cent requires a deposit of 20 per cent, while a 90 per cent LVR requires 10 per cent down payment. 

LOAN AMOUNT / PROPERTY VALUE = LVR%

While this all sounds simple enough, it is worth doing a more accurate calculation of LVR before you commit to buying a place as there are some traps to be aware of. Firstly, the ‘loan amount’ is the price you paid for the property plus additional costs such as stamp duty and legal fees, minus your deposit amount. Secondly, the ‘property value’ is determined by your lender’s valuation of the property, not the price you paid for it, and sometimes these can differ so where possible, try and get your bank to evaluate the property before you put in an offer.

What is a line of credit?

A line of credit, also known as a home equity loan, is a type of mortgage that allows you to borrow money using the equity in your property.

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.

What is stamp duty?

Stamp duty is the tax that must be paid when purchasing a property in Australia.

It is calculated by the state government based on the selling price of the property. These charges may differ for first homebuyers. You can calculate the stamp duty for your property using our stamp duty calculator.

What is bridging finance?

A loan of shorter duration taken to buy a new property before a borrower sells an existing property, usually taken to cover the financial gap that occurs while buying a new property without first selling an older one.

Usually, these loans have higher interest rates and a shorter repayment duration.

What is a low-deposit home loan?

A low-deposit home loan is a mortgage where you need to borrow more than 80 per cent of the purchase price – in other words, your deposit is less than 20 per cent of the purchase price.

For example, if you want to buy a $500,000 property, you’ll need a low-deposit home loan if your deposit is less than $100,000 and therefore you need to borrow more than $400,000.

As a general rule, you’ll need to pay LMI (lender’s mortgage insurance) if you take out a low-deposit home loan. You can use this LMI calculator to estimate your LMI payment.

Does Australia have no cost refinancing?

No Cost Refinancing is an option available in the US where the lender or broker covers your switching costs, such as appraisal fees and settlement costs. Unfortunately, no cost refinancing isn’t available in Australia.

Can I change jobs while I am applying for a home loan?

Whether you’re a new borrower or you’re refinancing your home loan, many lenders require you to be in a permanent job with the same employer for at least 6 months before applying for a home loan. Different lenders have different requirements. 

If your work situation changes for any reason while you’re applying for a mortgage, this could reduce your chances of successfully completing the process. Contacting the lender as soon as you know your employment situation is changing may allow you to work something out. 

Can I get a home loan if I am on an employment contract?

Some lenders will allow you to apply for a mortgage if you are a contractor or freelancer. However, many lenders prefer you to be in a permanent, ongoing role, because a more stable income means you’re more likely to keep up with your repayments.

If you’re a contractor, freelancer, or are otherwise self-employed, it may still be possible to apply for a low-doc home loan, as these mortgages require less specific proof of income.

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.

Is there a limit to how many times I can refinance?

There is no set limit to how many times you are allowed to refinance. Some surveyed RateCity users have refinanced up to three times.

However, if you refinance several times in short succession, it could affect your credit score. Lenders assess your credit score when you apply for new loans, so if you end up with bad credit, you may not be able to refinance if and when you really need to.

Before refinancing multiple times, consider getting a copy of your credit report and ensure your credit history is in good shape for future refinances.

I have a poor credit rating. Am I still able to get a mortgage?

Some lenders still allow you to apply for a home loan if you have impaired credit. However, you may pay a slightly higher interest rate and/or higher fees. This is to help offset the higher risk that you may default on your repayments.