What could a recession mean for you?

What could a recession mean for you?

The Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) plummet last Thursday saw a loss of over $60 billion wiped from the local stock market, which has raised concerns that another recession – or worse, another Global Financial Crisis (GFC) – could be on the horizon.

It’s no secret that trade tensions between China and the US are high, with the US president previously announcing that the Office of the US Trade Representative (UTSR) would add a 10 per cent tariff to another $300 billion in Chinese imports. It may be comforting to ‘blame’ the crash on the US China tariff war, but there are many factors around the world that are impacting consumer and shareholder confidence in the global economy.

The state of the Australian economy

The cash rate set by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) is at an historical low of just one per cent, while unemployment sits at 5.2 per cent, 7 base percentage points from the RBA’s target of 4.5 per cent.

This, coupled with the recent ABS research confirming that consumer spending is as low as it was during the 1991 recession, is not comforting to economists and commentators.

In the most recent Standing Committee on Economics, RBA Governor Dr Philip Lowe stressed the importance of fiscal policy – including spending on infrastructure- in lifting consumer spending and reducing the unemployment rate.

Reserve Bank of Australia with recession looming

Global financial markets are in an uncertain spot right now

The ongoing trade dispute, negative interest rate mortgages in Denmark, and historically low cash rates from central banks around the world including our own have all worked together to sound a possible recession alarm.

A recession could significantly impact Australians, irrespective of your direct involvement with the ASX.

You may be thinking ‘we survived the last GFC’, and you would be right. However, much has changed since the last Global Financial Crisis in 2008, and so it might be worth looking at your finances before anything has the potential to rock them.

What could a recession mean for you?

A recession can rear its ugly head in many ways, predominantly in the areas of employment, investments, new business opportunities and real estate value.

If Australia were to enter a recession, small business owners may not have the funds to borrow or start new companies, as government funding for innovation is restricted. Real estate values can also fall drastically, and families who cannot afford mortgage repayments could be forced out of their homes.

During a recession, unemployment rates can rise dramatically. Business owners will often reduce employee numbers to save on wages, and new ventures may be seen as too risky, meaning less new positions are likely to be advertised. Superannuation could also be impacted, as share markets are one of the main drivers of strong performance.

young woman shaking piggy bank during recession

How can you prepare for a recession?

If you’re concerned there is a recession on the horizon, the best thing you can do is to review your financial situation in detail.

Hiring a financial advisor can be advantageous, as you may find an insider view of the market and possibly a deeper understanding of where you stand financially.

When it comes to your personal finances, there is no one-size-fits-all model. Lenders provide personalised rates and charge different fees for a number of products. Financial products each have their own affordability tests, that vary based on the lender, and lenders can offer a plethora of promotions with disparate expiry dates for each product or product variation.

The key is to make sure you compare personal loans, home loans, credit cards or savings accounts in-depth before you sign on the dotted line. Yes, interest rates are at an all-time low, but if Australia were to enter a recession, you could lose thousands in property value, or struggle to meet your home loan repayments.

If you’re concerned by what you pay now for a home loan, it could be an ideal time to find out whether your interest rate is the best it could be, and if it isn’t, whether refinancing is a suitable option.

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Learn more about home loans

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 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 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.

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 a variable home loan?

A variable rate home loan is one where the interest rate can and will change over the course of your loan. The rate is determined by your lender, not the Reserve Bank of Australia, so while the cash rate might go down, your bank may decide not to follow suit, although they do broadly follow market conditions. One of the upsides of variable rates is that they are typically more flexible than their fixed rate counterparts which means that a lot of these products will let you make extra repayments and offer features such as offset accounts.

What is the difference between fixed, variable and split rates?

Fixed rate

A fixed rate home loan is a loan where the interest rate is set for a certain amount of time, usually between one and 15 years. The advantage of a fixed rate is that you know exactly how much your repayments will be for the duration of the fixed term. There are some disadvantages to fixing that you need to be aware of. Some products won’t let you make extra repayments, or offer tools such as an offset account to help you reduce your interest, while others will charge a significant break fee if you decide to terminate the loan before the fixed period finishes.

Variable rate

A variable rate home loan is one where the interest rate can and will change over the course of your loan. The rate is determined by your lender, not the Reserve Bank of Australia, so while the cash rate might go down, your bank may decide not to follow suit, although they do broadly follow market conditions. One of the upsides of variable rates is that they are typically more flexible than their fixed rate counterparts which means that a lot of these products will let you make extra repayments and offer features such as offset accounts.

Split rates home loans

A split loan lets you fix a portion of your loan, and leave the remainder on a variable rate so you get a bet each way on fixed and variable rates. A split loan is a good option for someone who wants the peace of mind that regular repayments can provide but still wants to retain some of the additional features variable loans typically provide such as an offset account. Of course, with most things in life, split loans are still a trade-off. If the variable rate goes down, for example, the lower interest rates will only apply to the section that you didn’t fix.

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.

Interest Rate

Your current home loan interest rate. To accurately calculate how much you could save, an accurate interest figure is required. If you are not certain, check your bank statement or log into your mortgage account.

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.

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.

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.