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How to search for a home loan

To begin your home loan journey, you first need to know how to search for and compare your options. This is where comparison tools, as well as trusted experts, can lend a helpful hand.

  • Comparison tables

A comparison table is a way to compare apples with apples, meaning, it allows you to perform side by side comparisons of various home loan products you have filtered down to suit your financial situation.

Simply enter the details of your ideal home loan (loan amount, property value) and filter down the results by entering your loan type, rate type and more. You’ll then be able to view a range of options side by side to create a short list of home loans with competitive interest rates, repayment amounts and features, as well as fees you may want to avoid.

(Not sure of your ideal loan type? Don’t fret - these details are explained further in this guide.)

  • Home loan calculators

Once you have a short list of home loans you may be interested in, you’ll want to continue your search by seeing how they may suit your budget. This is where home loan calculators come in.

Simply, enter in the amount you’d like to borrow, the interest rate, loan term, repayment type and whether you’re an owner-occupier or investor. You’ll then be given an estimate of your potential monthly repayments. If this figure would break your budget, for example, you’ll know that loan may not be the one for you. However, if the repayments are easily affordable (including any potential ongoing fees) you may have a loan contender.

  • Real Time RatingsTM

Tossing up between a few home loan options? It can always help to listen to what the experts have to say. This is where Real Time RatingsTM may be able to help make the search a little clearer. Real Time RatingsTM is a world-first rating system that provides up-to-date assessments of home loans based on your individual requirements.

Other comparison site rating systems may only be graded once or twice a year. However, Real Time RatingsTM is calculated daily, with each loan given a rating out of 5 stars. This rating is based on loan cost and flexibility, factoring in your loan size, deposit amount and borrowing type. Consider using Real Time RatingsTM as a handy guide when searching for your ideal home loan.

  • Mortgage brokers

Speaking of experts, if you’re absolutely stuck in your home loan search, or just want a little more specific financial advice, a mortgage broker can offer a lifeline for would-be borrowers.

You’ll not only get the insider view from an industry-expert, but they can aid in guiding you through the home loan application process, ensuring your application is as stress-free as possible.

What is a comparison rate?

An interest rate may not always give you the full picture of the true cost of a home loan, and this is where comparison rates can come in handy. A comparison rate also factors in various fees and charges associated with the loan. The calculation is based on a (now somewhat dated) Australian model of a $150,000 loan with a loan term of 25 years.

As home loans are typically much larger, the comparison rate may not be an exact reflection of the full costs you may incur. However, it is a good way to gauge just how many fees and costs a loan has. For example, if a loan advertises a rate of 2 per cent, but the comparison rate is a percentage point higher or more, you can expect a fair few ongoing costs with that home loan.

What Aussies search for in a good home loan

Ideally, you’re aiming for a home loan that suits your borrowing type and keeps costs down.

Another key component to look at when performing a home loan search is what exactly makes up the home loan itself, including the interest rates, fees and ongoing costs and type of loan you’ve taken out.

  • Interest rate – the interest rate is one of the most important components of a home loan. The interest charged on your principal amount will make up a large sum of your ongoing repayments. The higher the interest rate, the higher your ongoing repayments. But a low rate loan may not come with the same bells and whistles as a more costly option.
  • Fees and costs – there are a range of potential fees and costs you may be charged for your home loan, including upfront fees, annual fees, early exit (break) fees and discharge (settlement) fees. You also may be charged lenders mortgage insurance (LMI) if your loan-to-value-ratio (LVR) is above 80 per cent, meaning you have a home loan deposit or home loan equity below 20 per cent of the property's value. Your loan may also be subject to stamp duty, depending on your state or territory.
  • Interest rate types – you may choose between paying a variable interest rate or a fixed interest rate on your home loan. A variable rate home loan is subject to market fluctuation and is influenced by both the lender and the Reserve Bank of Australia’s cash rate. If your lender were to cut rates, your rates would fall, and vice versa if they were to hike rates. However, a fixed rate home loan will lock in an interest rate for a set period of time, protecting you from any hikes, but limiting you from decreases. A fixed rate also allows for greater stability in your budget, as your loan repayments will all be the same amount. If you can’t choose between the two you may want to opt for a split loan, where a portion of your loan is variable, and a portion is fixed.
  • Repayment types - You can choose between paying both the principal and interest (easiest way to pay down your debt) or an interest-only loan. The latter is a popular option for investors, as it helps ensure their properties are as affordable as possible. However, as cheap as paying only the interest may be, you’re not actually paying off your debt. Once the interest-only term ends, you’ll find your repayments much higher, as your debt has stayed the same but the years you have to pay off your loan have shrunk. 
  • Loan types – there are different home loan types based on the loan purpose. You can choose between an owner-occupier loan (if you live in the property you buy) or an investor loan (you choose to rent out the property). Owner-occupiers are typically offered lower home loan interest rates as a lender generally sees less risk of a default on the home loan if you’re living in the house itself.
  • Repayment frequency – you may choose to make mortgage repayments monthly, fortnightly or weekly. Monthly repayments are the most common, but the shorter your frequency, generally the faster you’ll be able to pay off your debt.
  • Features – typically, the more features your loan has, the higher the ongoing costs. However, various home loan features can actually help you pay down your debt faster, including an offset account, redraw facility and the ability to make extra repayments. You may also bundle your home loan with other lender products, such as a credit card or savings account - also called a loan package.

Are you searching in the right place for a home loan?

Now you understand what makes up a home loan, you need to ensure you’re searching in the right place for your ideal home loan.

Not all loans are created equally, and different loans will have varying eligibility criteria, interest rates and ongoing costs based on your borrowing type and loan purpose. These include:

  • First home buyer

A first home buyer is looking for their first home loan to help them achieve the Great Australian Dream of getting a foot on the property ladder. Whether you’ll be living in the property or planning on renting it out, being a first home buyer will impact your mortgage search.

Firstly, you may not have saved up a 20 per cent deposit for your loan, as property prices in capital cities (particularly Sydney and Melbourne) are sky high. A smaller deposit may be enough to get the loan, but it may see your lender charge you a higher interest rate. Plus, you’ll have to pay LMI for the loan, which can creep into the tens of thousands of dollars.

Secondly, younger first home buyers may not have as established credit history and excellent credit scores. Your credit history plays a large role in not only the approval of your home loan, but the interest rate you may be offered. Australians with excellent credit scores are seen as more ‘reliable’ borrowers and less likely to default on their loans. The less risk you pose to a lender, the more competitive your interest rate may be.

However, first home buyers are also offered government support to help them get on the property ladder. Depending on the value of the property, you may be eligible for stamp duty exemptions or concessions. You may also be eligible for a first home owner grant. The details of this support will vary based on the state or territory you’re purchasing property in.

  • Investor

As mentioned above, if you’re looking for an investment loan so you can rent out a property, you may face higher ongoing costs on your loan. This is because lenders view property investors as having a greater risk of defaulting on the mortgage, as there is less incentive to pay your bills when you don’t live in the property that you’re paying off. By charging a higher interest rate, lenders are ensuring they’re getting something back from an investor, in the event they default on the loan.

Your loan application may be viewed with greater scrutiny by the lender because of this. You may need to save a larger deposit, or show your reliability in other ways, such as having a large amount of savings or having no outstanding debts.

  • Refinancer

If you’ve already purchased one or more properties and are looking to refinance your home loan, this will also impact your home loan search.

Whether you’re looking for a lower rate, fewer fees, or a loan with greater features, refinancing your home loan may help you to reduce your ongoing costs and create more flexibility in your mortgage.

If you’ve already paid off a significant chunk of your home loan, you will have built up some equity over the years. This is your leverage tool that may be able to help you nab a lower rate. Lenders may offer more competitive interest rates to borrowers with lower LVRs.

Comparing your options is invaluable for refinancers, so ensure you do your research and use comparison tables and calculators to nab the best new home loan for your financial needs.

  • Self-employed 

If you’re a small business owner or sole trader, you may find the home loan application process tends to be geared towards full-time employed Australians. Having a full-time job for more than 12 months looks favourable on an application, plus a lot of paperwork calls for employer and income details.

In the 1990s, mortgage brokers realised not all lenders fit into the one mortgage applicant category. This spurred the creation of ‘low-doc home loans’ for these viable borrowers. As the name suggests, a low doc loan is aimed towards Australians with low documentation – aka those who are self-employed and have the deposit for a loan but lack the standard documentation to prove they can maintain repayments.

While you will be offered typically the same rates, fees and features as a standard home loan, you’ll need to ensure you’re boosting your application with the right documentation. This may include:

  • Proof of identification
  • Proof of working in same industry for 12 months
  • Registered business name and ABN
  • 12 months of Business Activity Statements (BAS)
  • Proof of registration for GST
  • Personal and business bank statements
  • Income declaration from your accountant.

Frequently asked questions

How do I apply for a home improvement loan?

When you want to renovate your home, you may need to take out a loan to cover the costs. You could apply for a home improvement loan, which is a personal loan that you use to cover the costs of your home renovations. There is no difference between applying for this type of home improvement loan and applying for a standard personal loan. It would be best to check and compare the features, fees and details of the loan before applying. 

Besides taking out a home improvement loan, you could also:

  1. Use the equity in your house: Equity is the difference between your property’s value and the amount you still owe on your home loan. You may be able to access this equity by refinancing your home loan and then using it to finance your home improvement.  Speak with your lender or a mortgage broker about accessing your equity.
  2. Utilise the redraw facility of your home loan: Check whether the existing home loan has a redraw facility. A redraw facility allows you to access additional funds you’ve repaid into your home loan. Some lenders offer this on variable rate home loans but not on fixed. If this option is available to you, contact your lender to discuss how to access it.
  3. Apply for a construction loan: A construction loan is typically used when constructing a new property but can also be used as a home renovation loan. You may find that a construction loan is a suitable option as it enables you to draw funds as your renovation project progresses. You can compare construction home loans online or speak to a mortgage broker about taking out such a loan.
  4. Look into government grants: Check whether there are any government grants offered when you need the funds and whether you qualify. Initiatives like the HomeBuilder Grant were offered by the Federal Government for a limited period until April 2021. They could help fund your renovations either in full or just partially.  

Can I take a personal loan after a home loan?

Are you struggling to pay the deposit for your dream home? A personal loan can help you pay the deposit. The question that may arise in your mind is can I take a home loan after a personal loan, or can you take a personal loan at the same time as a home loan, as it is. The answer is that, yes, provided you can meet the general eligibility criteria for both a personal loan and a home loan, your application should be approved. Those eligibility criteria may include:

  • Higher-income to show repayment capability for both the loans
  • Clear credit history with no delays in bill payments or defaults on debts
  • Zero or minimal current outstanding debt
  • Some amount of savings
  • Proven rent history will be positively perceived by the lenders

A personal loan after or during a home loan may impact serviceability, however, as the numbers can seriously add up. Every loan you avail of increases your monthly installments and the amount you use to repay the personal loan will be considered to lower the money available for the repayment of your home loan.

As to whether you can get a personal loan after your home loan, the answer is a very likely "yes", though it does come with a caveat: as long as you can show sufficient income to repay both the loans on time, you should be able to get that personal loan approved. A personal loan can also help to improve your credit score showing financial discipline and responsibility, which may benefit you with more favorable terms for your home loan.

How do you determine which home loan rates/products I’m shown?

When you check your home loan rate, you’ll supply some basic information about your current loan, including the amount owing on your mortgage and your current interest rate.

We’ll compare this information to the home loan options in the RateCity database and show you which home loan products you may be eligible to apply for.


Can first home buyers apply for an ING home loan?

First home buyers can apply for an ING home loan, but first, they need to select the most suitable home loan product and calculate the initial deposit on their home loan. 

First-time buyers can also use ING’s online tool to estimate the amount they can borrow. ING offers home loan applicants a free property report to look up property value estimates. 

First home loan applicants struggling to understand the terms used may consider looking up ING’s first home buyer guide. Once the home buyer is ready to apply for the loan, they can complete an online application or call ING at 1800 100 258 during regular business hours.

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. 

How do I apply for Westpac’s first home buyer loan?

If you’re a first home buyer looking to apply for a home loan with Westpac, they offer an online home loan application. They suggest the application can be completed in about 20 minutes. Based on the information you provide, Westpac will advise you the amount you can borrow and the costs associated with any possible home loan. 

You can use Westpac’s online mortgage calculators to estimate your borrowing power. You can also work out the time it might take to save up for the deposit, and the size of your home loan repayments

When applying for a home loan with Westpac, you’re assigned a home finance manager who can address your concerns and provide information. The manager will also offer guidance on any government grants you may be eligible for. 

How do you qualify for a CBA home loan with casual employment?

Qualifying for a home loan without a full-time job may be challenging, but it can be done. The first step is to understand how a CBA home loan is assessed when you have casual employment.

Most lenders will assess your expenses and savings while checking your loan eligibility, checking on factors crucial to home loan approval, such as if your bills are paid on time and what your credit score presently looks like. 

Your income can be one of the most critical factors to determine your final approved home loan amount. As such, you’ll need to provide payslip copies to lenders to assist them in assessing your income during the loan tenure, regardless of your employment status, full-time, part-time, or otherwise.

Casual employees will want to be casually employed for at least 12 months to be eligible for a home loan. Alternatively, you want to have worked as a permanent casual worker (working for a fixed number of hours per week) for at least one month, or you should have been in your current job for a minimum of three months (if the hours are irregular) to be eligible for 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. 

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.

Is a home equity loan secured or unsecured?

Home equity is the difference between its current market price and the outstanding balance on the mortgage loan. The amount you can borrow against the equity in your property is known as a home equity loan.

A home equity loan is secured against your property. It means the lender can recoup your property if you default on the repayments. A secured home equity loan is available at a competitive rate of interest and may be repaid over the long-term. Although a home equity loan is secured, lenders will assess your income, expenses, and other liabilities before approving your application. You’ll also want  a good credit score to qualify for a home equity 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.

How to apply for a home loan pre-approval from St. George?

By applying for a home loan pre-approval, you can establish how much you can afford to borrow and look for houses within that pre-approved budget. Getting home loan pre-approval from St. George is a fairly simple process that can be completed within 15 minutes. 

The first step in this process is completing a home loan application. Once that application is submitted, a home loan expert from St. George will contact you to understand your requirements and your current financial position. You could also directly contact a home loan expert at the bank by calling 13 33 30 or by visiting your nearest branch. 

Once the application has been processed, the home loan expert will ask for some basic documentation to confirm your borrowing capacity. After this, you should be issued a home loan pre-approval, subject to certain conditions. 

Based on your home loan pre-approval from St. George, you can then find a property and make an offer. Your home loan expert will arrange to have the property valued and may request for more documentation, taking your home loan application to the next step. 



How can I apply for a first home buyers loan with Commonwealth Bank?

Getting a home loan requires planning and research. If you are considering a home loan with the Commonwealth Bank, you can find the information you need in the buying your first home section of the bank’s website.

You can see the steps you should take before applying for the loan and use the calculators to work out how much you can borrow, what your monthly repayments would be and the upfront costs you’d likely pay.

You can also book a time with a Commonwealth first home loan specialist by calling 13 2221.

CommBank publishes a property report that may help you understand the real estate market. The bank has also created a CommBank Property App that you can use to search for property.  The link to download this app is available on the same webpage.

If you are eligible for the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, CommBank will help you process your application. The scheme helps first home buyers to purchase a home with a low deposit. You can read details about this scheme here and speak with a CommBank home lending specialist to understand your options.

Can you remove a cosigner from a home loan?

Taking out a home loan is an act of financial responsibility and a cosigner on a home loan shares that responsibility. For this reason, removing a cosigner from a home loan may not be straightforward. Usually, you can add a cosigner, or become a cosigner, when applying for the home loan. In such a circumstance, the lender may ask you to stipulate the conditions for a cosigner release, which are the terms for removing a cosigner from the home loan. For instance, you may agree that you can remove a cosigner once half the loan amount has been repaid.

However, not stipulating such conditions doesn’t mean it’s impossible to remove a cosigner. If the primary home loan applicant has a sufficiently high credit score and has not delayed any repayments, the lender may be willing to remove the cosigner. You should confirm that doing so doesn’t affect the terms of the loan. If the lender doesn’t agree to remove the cosigner, the primary home loan applicant may have to refinance the loan in order to do so. If there were specific reasons for needing a cosigner and those reasons are still valid, then you may have some challenges with refinancing.

How much deposit do I need for a home loan from ANZ?

Like other mortgage lenders, ANZ often prefers a home loan deposit of 20 per cent or more of the property value when you’re applying for a home loan. It may be possible to get a home loan with a smaller deposit of 10 per cent or even 5 per cent, but there are a few reasons to consider saving a larger deposit if possible:

  • A larger deposit tells a lender that you’re a great saver, which could help increase the chances of your home loan application getting approved.
  • The more money you pay as a deposit, the less you’ll have to borrow in your home loan. This could mean paying off your loan sooner, and being charged less total interest.
  • If your deposit is less than 20 per cent of the property value, you might incur additional costs, such as Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI).

How long does ANZ take to approve a home loan?

The process of applying for a home loan usually stays the same across all lenders. On the other hand, the time it takes for a lender to approve the home loan differs from lender to lender. When it comes to ANZ, it takes anywhere between 15 to 18 business days to approve a home loan from the day of the application to approval. This timeframe is highly dependent on the credibility and availability of your documentation. You can apply for an ANZ home loan in two ways; a Quick Start home loan application or a full online application.

If you opt for the Quick Start home loan option, you’ll need to fill out a form with basic details. During this stage, you don’t need to add any supporting information. An ANZ representative will then call you within 48 hours. The representative will help take your application forward, including assessing all relevant information, documentation and conducting a credit check.

You can also submit your entire home loan application with ANZ online by filling out a comprehensive form with all the information and documentation needed.

Once ANZ has conducted the preliminary checks, you’ll be informed of the pre-approved amount they’re willing to offer. Based on this amount, you can set a budget for your property search and make sure you stay inside your budget. Pre-approval will last for three months but can be extended by applying with ANZ if you don’t find a property. But it’s best to find a property as soon as possible as ANZ may decide to change the amount if your financial situation changes.

After you find a property and have your offer accepted, ANZ may send an assessor to the property to verify it’s value. If everything is per their terms and conditions, ANZ will finalise your home loan’s approval and release the funds.

What is a secured home loan?

When the lender creates a mortgage on your property, they’re offering you a secured home loan. It means you’re offering the property as security to the lender who holds this security against the risk of default or any delays in home loan repayments. Suppose you’re unable to repay the loan. In this case, the lender can take ownership of your property and sell it to recover any outstanding funds you owe. The lender retains this hold over your property until you repay the entire loan amount.

If you take out a secured home loan, you may be charged a lower interest rate. The amount you can borrow depends on the property’s value and the deposit you can pay upfront. Generally, lenders allow you to borrow between 80 per cent and 90 per cent of the property value as the loan. Often, you’ll need Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI) if the deposit is less than 20 per cent of the property value. Lenders will also do a property valuation to ensure you’re borrowing enough to cover the purchase. 

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 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.