As jobless figure creeps, more people defer mortgage repayments

Homeowners who deferred their mortgages are making less repayments than when the pandemic first struck, putting them in the position where they will likely face compounding interest charges in the thousands, according to data released by the financial regulator.

The findings come as the number of people out of work due to the pandemic is reportedly expected to inch towards a double-digit percentage.

The state of mortgage deferrals 

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), the government’s watchdog over the banking, insurance and superannuation industry, provided some insight into the toll the COVID-19 pandemic is placing on households and the measures taken by banks to cushion the blow.

Over the months of April, May and June this year, banks and other financial institutions have halted mortgage repayments on $255 billion worth of housing and small business loans. 

About $40 billion worth of deferred repayments were added in the month of June alone -- five billion less than the month before it.

The total value of borrowers that put a stop to their ‘mortgage holiday’ over the three months was worth $21 billion. Of that, the vast majority -- $18 billion -- was repaid in the month of June. 

“Overall the composition of loan repayment deferrals remains relatively stable with the most noticeable change being increased loans exiting from repayment deferral -- from $2 billion in May to $18 billion in June,” APRA said in a statement.

“The majority of these loans have returned to a performing status.”

Who is repaying what?

A significant number of people have continued to meet some or all of their mortgage repayments, despite taking the banks up on a deferral.

Nine per cent of borrowers made partial repayments in June -- down from 13 per cent in April.

While 11 per cent of people on a mortgage holiday continued to make full repayments -- down from 21 per cent in April.

The deferral of home loan repayments helped cushion the swift economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, but compound interest continues to be calculated on these loans -- adding thousands of dollars in many cases.

The cost of deferring a $400,000 principal-and-interest variable loan with a remaining term of 20 years, where interest is calculated at 3.5 per cent per annum, would be $6960 over three months, and $13,919 after six months, according to Westpac’s home loan deferral calculator.

Rising unemployment

The release of data comes as the RBA is reportedly expected to revise the unemployment rate.

The bank had originally forecast in May an unemployment rate of 10 per cent for June, but had lowered it due to promising signs of recovery.

However, the Australian Financial Review reports the repeat lockdown in Victoria, due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, will result in the original 10 per cent projection being realised. An announcement is expected to be made on Friday.

Governor Philip Lowe said the pandemic had made the future outlook “highly uncertain” in a statement released yesterday, after it was announced the cash rate will be held at the record low of 0.25 per cent.

“The Australian economy is going through a very difficult period and is experiencing the biggest contraction since the 1930s,” he said.

“As difficult as this is, the downturn is not as severe as earlier expected and a recovery is now underway in most of Australia. 

“This recovery is, however, likely to be both uneven and bumpy, with the coronavirus outbreak in Victoria having a major effect on the Victorian economy.”

Refinancing surges as banks pass on low interest rates

Financially, not everyone has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe, and those still employed seem to be making the most of low mortgage interest rates. 

A recent RateCity survey of 1009 home loan borrowers found that 43 per cent are looking to refinance -- that’s up from 19 per cent in a survey conducted after the banking royal commission in 2018.

Switching a mortgage onto the lowest variable loan rate on the market could save $2805 in the first year, a RateCity analysis found, and $19,235 over five years -- including switching costs -- on a typical $400,000 loan.

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Learn more about home loans

How much are repayments on a $250K mortgage?

The exact repayment amount for a $250,000 mortgage will be determined by several factors including your deposit size, interest rate and the type of loan. It is best to use a mortgage calculator to determine your actual repayment size.

For example, the monthly repayments on a $250,000 loan with a 5 per cent interest rate over 30 years will be $1342. For a loan of $300,000 on the same rate and loan term, the monthly repayments will be $1610 and for a $500,000 loan, the monthly repayments will be $2684.

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 I calculate monthly mortgage repayments?

Work out your mortgage repayments using a home loan calculator that takes into account your deposit size, property value and interest rate. This is divided by the loan term you choose (for example, there are 360 months in a 30-year mortgage) to determine the monthly repayments over this time frame.

Over the course of your loan, your monthly repayment amount will be affected by changes to your interest rate, plus any circumstances where you opt to pay interest-only for a period of time, instead of principal and interest.

What is mortgage stress?

Mortgage stress is when you don’t have enough income to comfortably meet your monthly mortgage repayments and maintain your lifestyle. Many experts believe that mortgage stress starts when you are spending 30 per cent or more of your pre-tax income on mortgage repayments.

Mortgage stress can lead to people defaulting on their loans which can have serious long term repercussions.

The best way to avoid mortgage stress is to include at least a 2 – 3 per cent buffer in your estimated monthly repayments. If you could still make your monthly repayments comfortably at a rate of up to 8 or 9 per cent then you should be in good position to meet your obligations. If you think that a rate rise would leave you at a risk of defaulting on your loan, consider borrowing less money.

If you do find yourself in mortgage stress, talk to your bank about ways to potentially reduce your mortgage burden. Contacting a financial counsellor can also be a good idea. You can locate a free counselling service in your state by calling the national hotline: 1800 007 007 or visiting www.financialcounsellingaustralia.org.au.

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.

What percentage of income should my mortgage repayments be?

As a general rule, mortgage repayments should be less than 30 per cent of your pre-tax income to avoid falling into mortgage stress. When mortgage repayments exceed this amount it becomes hard to budget for other living expenses and your lifestyle quality may be diminished.

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.

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 can I avoid mortgage insurance?

Lenders mortgage insurance (LMI) can be avoided by having a substantial deposit saved up before you apply for a loan, usually around 20 per cent or more (or a LVR of 80 per cent or less). This amount needs to be considered genuine savings by your lender so it has to have been in your account for three months rather than a lump sum that has just been deposited.

Some lenders may even require a six months saving history so the best way to ensure you don’t end up paying LMI is to plan ahead for your home loan and save regularly.

Tip: You can use RateCity mortgage repayment calculator to calculate your LMI based on your borrowing profile

What is a guarantor?

A guarantor is someone who provides a legally binding promise that they will pay off a mortgage if the principal borrower fails to do so.

Often, guarantors are parents in a solid financial position, while the principal borrower is a child in a weaker financial position who is struggling to enter the property market.

Lenders usually regard borrowers as less risky when they have a guarantor – and therefore may charge lower interest rates or even approve mortgages they would have otherwise rejected.

However, if the borrower falls behind on their repayments, the lender might chase the guarantor for payment. In some circumstances, the lender might even seize and sell the guarantor’s property to recoup their money.

How do I take out a low-deposit home loan?

If you want to take out a low-deposit home loan, it might be a good idea to consult a mortgage broker who can give you professional financial advice and organise the mortgage for you.

Another way to take out a low-deposit home loan is to do your own research with a comparison website like RateCity. Once you’ve identified your preferred mortgage, you can apply through RateCity or go direct to the lender.

What is breach of contract?

A failure to follow all or part of a contract or breaking the conditions of a contract without any legal excuse. A breach of contract can be material, minor, actual or anticipatory, depending on the severity of the breaches and their material impact.

What happens when you default on your mortgage?

A mortgage default occurs when you are 90 days or more behind on your mortgage repayments. Late repayments will often incur a late fee on top of the amount owed which will continue to gather interest along with the remaining principal amount.

If you do default on a mortgage repayment you should try and catch up in next month’s payment. If this isn’t possible, and missing payments is going to become a regular issue, you need to contact your lender as soon as possible to organise an alternative payment schedule and discuss further options.

You may also want to talk to a financial counsellor. 

How often is your data updated?

We work closely with lenders to get updates as quick as possible, with updates made the same day wherever possible.