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RBA Rate to hold again at 1.5

RBA Rate to hold again at 1.5

The RBA have continued a seven-month streak and left interest rates unchanged at 1.5 per cent at the March 2017 meeting.

There are several factors which the RBA considers when it sets interest rates, such as the labour market and economic growth.

Subdued growth in wages (at a record low level of 1.8 per cent in the December quarter) means that inflation is expected to remain low for some time. The RBA keeping rates low suggest the Australian economy isn’t growing as fast as it could be, which may undermine our prosperity over time.

Jobs growth too has slowed. While the unemployment rate in Australia sat at a relatively low level of 5.7 per cent in January 2017, total employment growth over the year to January was just 0.8 per cent, which was less than half the average growth rate over the past 20 years (1.8 per cent).

That’s a bad sign for consumers who are far more likely to spend money if their wages are growing strongly and there are good prospects for employment.

Why does the RBA set these rates?

The RBA sets interest rates to keep inflation within a 2per cent to 3per cent band. Inflation is sitting well below that, at just 1.5per cent in the December quarter of 2016. This gives the RBA scope to keep interest rates lower for longer.

Another reason the RBA has kept the 1.5 per cent rate is to push the Australian dollar lower as this makes Australian exports cheaper and therefore more attractive to offshore buyers. This helps to boost economic activity which has been growing at below trend rates given the mining downturn.

Should we raise interest rates?

Household debt is siting at around record levels and property markets have been surging ahead in Sydney and Melbourne. Auction clearance rates are back over 80 per cent and the low level of property listings has pushed dwelling prices higher. Housing is now extremely unaffordable for many people in those two big cities.

The RBA doesn’t want to see a property bubble, but that’s exactly what it’s looking like in Sydney and Melbourne with both markets dangerously overvalued, especially Sydney’s.

The RBA is keen not to fuel the bubble further through lower interest rates. This suggests the RBA could raise interest rates sometime later this year or in 2018.

Having said that, elsewhere in Australia, house prices have grow more modestly and they are falling in Perth and Darwin given the mining downturn, factors which might hold the RBA’s hand from raising rates.

Other factors suggest the RBA may not need to raise rates to quell property demand as the banks are doing it anyway to preserve their interest rate margins and profits.

The Australian banks have been moving out of step with the RBA and raising interest rates on home loans for investors and, more recently, owner-occupiers. Banks have also tightened lending criteria such as loan-to-value ratio (LVR) on investment loans after the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority’s introduced supervisory measures in 2015 to cap the growth of investor lending, which are still restraining lending today. Even if official rates stay on hold Aussie banks are still raising rates.

Fixed interest rates on home loans have also been rising with the expectation of renewed global economic growth after Donald Trump’s presidential victory in the US, which has pushed up bond yields, off which fixed mortgages are priced.

What else influenced the decision?

Other factors have also impacted the Reserve Bank’s decision to hold the cash rate.  

Commodity prices have improved significantly from recent lows but this follows very substantial declines over the past couple of years.

Exports of many of Australia’s key commodities are soaring. Higher interest rates would push up the Australian dollar and make our exports more expensive, which would undermine an export-led economic recovery.

The RBA expects and wants to see Australian economic growth back at around 3 per cent over the next couple of years. It has been well below that in recent times. Consumer spending and retail sales are expected to pick up from recent outcomes but to remain moderate. Some further pick-up in non-mining business investment is also expected. Higher interest rates would put this recovery at risk.

Other considerations include the strength of the global economy, what’s happening in the US economy and China, and the level of stock markets around the globe and locally. While US stocks have been hitting record highs in recent times, Australian share prices aren’t so exuberant, which is another factor suggesting that rates will remain on hold. Also, US interest rates look like they could be rising soon which the RBA will be considering.

For March 2017, RBA cash rates are on hold. But their next direction, whether up or down, is impossible to predict right now.

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Learn more about home loans

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. 

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.

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 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. 

Are fixed rates or variable rates cheaper?

Fixed and variable home loan interest rates are discretionary based on the lender’s decision. They will also be influenced by the Australian economy, as well as the Reserve Bank of Australia’s cash rate. The specific interest rate you may be offered will also depend on your credit history and financial situation.

Whether a fixed or variable rate home loan is the cheaper option for you will depend on all the above, and may still fluctuate over a 25-year home loan term. Therefore, it’s worth comparing your loan options with our comparison tables to see how the rates compare, based on your specific financial needs.

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.

How long can you fix a home loan rate for?

Most lenders should let you fix your interest rate for anywhere between one and five years. While rare, a few lenders may offer fixed rate terms for as long as 10 years.

Fixing your home loan interest rate for a longer term can keep your budgeting fairly straightforward, as you shouldn't have to factor in changes to your mortgage repayments if variable rates change, such as when the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) changes its rates at its monthly meeting. Additionally, if variable rates rise during your fixed rate term, you can continue to pay the lower fixed rate until the fixed term ends, potentially saving you some money.

Of course, a longer fixed term also means a longer length of time where you may have less flexibility in your home loan repayments. It’s also a longer period where you won’t be able to refinance your mortgage without paying break fees. If variable rates were to fall during this period, you may also be stuck paying a higher fixed rate for a longer period.

What happens to my home loan when interest rates rise?

If you are on a variable rate home loan, every so often your rate will be subject to increases and decreases. Rate changes are determined by your lender, not the Reserve Bank of Australia, however often when the RBA changes the cash rate, a number of banks will follow suit, at least to some extent. You can use RateCity cash rate to check how the latest interest rate change affected your mortgage interest rate.

When your rate rises, you will be required to pay your bank more each month in mortgage repayments. Similarly, if your interest rate is cut, then your monthly repayments will decrease. Your lender will notify you of what your new repayments will be, although you can do the calculations yourself, and compare other home loan rates using our mortgage calculator.

There is no way of conclusively predicting when interest rates will go up or down on home loans so if you prefer a more stable approach consider opting for a fixed rate loan.

Does the Home Loan Rate Promise apply to discounted interest rate offers, such as honeymoon rates?

No. Temporary discounts to home loan interest rates will expire after a limited time, so they aren’t valid for comparing home loans as part of the Home Loan Rate Promise.

However, if your home loan has been discounted from the lender’s standard rate on a permanent basis, you can check if we can find an even lower rate that could apply to you.

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 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 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.

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 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.