If you are looking to buy your first home, here are some things to consider to improve your chances of finding the right property, securing the funding, and realising your dreams.
Watch your spending
Due to recent pressure from Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), and the fallout from the banking royal commission, lenders are under increased pressure to tighten credit eligibility guidelines and ensure stricter adherence to responsible lending practices. The lender will need to assess that an applicant can more easily afford to service the debt by applying actual living expenses, as opposed to the Household Expenditure Measure used until recently.
The lender will scrutinise your usual living expenses, check your spending habits and financial discipline by obtaining your transaction account(s) and credit card statements.
You could be jeopardising your chances of getting approval for a home loan if you are overspending on discretionary items such as entertainment or holidays. There have been recent headlines in the Australian Financial Review about lenders reviewing spending patterns on Netflix, Afterpay and Uber Eats. Set a budget and minimise your discretionary spending. Most importantly, make sure you have the discipline to stick to it!
Check your credit rating
A key part of your success in obtaining a home loan will be your credit score. A lender will lodge an enquiry on your credit file to check your credit history, and to confirm if you have had any history of late payments or defaults with other providers.
Credit reporting agencies such as Experian, Equifax and Illion (previously known as Dunn & Bradstreet) obtain information from banks, credit providers and utility companies to calculate a credit score. Your credit rating is based on the amount of credit you have borrowed, the number of applications you have previously made, if you have any overdue or unpaid debts, and if you have any history of bankruptcy or insolvency agreements.
Lenders use your credit rating to determine if you are suitable for a loan. Understanding what makes up and affects your credit rating is important for any homebuyer. You can obtain your own credit rating – including any defaults listed against your name by registering online. There can be mistakes on your report – if you pick up on them you can request they get altered. This could be the difference between a loan application being approved or declined!
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) MoneySmart website provides links to the credit reporting agencies which offer an online credit score check.
Reduce your credit and store card limits and minimise other debt
If you have larger credit card limits or other debt, you may not be able to borrow as much, or be eligible for a home loan approval. Reduce your credit card limits and decrease/pay off any existing debts you may have before you apply for a home loan, especially high-interest debts such as credit cards and store cards.
Due to credit policy changes in line with the tightening of responsible lending guidelines, lenders have increased the assessment rate on the servicing of existing credit card limits when reviewing a loan application. This may affect your eligibility for approval on a home loan at the required amount. Reducing debt or lowering your existing card limits will increase the likelihood of your loan being approved.
Higher deposit, better outcome
If you’ve saved less than 20% of the purchase price, there are a limited number of lenders who can offer a loan. Deposits of less than 20% may require Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI) to qualify for the loan, and the rate offered and fees may be higher to offset the increased risk to the credit provider.
While some lenders offer lower deposit loans, if you have saved a deposit of 20% or more, you may be eligible for a loan with a wider range of lenders with reduced rates/fees, and you will save the cost of an LMI premium.
Be aware of purchase costs and your eligibility for first home buyer grants and/or stamp duty concessions in your state
Buying a home incurs costs in addition to the purchase price. Allow for property inspection fees, loan application costs, mortgage registration fees and stamp duty. Loan establishment costs, mortgage registration and stamp duty can be covered via the lender if you qualify for the amount required. You may be eligible for the First Home Owners Grant (FHOG) or stamp duty exemptions/concessions. If you’re eligible, you’ll save thousands of dollars. Check online with your state revenue office to see if you qualify.
Check the features and options available with the lender
The interest rate is not the only thing to consider with a home loan. Make sure you understand the fees payable, product features/options available and how they work to suit your needs.
Some loan products include redraw facilities, offsets via linked transaction accounts, the ability to split the loan into several accounts on a fixed or variable rate, and greater repayment flexibility.
Be wary of discounted first home buyer specials
Lenders may offer a special discounted introductory rate for first home buyers. Check the terms and conditions carefully as the initial rate may default to a much higher rate at the expiry of the introductory period. These products may also incur higher establishment costs and ongoing fees.
Know the market in your target area
Thoroughly research the property market where you want to buy. Get an understanding of the average prices, supply/demand, local facilities, market activity/trends and recent auction results. This will ensure that your market knowledge will increase, and that your target area has what you need in terms of both lifestyle now and future growth opportunity.
Often the difference between getting value or paying a premium price is the buyer’s level of market knowledge.
Obtain a pre-approval from your lender. This will ensure that you know your borrowing capacity in advance, and you can negotiate your purchase price.
Typically, there’s no cooling-off period at auctions, once you’ve made an accepted bid that’s it. Bidders without finance approval can find themselves in deep water if they sign a sale contract. You cannot make the contract subject to any conditions such as obtaining finance unless the seller agrees to the provision.
You can get advice with any stage of the home buying process.
Buyers’ agents can assist in locating, evaluating and negotiating the purchase on behalf of the buyer.
A conveyancer will ensure that the buyer is meeting their legal obligations during the purchase and make certain that the title transfers smoothly.
A mortgage broker can review the thousands of products available to source the most appropriate loan solution for your needs, and assist with the finance process from application right through to settlement.
Please note this article provides general advice only and has not taken your personal or financial circumstances into consideration. If you would like more tailored advice please contact us today, or refer your family and friends, for a confidential, cost and obligation free discussion about your lending needs.