Owner builder home loans
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Some of the best investor mortgages at the end of October 2020
Despite disruptions to Australia’s economy in recent months, and the potential for further uncertainty in the immediate future, some property investors may instead be thinking about the longer term. With property often showing its value as an asset over a longer period than other investments, it’s important to consider whether your investment mortgage not only suits your needs now, but is likely to continue to do so in the future.
What are owner builder loans?
Owner builder loans are also known as construction loans because they relate to a home you plan to build yourself to live in.
Why build for yourself? You probably want to create a home style that will match your lifestyle, reflecting your character and values as well as your environment. It's a worthy ambition to create an original home and is one that owner builder loans can help you realise.
Applying for an owner builder home loan is often a considerably more laborious process than applying for your run-of-the-mill home loan. Hopefully, if you’re an aspiring owner builder, you’re not the type who shies away from a bit of hard labour.
The reasons owner builder loans are so much trickier to be approved for? Building a house almost never costs the original quoted price; it’s a risky business; and banks don’t like risks.
Why is it so hard to qualify for an owner builder home loan?
Qualifying for an owner builder home loan is harder than qualifying for a normal home loan because it presents a much bigger risk to the lender. You might be confident that you can build your dream home, but the bank doesn’t know you or your abilities.
A lender can look at your credit file and get an idea of how you might be able to manage a budget, but that doesn’t give them any indication of your ability to manage a long-term construction project. Unless, of course, you are a licensed and experienced builder, in which case you pose less of a risk and are more likely to be accepted for an owner builder loan.
How do owner builder home loans work?
Owner builder home loans operate differently from standard home loans in a number of ways.
To apply for an owner builder home loan, you'll need to provide thorough documentation of your project, including:
- Your project plan
- A cost estimate
- Your financial plan/budget
- Your builder’s insurance
- A builder permit
In a more typical home loan, you may be able to borrow up to 95% of your home's value to purchase the property. When it comes to owner builder loans, most banks will not lend you more than 60 per cent of the build cost, so it's important to have funds available for materials and other expenses. If you are a licensed and experienced builder, you can usually borrow up to 80 per cent of the build cost.
If you are approved for an owner builder loan, you will not be given the funds up front like with a regular home loan. You will be required to complete each stage of construction, then have it assessed and approved by a valuer, before the lender will grant you the next process payment.
Usually you can borrow ongoing interest as part of your finance package. This means that the interest is capitalised, but you don’t pay interest until your project is completed. Capitalising interest means that interest is charged on the funds you borrow and added to the amount you owe, so you pay interest on your interest.
How do I get approved for an owner builder loan?
Getting approved for an owner builder loan is all in the preparation. You are going to have to jump through a whole lot of hoops to get to the finish line, so make sure you’ve done your hoop-jumping homework.
If you are not already a licensed, experienced builder, then you will likely need to attend a prescribed owner builder course (bar some exemptions).
Check if you have a clear credit history, as if you have bad credit or a bankruptcy against your name, you are unlikely to be accepted for an owner builder loan.
Prepare, plan, and prepare some more. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. You must be as meticulous as possible in your plans for your imminent build. A lender will scrutinise you to determine that you are as risk-free a borrower as possible. If you run out of money before the project is finished, they are unlikely to lend you more, and you may have to end up relying on family or personal loans.
Owner builder home loan tips
Be realistic about what you can afford
Running over budget can negate the cost savings of owner building. You ought to be prepared for this to happen. If you are determined to have a dream house of your design, then this might not matter to you, but if the cost savings are an important factor, make sure your plans are as airtight as possible, or really think about whether this is the right move for you.
Add a buffer
Add a 20 per cent contingency buffer to whatever estimate you are given, in case anything goes wrong. Banks will generally add a 20 per cent contingency buffer to your loan, which means that any deposit you will need will be larger, so make sure you factor all of this into your budget.
For example, if the project you are building is valued at $500,000, the lender will often assume a build cost of $600,000. If you are required to provide a 40 per cent deposit, it will mean a deposit of $240,000 as opposed to $200,000.
Money first, then build
Don’t start building until you have secured the finance. Lenders will generally not accept you if you have already started the project.
Personal Finance Writer
Alex is a personal finance writer and PR professional at RateCity, and has been writing about finance for over three years. She is passionate about closing the gender pay and superannuation gap, and aims to help young Aussies to overcome their financial apathy and better manage their finances. Alex has been published in numerous print and online outlets, including Money Magazine, Lifehacker Australia, and Business Insider.
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Frequently asked questions
How can I get a home loan with bad credit?
If you want to get a home loan with bad credit, you need to convince a lender that your problems are behind you and that you will, indeed, be able to repay a mortgage.
One step you might want to take is to visit a mortgage broker who specialises in bad credit home loans (also known as ‘non-conforming home loans’ or ‘sub-prime home loans’). An experienced broker will know which lenders to approach, and how to plead your case with each of them.
Two points to bear in mind are:
- Many home loan lenders don’t provide bad credit mortgages
- Each lender has its own policies, and therefore favours different things
If you’d prefer to directly approach the lender yourself, you’re more likely to find success with smaller non-bank lenders that specialise in bad credit home loans (as opposed to bigger banks that prefer ‘vanilla’ mortgages). That’s because these smaller lenders are more likely to treat you as a unique individual rather than judge you according to a one-size-fits-all policy.
Lenders try to minimise their risk, so if you want to get a home loan with bad credit, you need to do everything you can to convince lenders that you’re safer than your credit history might suggest. If possible, provide paperwork that shows:
- You have a secure job
- You have a steady income
- You’ve been reducing your debts
- You’ve been increasing your savings
How can I calculate interest on my home loan?
You can calculate the total interest you will pay over the life of your loan by using a mortgage calculator. The calculator will estimate your repayments based on the amount you want to borrow, the interest rate, the length of your loan, whether you are an owner-occupier or an investor and whether you plan to pay ‘principal and interest’ or ‘interest-only’.
If you are buying a new home, the calculator will also help you work out how much you’ll need to pay in stamp duty and other related costs.
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.
Are bad credit home loans dangerous?
Bad credit home loans can be dangerous if the borrower signs up for a loan they’ll struggle to repay. This might occur if the borrower takes out a mortgage at the limit of their financial capacity, especially if they have some combination of a low income, an insecure job and poor savings habits.
Bad credit home loans can also be dangerous if the borrower buys a home in a stagnant or falling market – because if the home has to be sold, they might be left with ‘negative equity’ (where the home is worth less than the mortgage).
That said, bad credit home loans can work out well if the borrower is able to repay the mortgage – for example, if they borrow conservatively, have a decent income, a secure job and good savings habits. Another good sign is if the borrower buys a property in a market that is likely to rise over the long term.
How do I refinance my home loan?
Refinancing your home loan can involve a bit of paperwork but if you are moving on to a lower rate, it can save you thousands of dollars in the long-run. The first step is finding another loan on the market that you think will save you money over time or offer features that your current loan does not have. Once you have selected a couple of loans you are interested in, compare them with your current loan to see if you will save money in the long term on interest rates and fees. Remember to factor in any break fees and set up fees when assessing the cost of switching.
Once you have decided on a new loan it is simply a matter of contacting your existing and future lender to get the new loan set up. Beware that some lenders will revert your loan back to a 25 or 30 year term when you refinance which may mean initial lower repayments but may cost you more in the long run.
What is a building in course of erection loan?
Also known as a construction home loan, a building in course of erection (BICOE) loan loan allows you to draw down funds as a building project advances in order to pay the builders. This option is available on selected variable rate loans.
What is a bad credit home loan?
A bad credit home loan is a mortgage for people with a low credit score. Lenders regard bad credit borrowers as riskier than ‘vanilla’ borrowers, so they tend to charge higher interest rates for bad credit home loans.
If you want a bad credit home loan, you’re more likely to get approved by a small non-bank lender than by a big four bank or another mainstream lender.
Who has the best home loan?
Determining who has the ‘best’ home loan really does depend on your own personal circumstances and requirements. It may be tempting to judge a loan merely on the interest rate but there can be added value in the extras on offer, such as offset and redraw facilities, that aren’t available with all low rate loans.
To determine which loan is the best for you, think about whether you would prefer the consistency of a fixed loan or the flexibility and potential benefits of a variable loan. Then determine which features will be necessary throughout the life of your loan. Thirdly, consider how much you are willing to pay in fees for the loan you want. Once you find the perfect combination of these three elements you are on your way to determining the best loan for you.
Who offers 40 year mortgages?
Home loans spanning 40 years are offered by select lenders, though the loan period is much longer than a standard 30-year home loan. You're more likely to find a maximum of 35 years, such as is the case with Teacher’s Mutual Bank.
Even though these lengthier loans 35 to 40 year loans do exist on the market, they are not overwhelmingly popular, as the extra interest you pay compared to a 30-year loan can be over $100,000 or more.
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.
I can't pick a loan. Should I apply to multiple lenders?
Applying for home loans with multiple lenders at once can affect your credit history, as multiple loan applications in short succession can make you look like a risky borrower. Comparing home loans from different lenders, assessing their features and benefits, and making one application to a preferred lender may help to improve your chances of success
Do mortgage brokers need a consumer credit license?
In Australia, mortgage brokers are defined by law as being credit service or assistance providers, meaning that they help borrowers connect with lenders. Mortgage brokers may not always need a consumer credit license however if they’re operating solo they will need an Australian Credit License (ACL). Further, they may also need to comply with requirements asking them to mention their license number in full.
Some mortgage brokers can be “credit representatives”, or franchisees of a mortgage aggregator. In this case, if the aggregator has a license, the mortgage broker need not have one. The reasoning for this is that the franchise agreement usually requires mortgage brokers to comply with the laws applicable to the aggregator. If you’re speaking to a mortgage broker, you can ask them if they receive commissions from lenders, which is a good indicator that they need to be licensed. Consider requesting their license details if they don’t give you the details beforehand.
You should remember that such a license protects you if you’re given incorrect or misleading advice that results in a home loan application rejection or any financial loss. Brokers are regulated by the Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC), as per the National Consumer Credit Protection (NCCP) Act.
What are the responsibilities of a mortgage broker?
Mortgage brokers act as the go-between for borrowers looking for a home loan and the lenders offering the loan. They offer personalised advice to help borrowers choose the right home loan for their needs.
In Australia, mortgage brokers are required by law to carry an Australian Credit License (ACL) if they offer credit assistance services. Which is the legal term for guidance regarding the different kinds of credit offered by lenders, including home loan mortgages. They may not need this license if they are working for an aggregator, for instance, as a franchisee. In both these situations, they need to comply with the regulations laid down by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
These regulations, which are stipulated by Australian legislation, require mortgage brokers to comply with what are called “responsible lending” and “best interest” obligations. Responsible lending obligations mean brokers have to suggest “suitable” home loans. This means loans that you can easily qualify for, actually meet your needs, and don’t prove unnecessarily challenging for you.
Starting 1 January 2021, mortgage brokers must comply with best interest obligations in addition to responsible lending obligations. These require mortgage brokers to act in the best interest of their customers and also requires them to prioritise their customers’ interests over their own. For instance, a mortgage broker may not recommend a lender who gives them a commission if that lender’s home loan offer does not benefit that particular customer.
How to break up with your mortgage broker
If you find a mortgage broker giving you generic advice or trying to sell you a competitive offer from an unsuitable lender, you might be better off breaking up with the mortgage broker and consulting someone else. Breaking up with a mortgage broker can be done over the phone, or via email. You can also raise a complaint, either with the broker’s aggregator or with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority as necessary.
As licensed industry professionals, mortgage brokers have the responsibility of giving you accurate advice so that you know what to expect when you apply for a home loan. You may have approached the mortgage broker, for instance, because you have questions about the terms of a home loan a lender offered you.
You should remember that mortgage brokers are obliged by law to act in your best interests and as part of complying with The Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s (ASIC) regulations. If you feel you didn’t get the right advice from the mortgage broker, or that you lost money as a result of accepting the broker’s suggestions regarding a lender or home loan offer, you can file a complaint with the ASIC and seek compensation.
When you first speak to a mortgage broker, consider asking them about their Lender Panel, which is the list of lenders they usually recommend and who may pay them a commission. This information can help you decide if the advice they give you has anything to do with the remuneration they may receive from one or more lenders.
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 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.
Will I be paying two mortgages at once when I refinance?
No, given the way the loan and title transfer works, you will not have to pay two mortgages at the one time. You will make your last monthly repayment on loan number one and then the following month you will start paying off loan number two.