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To Fix, Or Not To Fix Your Home Loan?

That is the question. As we are in a record low interest rate environment, many home loan borrowers are considering whether or not to fix the rate on the total amount owing on their mortgage.

Whilst there are lenders offering some very attractive rates on fixed loans, the following should be considered before obtaining a new loan, or changing an existing loan to a fixed rate:

  • Many fixed rate home loan products will limit the extra repayments which can be made in addition to the minimum owing. Depending on the product, this could be on an annual basis, or for the fixed rate period selected.  The additional repayments could be capped on a percentage basis, or a dollar basis for each year, or the entire fixed rate period without penalty.  If you exceed the additional repayment cap, you could be penalised.  If your objective is to accelerate the repayments on your home loan, fixing the total loan amount may not be your preferred option.
  • If the lender decreases their variable rate and your fixed rate is higher, your repayments will not reduce.
  • Fixed rate loans may be less flexible, and offer less features such as redraws or offset accounts.
  • If your circumstances change, and you need to switch to a different product, or if you wish to repay earlier than the fixed rate term, the lender may charge you with a break cost. The break cost is typically calculated to compensate the lender for the loss in profit that has been factored into the fixed rate period.
  • When the fixed rate period expires, the loan may revert to a much higher variable rate.

A common strategy to reduce the impact of the above disadvantages with fixed rate loans is to ‘split’ your home loan by making it part fixed and part variable.  The fixed component of your loan will provide the ability to budget for the repayments over the fixed rate period.  The fixed portion of the loan will mitigate the risk of future interest rate increases, and ensure your repayments are set over the fixed rate period.  The remainder of the loan balance can be held at a variable rate so you can make unlimited repayments, and enjoy the benefits of access to redraws, and a linked offset account.

When obtaining a new loan or refinancing an existing loan, there are several options to consider.

Please not this article provides general advice only and has not taken your personal or financial needs into consideration. If you would like more tailored mortgage or financial advice, please contact us today for a confidential, cost and obligation free discussion.

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10 Tips For First Home Buyers

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.

Get pre-approval

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.

Get advice

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.

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How Does A Mortgage Work?

The word mortgage originated in England during the middle ages from the old French “death pledge.”   This pledge refers to a contract which ends (dies) when the debt is repaid, or possession of the property is taken by the lender in the event that the borrower cannot repay.

In more recent times, a mortgage involves a loan contract offered by a credit provider at interest, secured against the borrower’s property, with scheduled repayments over an agreed term.

Whilst there are many lenders, and there is an abundance of products and features available with a mortgage, the following may assist newcomers to clarify how a mortgage works:

Deposit

Most lenders will require you to save at least 20% of the value of the property as a deposit.  There are some providers who will offer a loan to borrowers with a reduced deposit, but traditionally, lenders will offer funds up to a maximum Loan to Valuation Ratio (LVR) of 80%.

Lenders Mortgage Insurance

In the event that your deposit is below the minimum required by the lender, you will be required to purchase Lenders’ Mortgage Insurance (LMI).  LMI is an insurance policy which protects the lender in the event that you are unable to repay the loan.  The cost of cover is paid by the borrower via a one off premium.  The LMI premium can be financed (up to limits) via the loan, which means it will be added to the interest you pay over the life of the mortgage.

Using your property as collateral

Banks love security and seek to minimise the risk in lending funds to a home buyer.  The security property can be used as protection by the lender in the event that you default on your mortgage.  If you cannot repay, or if you suffer from financial difficulties, the lender can take possession of the property (foreclose).  The lender will then sell the security property to clear the debt.

Types of loans available

When obtaining a loan there are several options to consider.

Variable Rate:  The interest rate and therefore the minimum repayments on a variable rate loan will move up or down with the rates set by the lender.  This may be due to movement in the official cash rate set by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), or at the discretion of the lender.  Variable rate loans allow more flexibility in repayments and usually do not incur penalties for early repayment.

Fixed Rate:  The interest rate and minimum repayments will remain the same during the fixed rate term of your loan.  A fixed rate loan will provide certainty in your repayments over the period, however, there are often restrictions in repaying above the minimum, and penalties may apply for early repayment of the debt.  If interest rates fall, you are locked into the fixed rate.  If interest rates rise, your repayments and rate will remain the same.

Split loans:  A split loan allows you to lock in a fixed rate amount, and a variable rate amount.  You may wish to reduce the risk of future interest rate increases, and ensure your repayments are set over the fixed rate period by obtaining a portion of your loan at a fixed rate.  The remainder of the loan balance can be held at a variable rate so you can make unlimited repayments.  A split loan will allow you to ‘hedge your bets!’

Principal and Interest:  A Principal and Interest (P & I) loan is divided into two portions.  The principal owing is the amount you borrowed, less repayments.  Interest is the amount charged in addition to the principal, and is based on the interest rate and the principal balance.  The lender has worked out how much you will need to repay at each instalment to pay your loan off in the loan term you have elected.  This is known as the amortisation schedule and shows how much of your repayment goes towards interest and the amount that goes towards paying off the principal.  With a P & I loan, most of your repayment will go towards paying interest at the beginning.  As the loan progresses, the amount paid off the principal will increase.

Interest only:  As the name suggests, an interest only loan provides a facility whereby the borrower only pays the lender the interest component owing.  These loans are available with various interest only period options and will revert to a P & I loan at the end of the interest only term.  Interest only loans have been a popular choice for investors and for home owners looking to reduce the repayments on their property.

Repayments

Lenders will usually offer the option to make repayments on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis.  Loan terms are usually 25 or 30 years.

Redraw facility

If you make loan repayments in addition to the minimum payable, you can access these surplus funds at a later date.  A redraw facility allows you to withdraw money that you’ve already contributed on your home loan.  A redraw provides the benefit of paying more off your home loan, and not locking away the extra repayments.

The interest rate on your home loan will be higher than the interest rate offered in a typical cash management account.  The interest saved on your home loan by making additional repayments over the term of the loan will be substantial, and the redraw may come in handy in the event of needing to access funds in an emergency.

NB. A redraw facility may include fees and restrictions on the amount and frequency of withdrawals you can make each year.

Offset account(s)

An offset account is a savings or transaction account which is linked to your home loan balance.  The balance held in your offset account will reduce the amount you owe on your mortgage, and can be up to 100% depending on the loan product.  With an offset facility, the interest payable on your home loan is reduced by the difference between your loan balance and the offset account balance.

Please contact us today for a confidential, cost and obligation free discussion about your lending needs. Please note that this article provides general advice and has not taken your personal or financial circumstances into consideration. If you would like more tailored mortgage broking or financial advice, please contact us today.

Read more articles in our Financial Literacy series. 

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Don’t Pay A ‘Lazy Tax’ on Your Home Loan

You’ve no doubt heard the news that 3 of the ‘big 4’ banks have increased their variable home loan rates.  Westpac was the first to increase their rates, despite the RBA keeping rates on hold at 1.5% since August 2016.  Westpac announced on 30th August that their variable home loan rates will increase by 0.14% effective 19th September due to the increase of costs to source funding on the wholesale markets.

The major banks have been making the usual noises about absorbing these higher funding costs in the hope that they would ease over time, and the need to pass on these costs to customers.

ANZ and Commonwealth Bank followed suit on 6th September by announcing that their variable home loan rates will also increase.  ANZ will increase its variable home loan interest rates by 0.16% effective 27th September in both owner occupier and investment mortgages.  However, ANZ will exclude customers in drought declared areas of regional Australia.  CBA will increase its rates by 0.15% from 4th October.

The headline rates for Westpac, ANZ, and CBA are as follows:

WBC

Standard variable Owner occupier Principal and Interest rate to increase to 5.38% p.a.

Standard variable Owner occupier Interest only rate to increase to 5.97% p.a.

Standard variable Residential Investment Principal & Interest rate to increase to 5.93% p.a.

Standard variable Residential Investment Interest only rate to increase to 6.44% p.a.

ANZ

Standard variable Owner occupier Principal and Interest rate to increase to 5.36% p.a.

Standard variable Owner occupier Interest only rate to increase to 5.91% p.a.

Standard variable Residential Investment Principal & Interest rate to increase to 5.96% p.a.

Standard variable Residential Investment Interest only rate to increase to 6.42% p.a.

CBA

Standard variable Owner occupier Principal and Interest rate to increase to 5.37% p.a.

Standard variable Owner occupier Interest only rate to increase to 5.92% p.a.

Standard variable Residential Investment Principal & Interest rate to increase to 5.95% p.a.

Standard variable Residential Investment Interest only rate to increase to 6.39% p.a.

NAB is yet to increase their rates, but many industry experts suggest that it is only a matter of time.

If you, or your friends or family have a home loan via one of the major banks, it would be well and truly worth the time spent to review your arrangements to ensure that the loan offers a competitive rate with low fees.

Banks traditionally rely on “inertia” in the event of raising home loan rates.  It is estimated that approximately 80% of home loan customers won’t do anything and will continue to pay the higher repayments.  This is simply a ‘Lazy Tax.’  For example, the ANZ rate increases will add about $40 a month to a $400,000 home loan.

Just to provide an indication of the rates available via some of our lenders, here are some comparisons for you to consider:

Standard variable Owner occupier Principal and Interest rate 3.68% p.a.

Standard variable Owner occupier Interest only rate 3.99% p.a.

Standard variable Residential Investment Principal & Interest rate 3.97% p.a.

Standard variable Residential Investment Interest only rate 4.29% p.a.

These reduced rates could save you THOUSANDS of dollars over the life of your home loan.

Please contact us today for a confidential, cost and obligation free discussion about your home loan.  We would also be happy for you to refer your family or friends so we can also assist them to locate a cost-effective home loan which suits their needs.

Please note that this article provides general advice, it has not taken into consideration your personal or financial circumstances. If you would like more tailored advice relating to mortgage broking or other financial services, please contact us today.

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What To Know: Interest Only Loans

Interest only loans have been a popular choice for property investors for tax purposes, and first home buyers and other borrowers looking to minimise the repayments on their debt.  Many purchasers use Interest only loans to ease the financial burden of servicing their loan.

Due to the growth of the property market in recent years, the average loan size has increased, and Interest only loans can be a short-term option to reduce the repayments and improve affordability.  This type of loan is a popular choice for property investors to lower the repayments, while hopefully the value of the property increases in value over the longer term.  Many lenders offer Interest only options on their products for up to 5 years.

On a loan of $300,000, the monthly repayment on an interest loan would be approximately $500 less per month than an equivalent Principal and Interest product at the same rate.  There can be significant savings on repayments for an Interest only loan in the shorter term, but there are also some longer-term issues:

  • As the name suggests, you are only paying back the interest on the debt. You are not making any progress on your mortgage!  At the end of the Interest only term based on the example above, you still owe $300,000.  If you selected a Principal and Interest loan (at the same rate), you would have reduced your loan by nearly $30,000.
  • Property investors and homeowners expect that the property will increase in value over time. With an Interest only loan, you will have equity in the property without paying any principal.  However, if your property doesn’t substantially increase in value over the Interest only term, you will not have gained any equity in the property.
  • At the end of the Interest only period, the loan repayments will ‘rollover’ to an increased Principal and Interest repayment. Many borrowers may be unprepared for the additional financial commitment, and will experience ‘Mortgage Stress’.  If the borrower’s circumstances have changed since the loan was established, and they cannot extend the Interest only period, it may be difficult to refinance to another Interest only loan.  The only option may be to sell the property.

As of 2015, Interest only home loans represented approximately 40% of the residential loans in Australia.  From March 2017, the lending regulator, Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) introduced restrictions on new Interest only loan business.  APRA has limited Interest only lending to less than 30% of new loans written.  The restrictions were imposed In order to limit riskier forms of lending practices, which allow borrowers to pay for escalating property prices, while not reducing their debt.

The restrictions introduced by APRA have led to rate increases on Interest only loans, and tougher requirements for customers applying for Interest only loans.  Interest only loan applicants may be subject to increased scrutiny such as more thorough income verification and higher loan servicing standards.

There have been several headlines recently in relation to the issues with Interest only home loans ‘rolling over’ to Principal and Interest loans after the interest-only period expires.  The Reserve Bank of Australia has estimated that over the next 3 years, approximately $360 billion of Interest only loans will convert to Principal and Interest Loans.  This will increase the repayments by approximately 1/3 or $7,000 p.a. on average for a $400,000 loan.

The rollover to Principal and Interest repayments may leave many borrowers struggling to meet higher repayments.  The most vulnerable will be homeowners with a high Loan to Valuation Ratio (LVR) who will find it harder to refinance or sell the property to extinguish the debt.

If you need assistance with your home loan or lending needs, please contact one of our lending specialists to determine the costs and benefits, and to discuss your options.

Please note that the above has been provided as general advice. It has not taken into account your personal or financial circumstances. If you would like more tailored advice, please contact us today, one of our friendly advisers would love to speak with you.

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Fixed Rate vs Variable Rate Home Loans

In the April meeting, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) kept the cash rate on hold for the 20th consecutive month, at the record low of 1.5%.  The cash rate was reduced from 1.75% to 1.5% in August 2016, and there has not been an increase in the cash rate since November 2010.

Most of the ‘experts’ predict that rates won’t rise until next year due to slow wages growth, and general economic conditions.  Although some of the banks have increased their rates outside of the RBA cycles, many borrowers have taken advantage of the competitive home loan market to access lower rates and save on their mortgage repayments.

Given that we are currently in a record low-interest rate environment, and logic would dictate that rates are most likely to go up, does it make sense to fix your home loan?  Well, as with most financial decisions, there are pros and cons to consider with fixed rate vs variable rate mortgages.

Some of the key features of fixed rate and variable rate loans are shown below:

Fixed rate loans

  • Fixed rate loans can provide peace of mind and avoid the risk of rising interest rates. If interest rates increase above your fixed rate, you will enjoy the savings as your repayments are locked in.
  • At the end of the fixed rate period, the loan may revert to a much higher variable interest rate.
  • If interest rates fall, you will miss out on any savings, as your fixed rate is locked in until the end of the term selected.
  • Fixed rate loans are typically higher than variable rate loans, and charge break costs if you repay the loan early, wish to switch providers, or change to a variable rate before the expiry of the fixed rate term. The break costs are to compensate the lender for the loss of projected earnings on the loan and can be several thousands of dollars.
  • Fixed rate loans may limit the amount of additional payments you can make above the minimum repayment amount. A penalty may be charged for exceeding the maximum repayments allowed each year, or in the fixed rate term.
  • Fixed rate loans offer less flexibility, and do not provide full offset accounts. Some providers offer partial offset accounts, and depending on the provider, you may not have the ability to redraw.

Variable rate loans

  • Variable rate loans typically allow greater flexibility. You may be able to make unlimited repayments without penalty, and redraw the funds as required.
  • Variable rate loans can offer more comprehensive features such as a full offset account(s). An offset account will allow you to reduce interest costs by linking a savings/transaction account.  The balance held in the account will offset your home-loan and allow you to have access to that money as required.
  • If interest rates fall, your lender may reduce the rate so you can take advantage of reduced repayments.
  • If interest rates rise, your repayments will increase to the rate set by your lender.
  • Variable rate loans usually allow you repay the loan before the end of the loan contract without break costs or penalties. A standard discharge fee would apply.
  • If interest rates start to rise unexpectedly, you can convert the loan to a fixed rate. An additional application fee would apply.

Unfortunately, no one has a crystal ball and it can be difficult to predict when rates may rise.  Another option may be to split your loan.

Split loans

A split loan facility allows you fix part of your loan and leave part of the loan on a variable rate.  By splitting your loan, you have protection against increasing interest rates on the fixed portion, and you will have the flexibility of making extra repayments, and the features available on the variable portion.

There are many issues to consider before making any changes to your home loan.  Before you decide on what option would suit your needs, take the time to understand the pros and cons of fixing your home loan.   One of our friendly mortgage brokers might be able to save you thousands over the life of your home loan/s.

Please note that the above is given as general advice. It has not taken your personal circumstances into account. If you would like more tailored advice, or to learn more, please contact one of our lending specialists to determine the costs and benefits, and to discuss your options.

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Are You Experiencing Credit Card Stress?

By now, you would have received your credit card statement following the spending spree of Christmas, and the impulse purchases made during the Boxing Day/New Year’s sales. Maybe you overindulged in online shopping over the holiday period.

Credit cards offer a quick and convenient way to purchase goods and services; however, it may be more difficult to keep track of your spending when compared to using cash. If you have substantially increased your credit card balance, or reached your limit, you may be struggling to keep your repayments up to date within the interest-free period.

When paying via credit card we often believe that we will repay the balance within the interest-free days, but that may not always be the case! When you exceed the interest-free period, the purchase interest rate can be around 20% per annum or higher (22%+ p.a.) for a store card.

What are your options to get your credit card debt under control? Here are some alternatives to consider:

BALANCE TRANSFER CREDIT CARD

Most providers offer a balance transfer facility to attract new business. The debt from the existing card can be transferred to a new credit card which offers a reduced interest rate (as low as 0%), for a fixed period. The balance transfer rate can apply for 6 – 24 months depending on the provider; however, any additional spending will incur the standard interest rate of the new card. The key to this strategy is to be disciplined by not clocking up more debt, and to take advantage of the ‘honeymoon’ period to focus on repayments, and ensure that you clear your credit card balance on time. Once the balance transfer period has ended, the rate will default to the provider’s purchase interest rate, which may be higher than the rate on your old card! It is important to check if there are any balance transfer fees, and what other terms/conditions and charges will apply after the introductory period has ended.

LOAN CONSOLIDATION – PERSONAL LOAN

Obtaining a personal loan to consolidate the debt on your credit card(s) may be an option. Many providers offer the ability to consolidate several credit cards, with a lower fixed or variable interest rate, over a loan term of several years. Consolidating your debt should make it easier to manage your repayments, and you may be able to clear the debt earlier by paying more than the minimum amount.

REFINANCE/CONSOLIDATION – HOME LOAN

If you have sufficient equity in your home, you could consider refinancing your mortgage to consolidate your credit card debt. We are currently in a record low-interest rate environment, with some providers offering rates of >4% p.a. With or without credit card debt, if you haven’t reviewed your home loan for a few years, you may be paying too much on your current mortgage!
Consolidating credit card or personal loans into your home loan will allow you to clear these debts sooner if you have the ability to pay above the minimum home loan repayment.

There may be many issues to consider before consolidating debt, or deciding to refinance your home loan. Please contact one of our lending specialists to determine the costs and benefits, and to discuss your options.

Please note that the above has been provided as general advice. It has not taken into account your personal or financial circumstances. If you would like more tailored advice, please contact us today, one of our friendly advisers would love to speak with you.

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What Is Loyalty To Your Bank Or Building Society Costing You?

In this age of disruption, many traditional products and services are facing competition from more innovative and cost-effective providers.  The big four have traditionally dominated the Australian mortgage market through their direct home loan products. However, in recent years, their market share has been slowly eroding due to competition from second tier and online providers.   Due to increasing competition, there are thousands of lending products available, including lesser-known providers who can offer equivalent or superior loan products at a much-reduced rate.

Many lenders (some backed by a big four bank) are now offering online lending platforms with comprehensive features such as redraw facilities, credit cards, offset accounts and the ability to ‘split’ the loan between fixed and variable rates.  The lower costs to manage these products are often passed back to the consumer via reduced interest rates and lower ongoing fees.

The larger banks often take existing clients for granted, and rely on the mentality that customers will remain loyal to the bank they have been with since they started their first savings account.  Unfortunately, banks do not always reward customers for their devotion!  Homebuyers and existing mortgage customers may not consider the benefits of shopping around or switching their existing home loan to an alternative lender.  This misplaced loyalty may cost thousands of dollars in interest payments and fees over the life of a home loan.

If you review your other bills such as phone, electricity and insurance to save money, it makes sense that you review what is most likely your largest expense!  The savings realised over the life of a home loan could amount to thousands of dollars.

As an example, in a recent client comparison to refinance a variable principal and interest home loan of approx. $300,000 from a major bank, a reduction of 0.52% in the interest rate saved $150 per month ($1,800 p.a.), with a potential saving of nearly $60,000 in interest payments and fees over the 30-year term of the loan.

There are many issues to consider before refinancing your home loan.  Please contact one of our lending specialists to determine the costs and benefits, and to discuss your options. One of our friendly mortgage brokers might be able to save you thousands over the life of your home loan/s.

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How To Protect The People In Your Business

Business owners are usually aware of the need to protect assets such as the business premises, plant & equipment, vehicles and stock via general insurance.  However, few owners consider the risks to the future of the business by not appropriately covering its most important asset – the people within the business!

Business owners should also contemplate the financial loss if personnel responsible for the equity, credit or ongoing revenue exit the business unexpectedly due to sickness, accident or death.

Business risk protection strategies for key personnel within a business include:

Buy/sell protection; Also known as partnership protection.  Allows shareholders in a business to insure for the value of their equity to cover death, total & permanent disability or serious medical conditions such as heart attack, cancer stroke etc.  If a partner suffers from an insurable event and exits the business, the proceeds of a claim will be paid to the disabled owner, or their family in the event of death.  The cover will ensure that the departing owner or family receive fair value for their share.  In addition to the insurance, a legally binding buy/sell agreement should be completed by the shareholders.  The buy/sell agreement or ‘business will’ provides the legal mechanism by which the shares of the deceased/disabled owner can be acquired by the surviving shareholder.  Buy/sell cover is a vital part of your business succession planning, as it ensures that the ongoing ownership and control of the business remains in the hands of the original shareholders.

Business Loan cover; In order to obtain a loan or credit facilities from a bank, business owners will need to provide guarantees, and may use business &/or personal assets to secure the debt.  The debts are usually ‘at call’ and the bank can request payment in the event of the death or incapacity of the guarantor.  By obtaining adequate cover, their guarantees/securities are protected, and the surviving business owner(s) &/or family will not have to sell off assets to clear the debt.

Revenue protection cover; Also known as key person cover. The loss of a key person due to disability or death may create costs to locate, recruit and train a replacement, and result in a loss of revenue until the new staff member is operating at the capacity of the disabled or deceased employee.  This cover will offset the replacement costs and the expected reduction of revenue until the business can recover from the loss of the key person.

Business overheads cover; Provides the replacement of the fixed operating costs of a business if the owner is unable to work due to sickness or injury. Overheads which are covered include loan repayments, rent, utilities and salary costs.

Please note that this has been prepared as general advice. It has not taken into account your personal or business circumstances, insurance needs or current coverage. If you would like to learn more about business insurance, contact one of our Risk Advisers today.

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When Was The Last Time You Reviewed Your Mortgage?

Your home loan is most likely your largest financial commitment over the period of your working life. Given the ever-increasing variety and complexity of products, it makes sense to review your mortgage every couple of years. Considering the suitability your mortgage regularly will ensure that your home loan keeps up to date with your changing needs and priorities.

Examining your home loan regularly is a sensible practice which could potentially save you a significant amount of money through reduced interest rates and loan fees, or by obtaining an improved loan product which offers the benefits of offset accounts and greater flexibility.

Refinancing your home loan to consolidate personal loans and credit card debt, may also free up your cash flow by accessing a lower interest rate. If you are looking to renovate your home, or borrowing to invest, you could also consider unlocking some of the equity in your home by refinancing.

If your existing home loan has not been reviewed for some time, your current interest rate may be much higher than the competitive rates offered by other providers. If your loan was previously at a fixed rate, it may have defaulted to a much higher variable rate on the expiry of the fixed rate period.

In the event that your financial situation has improved, or if your credit score has increased since you had applied for your home loan, you may be eligible for more favourable terms, or improved features with another loan.

Alternatively, you may have signed for your loan on an ‘introductory’ or ‘honeymoon’ rate. These reduced rates typically revert to a higher rate at the end of the discount period, and may include termination fees, should you decide to switch lenders.
As we have been in a record low-interest rate environment for some time, rates are more likely to increase over the longer term. We have noticed in recent months that some banks are increasing interest rates outside of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s cycles. If you are concerned about interest rate increases, you may wish to ‘lock in’ a fixed rate on all, or part of your home loan.

In addition to offset accounts, which will reduce your interest payments, many providers also offer the ability to make additional payments without any penalties. A handy feature to consider on your loan is the ability to be able to withdraw extra payments that you have made. A redraw facility may be beneficial if you need to access funds for one of life’s many surprises. Having a home loan with flexibility should your circumstances change, can provide the ability to access funds as required, or repay your loan much faster.

Before deciding on refinancing, consider the following:
• Are there any penalties or break costs when refinancing your home loan?
• What are the legal and administrative fees to discharge your current loan?
• What are the establishment fees and ongoing costs with a new loan?
• Should I apply for a variable rate, or fix all, or part of my loan?

At The Investment Collective, our mortgage broking team is able to compare home loan providers and determine the costs and benefits of reviewing your home loan. If you, or someone you know, would like to discuss lending needs, or review their current home loan, please do not hesitate to contact one of our lending specialists for a free, no obligation consultation.

Please note that the above information has been prepared as general advice only. It has not taken into account your personal financial situation or financing needs. In order to get tailored advice, specific to your circumstances and financial needs, please contact either office to set up an appointment.

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