Finding a home loan with a good interest rate
Finding a low interest rate can be as simple as looking at a list of home loans and sorting them by their rates, and building a home loan comparison. However, the home loan with the lowest interest rate may not be the best mortgage for you.
To get a home loan that suits your needs, it’s important to compare a variety of options. Consider their interest rates, but also their fees and other features and benefits to find the best home loan for you. Start by making your very own home loan comparison right now.
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What are the different types of home loans?
There is no ‘one size fits all’ home loan. Different types of home loans offer different features and benefits, and may be better suited to different borrowers.
Owner Occupier home loans and Investor home loans
If you’re buying a property to live in, you’re an owner-occupier. If you’re buying a property to earn money from rent and/or capital growth, you’re an investor. Investors and owner-occupiers use different types of home loans to reach their personal and financial goals.
Owner occupier home loans often have lower interest rates and fees than investor home loans. This is because most banks feel that owner occupier loans are less risky than investor loans. After all, an owner occupier is motivated to pay their mortgage and keep a roof over their head!
Investor home loans may have higher interest rates and fees than owner occupier home loans. However they may also offer flexible special features and other benefits that may be useful to investors, such as longer interest-only periods.
Principal & Interest and Interest Only home loans
A home loan’s “principal” is the money you’ve borrowed and need to pay back. In most home loans, each of your repayments will be made up of part of the principal, plus an interest charge based on the remaining amount still owing. Each repayment will bring you one step closer to paying off your mortgage and owning your home outright.
Some lenders will let you just pay the interest on your mortgage for a limited time, such as from one and five years, or longer for investors. This helps make your mortgage more affordable from month to month, relieving some pressure on your budget.
However, because interest-only payments won’t reduce your principal, your loan will likely take longer to pay off, meaning you’ll end up paying more interest in total. It’s also important to watch out for bill shock when your mortgage reverts back to principal and interest repayments at the end of the interest-only period.
Variable Rate and Fixed Rate home loans
Even if you choose a home loan with a low interest rate, the rate you’ll pay at the start of your loan may not be the same rate you’ll be paying at the end of your loan.
Most home loans charge interest at a variable rate. Your lender may increase or decrease its variable interest rates, depending on the economy. If your lender lowers rates, your minimum mortgage repayments will cost less from month to month. But if your lender raises rates, you’ll need to pay more.
You may be able to fix your home loan interest rate for a limited time, such as from one to five years. During this period, your interest charges will stay the same, even if your lender changes its variable rates. This keeps your payments consistent for simpler budgeting, and you won’t be charged extra if your lender raises variable rates. However, you’ll also miss out on interest savings if your lender cuts variable rates. It’s also important to watch out for bill shock when your loan reverts to a variable rate.
Who provides the best home loan deals?
You could get a home loan simply by contacting your local bank, but there are many more options available, including:
- other large and small banks
- mutual banks
- building societies
- credit unions
- other non-bank lenders
The best mortgage lender for you will be the one offering a home loan with rates, fees, features and benefits that suit your needs.
Some banks offer home loan package deals, letting you bundle a mortgage with a bank account, credit card, and other financial services. This may offer more value than managing these accounts separately.
Some customer-owned banks even specialise in looking after people living in a particular area (such as a rural region), or working in a specialised profession (such as teaching or nursing). These customers may be able to enjoy special benefits, though other Australians can often also apply for home loans from these banks.
Online-only mortgage lenders can be convenient if you’d prefer to manage your home loan online or over the phone. Because these lenders don’t have branches, they can often offer more affordable mortgage deals.
Many different lenders offer special home loan deals, such as discounted interest rates, waived fees, or cashback offers. These introductory offers can be useful, as long as you keep any terms and conditions in mind.
What options and features are available on home loans?
A home loan with the right features and benefits can make a big difference to your lifestyle, and may help you achieve your goals.
While there are a wide range of features available from mortgage providers, three of the most popular are extra repayments, redraw facilities, and offset accounts.
If you pay more than the required minimum onto your mortgage each month, the extra money will go directly onto your loan’s principal, reducing the amount you owe. Because your interest charges are calculated based on your current principal, extra repayments can help you to pay less interest, clear your debt faster, and own your home outright sooner.
Certain home loans don’t allow extra repayments, or limit how much extra money you can put on your mortgage. For example, if you have a fixed rate home loan, you may need to stick to a predetermined payment plan. Check with your lender before you apply.
Some home loans will let you “redraw” any extra repayments you’ve made on your home loan. This can help you confidently put part of your savings towards paying off your home loan and lowering your interest charges, as you can still put this money back in your pocket if you need it.
Keep in mind that some banks charge redraw fees, limit how much you can redraw from your home loan’s extra repayments, or limit the number of redraws you can make per year. Check the terms and conditions before you apply.
An offset account is a savings or transaction bank account that’s linked to your home loan. Any money in this account is used to “offset” your mortgage when interest is calculated on your loan.
For example, if you owed $300,000 on your mortgage, and had an offset account holding $10,000, the bank would calculate interest on your home loan as if you only owed $290,000. This can help you save money on interest charges.
Remember that the more features a home loan includes, the more likely it is to charge higher interest rates and fees. Compare the potential value of a home loan’s features to the extra costs you may need to pay.
How much can I borrow for a mortgage?
Before applying for a home loan, it’s important to get an idea of how much you can afford to borrow and comfortably pay back. If you apply to borrow too much money, you risk ending up in mortgage stress, meaning the lender may decline your mortgage application.
What is mortgage stress?
Mortgage stress is when you’re at risk of being unable to afford your mortgage payments if you’re hit with surprise expenses, such as car repairs or medical bills.
Different lenders define mortgage stress differently. One popular benchmark is when more than one-third of your household income is going towards your mortgage.
You can use a mortgage calculator to find out how much you can borrow, simply by entering some details of your income and expenses. Alternatively, you could enter your preferred loan size, term length and interest rate to calculate the repayments, then work out if you can afford the loan on your current budget.
How much do I need for a home loan deposit?
The more you can afford to pay as an upfront deposit on a property, the better the home loan deal you may be offered. Many home loans with low rates and special features will ask for a deposit of 20 per cent or more of the property’s value.
You may be able to get a home loan with a smaller deposit of 10 per cent or even 5 per cent of the property’s value. While you can save up a smaller deposit much faster, a deposit of less than 20 per cent usually means you’ll need to pay for Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI), which can be expensive.
What is LMI?
Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI) is an insurance policy that covers the risk of a borrower defaulting on their home loan repayments. LMI only protects the lender providing your mortgage, and does NOT protect you, the borrower (that’s what mortgage insurance and/or income insurance is for).
LMI is typically required if you’re borrowing more than 80 per cent of a property’s value in your mortgage, and paying a deposit of less than 20 per cent This is sometimes called having a Loan to Value Ratio (LVR) of 80 per cent or less.
LMI can add thousands to tens of thousands of dollars to your mortgage’s upfront costs. The higher your mortgage’s LVR, the more you may need to pay in LMI. Before you apply for a low deposit home loan, consider using an LMI calculator to estimate the costs.
Who do I need to speak to when applying for a home loan?
If you’ve done your research with mortgage comparisons, and know the home loan you want from a bank or mortgage lender, you could visit a branch, give them a call, or even chat online. Some mortgage providers also offer mobile lending services, where someone will come and meet with you to discuss your application.
If you’d like more help choosing a home loan, you may want to contact a mortgage broker. These experts can look at your personal finances and recommend specific home loans for you. They can also negotiate with lenders on your behalf to help you get a better deal, and may have access to special home loan offers that aren’t normally advertised.
Visiting a mortgage broker is usually free. Rather than charging fees to borrowers, most mortgage brokers are paid commissions by banks when they successfully sign up new home loan customers. But even though brokers are paid by banks, they work for borrowers. If you’re worried that a broker‘s commissions may be influencing their recommendations, ask them how they’d be paid for different home loans.
Step by step – How to get a home loan
- Collect financial documents (e.g. payslips, bank statements, bills etc.) to confirm your income and expenses.
- Fill out a lender’s mortgage application form.
- Get pre-approval, where a lender agrees in principle to provide a loan, but you or the lender can still walk away.
- Make an offer on a property.
- Credit check and valuation. The lender will check your credit score (based on your history of managing money), and calculate the value of the property to make sure you haven’t over-borrowed.
- If your application is approved, sign the formal home loan offer and contract.
- Prepare for settlement, which is the legal transfer of the property from one owner to another. A solicitor or conveyancer can help confirm that everything is done correctly.
- That’s it! Time to move in, or start looking for tenants.
How do I refinance a home loan?
Refinancing a home loan means swapping your current mortgage for another. Borrowers refinance for many reasons, including:
- To get a better deal: swap to a mortgage with a lower interest rate, cheaper fees, or more useful features and benefits, and you’ll land the best home loan for your needs.
- To borrow more money: upsize to a bigger house, or renovate your current property.
- To consolidate other debts: add the money you owe money on credit cards, car loans or personal loans onto your mortgage to enjoy a lower interest rate (though you may end up paying more total interest over the long term).
Refinancing a home loan still requires a deposit, but rather than just using your savings, you can use the equity in your current property.
Your equity is the current value of your home, minus the amount you still owe on your mortgage. If you’ve been paying your mortgage for a few years, and your property has increased in value during this time, you may have more equity available than you realise. This may make it easier to refinance to a home loan that better suits your needs.
|AAPR, Comparison Rate or Real Rate||Three ways of saying the same thing. The Average Annual Percentage Rate (AAPR), Comparison Rate and the Real Rate refer to interest rates plus fees and charges rolled into a single percentage rate for ease of comparison|
|Amortising Loan||The most commonly used loan structure for a mortgage, which requires set repayments of principal and interest over a period of time.|
|Break cost||Fees charged by your lender if you exit your loan early, most often applied if you have a fixed interest rate|
|Bridging Finance||Helps you to “bridge” the gap between the sale of one property and the purchase of another.|
|Capped or Tunnel Loans||Capped loans limit how high your loan’s variable interest rate can go, while Tunnel loans limit both how high and low a rate can go.|
|Conveyancing||Conveyancing is the process of transferring legal ownership of a property from one party to another. Legal fees on a property purchase are called conveyancing fees.|
|Deposit||The amount of cash you need to contribute towards your home loan application.|
|Fixed Rate Loan||A mortgage with interest rates that are locked in for a certain period of time.|
|Interest Capitalisation||An option to add interest charges to your total loan balance for a limited time, rather than paying it as you go.|
|Introductory or Honeymoon Rate Loan||A mortgage offering a discounted interest rate for an initial introductory period (the “honeymoon”), before reverting to the higher standard rate.|
|Lenders Mortgage Insurance||LMI safeguards the lender in case a borrower defaults on their mortgage. LMI is typically required for mortgages with an LVR higher than 80% (or a deposit of less than 20%), with the borrower required to pay the cost.|
|Loan to Value Ratio (LVR)||The size of your home loan compared to the value of your property. For example, if you paid a 20% deposit on a property, and took out a mortgage for the remainder of its value, you’d have an LVR of 80%.|
|Mortgage Offset||A saving or transaction account linked to your home loan, which included when calculating interest charges. For example, if you had a $300,000 home loan and a 100% offset account holding $20,000, you’d be charged interest as if you only owed $280,000 on your mortgage.|
|Ongoing Fees||Ongoing fees are charged periodically over the life of the loan.|
|Overdraft||A line of credit, typically secured by the equity in your property, allowing you to borrow extra funds if required.|
|Parental Leave||A type of repayment holiday offered by some lenders when you become a parent|
|Portability||An option to pick up your loan and take it with you when you move houses.|
|Progressive Drawdown||When building a home rather than buying, funds can be accessed in small sums at various intervals to suit the building process, rather than as a single lump sum at the beginning.|
|Redraw||Pay extra money into your loan and withdraw it back if you need it in the future.|
|Refinancing||Taking out a new loan to pay out an old one. Refinancing may allow a borrower to enjoy more favourable interest rates, fees, features or benefits.|
|Repayment Holiday||An option to take a temporary “holiday” from loan repayments when you experience proven hardship, such as an unexpected loss of income.|
|Revolving Line of Credit||Essentially a giant overdraft, where money can be borrowed, repaid, then withdrawn again.|
|Salary Loan||A mortgage where your payments can come directly out of pre-tax income from your employer as a salary sacrifice, which can have tax benefits.|
|Split Loans||A home loan where interest is charged on part of your balance at a fixed rate, and part of your balance at a variable rate, providing you with a mix of security and flexibility.|
|Stamp Duty||Stamp Duty is a State Government tax on the sale and transfer of land and property|
|Switching Fees||The costs and charges involved when refinancing your home loan from one lender to another|
|Upfront Fees||Fees charged at the start of your home loan to help cover the cost of processing your application|
|Variable Rate Loan||A home loan where the lender may raise or lower your interest rate depending on a range of economic factors, including the national cash rate set by the Reserve Bank of Australia.|
Sally is the Research Director for RateCity and a regular commentator on television and radio about personal finance matters. She is passionate about helping everyday Australians get access to affordable finance options, and helping people save money through smart budgeting and easing everyday expenses. Sally is a contributor to news outlets including Fairfax, News Ltd and Money Magazine, among others.
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Frequently asked questions
What is principal and interest'?
‘Principal and interest’ loans are the most common type of home loans on the market. The principal part of the loan is the initial sum lent to the customer and the interest is the money paid on top of this, at the agreed interest rate, until the end of the loan.
By reducing the principal amount, the total of interest charged will also become smaller until eventually the debt is paid off in full.
What is a low-deposit home loan?
A low-deposit home loan is a mortgage where you need to borrow more than 80 per cent of the purchase price – in other words, your deposit is less than 20 per cent of the purchase price.
For example, if you want to buy a $500,000 property, you’ll need a low-deposit home loan if your deposit is less than $100,000 and therefore you need to borrow more than $400,000.
As a general rule, you’ll need to pay LMI (lender’s mortgage insurance) if you take out a low-deposit home loan. You can use this LMI calculator to estimate your LMI payment.
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.
What is a guarantor?
A guarantor is someone who provides a legally binding promise that they will pay off a mortgage if the principal borrower fails to do so.
Often, guarantors are parents in a solid financial position, while the principal borrower is a child in a weaker financial position who is struggling to enter the property market.
Lenders usually regard borrowers as less risky when they have a guarantor – and therefore may charge lower interest rates or even approve mortgages they would have otherwise rejected.
However, if the borrower falls behind on their repayments, the lender might chase the guarantor for payment. In some circumstances, the lender might even seize and sell the guarantor’s property to recoup their money.
Why do people use no credit check loans?
How do I know if I have to pay LMI?
Each lender has its own policies, but as a general rule you will have to pay lender’s mortgage insurance (LMI) if your loan-to-value ratio (LVR) exceeds 80 per cent. This applies whether you’re taking out a new home loan or you’re refinancing.
If you’re looking to buy a property, you can use this LMI calculator to work out how much you’re likely to be charged in LMI.
How common are low-deposit home loans?
Low-deposit home loans aren’t as common as they once were, because they’re regarded as relatively risky and the banking regulator (APRA) is trying to reduce risk from the mortgage market.
However, if you do your research, you’ll find there is still a fairly wide selection of banks, credit unions and non-bank lenders that offers low-deposit home loans.
How do I take out a low-deposit home loan?
If you want to take out a low-deposit home loan, it might be a good idea to consult a mortgage broker who can give you professional financial advice and organise the mortgage for you.
Another way to take out a low-deposit home loan is to do your own research with a comparison website like RateCity. Once you’ve identified your preferred mortgage, you can apply through RateCity or go direct to the lender.
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What happens to my home loan when interest rates rise?
If you are on a variable rate home loan, every so often your rate will be subject to increases and decreases. Rate changes are determined by your lender, not the Reserve Bank of Australia, however often when the RBA changes the cash rate, a number of banks will follow suit, at least to some extent. You can use RateCity cash rate to check how the latest interest rate change affected your mortgage interest rate.
When your rate rises, you will be required to pay your bank more each month in mortgage repayments. Similarly, if your interest rate is cut, then your monthly repayments will decrease. Your lender will notify you of what your new repayments will be, although you can do the calculations yourself, and compare other home loan rates using our mortgage calculator.
There is no way of conclusively predicting when interest rates will go up or down on home loans so if you prefer a more stable approach consider opting for a fixed rate loan.
What is a variable home loan?
A variable rate home loan is one where the interest rate can and will change over the course of your loan. The rate is determined by your lender, not the Reserve Bank of Australia, so while the cash rate might go down, your bank may decide not to follow suit, although they do broadly follow market conditions. One of the upsides of variable rates is that they are typically more flexible than their fixed rate counterparts which means that a lot of these products will let you make extra repayments and offer features such as offset accounts.
How can I negotiate a better home loan rate?
Negotiating with your bank can seem like a daunting task but if you have been a loyal customer with plenty of equity built up then you hold more power than you think. It’s highly likely your current lender won’t want to let your business go without a fight so if you do your research and find out what other banks are offering new customers you might be able to negotiate a reduction in interest rate, or a reduction in fees with your existing lender.
What is an ombudsman?
An complaints officer – previously referred to as an ombudsman -looks at formal complaints from customers about their credit providers, and helps to find a fair and independent solution to these problems.
These services are handled by the Australian Financial Complaints Authority, a non-profit government organisation that addresses and resolves financial disputes between customers and financial service providers.
How much of the RBA rate cut do lenders pass on to borrowers?
When the Reserve Bank of Australia cuts its official cash rate, there is no guarantee lenders will then pass that cut on to lenders by way of lower interest rates.
Sometimes lenders pass on the cut in full, sometimes they partially pass on the cut, sometimes they don’t at all. When they don’t, they often defend the decision by saying they need to balance the needs of their shareholders with the needs of their borrowers.
As the attached graph shows, more recent cuts have seen less lenders passing on the full RBA interest rate cut; the average lender was more likely to pass on about two-thirds of the 25 basis points cut to its borrowers.
Why was Real Time Ratings developed?
Real Time RatingsTM was developed to save people time and money. A home loan is one of the biggest financial decisions you will ever make – and one of the most complicated. Real Time RatingsTM is designed to help you find the right loan. Until now, there has been no place borrowers can benchmark the latest rates and offers when they hit the market. Rates change all the time now and new offers hit the market almost daily, we saw the need for a way to compare these new deals against the rest of the market and make a more informed decision.
What is a debt service ratio?
A method of gauging a borrower’s home loan serviceability (ability to afford home loan repayments), the debt service ratio (DSR) is the fraction of an applicant’s income that will need to go towards paying back a loan. The DSR is typically expressed as a percentage, and lenders may decline loans to borrowers with too high a DSR (often over 30 per cent).
Why is it important to get the most up-to-date information?
The mortgage market changes constantly. Every week, new products get launched and existing products get tweaked. Yet many ratings and awards systems rank products annually or biannually.
We update our product data as soon as possible when lenders make changes, so if a bank hikes its interest rates or changes its product, the system will quickly re-evaluate it.
Nobody wants to read a weather forecast that is six months old, and the same is true for home loan comparisons.
What is a construction loan?
A construction loan is loan taken out for the purpose of building or substantially renovating a residential property. Under this type of loan, the funds are released in stages when certain milestones in the construction process are reached. Once the building is complete, the loan will revert to a standard principal and interest mortgage.
What is an ongoing fee?
Ongoing fees are any regular payments charged by your lender in addition to the interest they apply including annual fees, monthly account keeping fees and offset fees. The average annual fee is close to $200 however there are almost 2,000 home loan products that don’t charge an annual fee at all. There’s plenty of extra costs when you’re buying a home, such as conveyancing, stamp duty, moving costs, so the more fees you can avoid on your home loan, the better. While $200 might not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, it adds up to $6,000 over the life of a 30 year loan – money which would be much better off either reinvested into your home loan or in your back pocket for the next rainy day.
Example: Anna is tossing up between two different mortgage products. Both have the same variable interest rate, but one has a monthly account keeping fee of $20. By picking the loan with no fees, and investing an extra $20 a month into her loan, Josie will end up shaving 6 months off her 30 year loan and saving over $9,000* in interest repayments.
How does an offset account work?
An offset account functions as a transaction account that is linked to your home loan. The balance of this account is offset daily against the loan amount and reduces the amount of principal that you pay interest on.
By using an offset account it’s possible to reduce the length of your loan and the total amount of interest payed by thousands of dollars.
Example: If you have a mortgage of $500,000 but holding an offset account with $50,000, you will only pay interest on $450,000 rather then $500,000.