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Smart tips for paying off your home loan sooner

Wondering how to pay off your home loan sooner? We look at some things you could do.

Australian home loan interest rates remain at historic lows, and the opportunities for paying off a mortgage early are better than ever. Used in conjunction with low rates, here are some extra steps that can speed up loan repayments and reduce your loan balance.

Make higher repayments

One of the easiest ways to quickly reduce the balance of your mortgage is to make larger loan repayments. The minimum repayments required on a loan are calculated on the amount owing and the prevailing home loan interest rate. Repaying more than the minimum can cut the overall term of the loan and save you thousands of dollars in interest. A mortgage repayments calculator will quickly show what savings can be achieved.

Some lenders may charge you an early payment cost for paying your loan in advance. This is particularly the case with fixed-interest loans, so it’s always best to check up-front. These costs can be large.

Make more frequent repayments

Home loans are often structured so that you make monthly repayments. But making fortnightly repayments instead can reduce the term of a loan and save interest. By making fortnightly repayments, you are paying the equivalent of half of your monthly repayment every two weeks. This allows you to make the equivalent of one extra monthly repayment per year. Extra repayments will ensure the loan balance is lower at the time of the month the interest is calculated.

Use an interest offset account

Most lenders allow you to package a mortgage with an interest offset account. An offset account allows you to reduce the amount of interest paid on your loan by offsetting the amount in the (offset) account against your loan balance. Wages and other income can be deposited into your offset account. Note that you don’t earn interest on the funds in the offset account, and that offset is usually only available on variable rate loans.

Seek out lower rates

Although obvious, many borrowers take out a mortgage and then stop following the home loan market. With interest rates constantly changing, it pays to monitor the latest rates. If rates go down, contact your lender or broker and ask if they can reduce the rate on your loan.

Don’t take the rate cut

When a lender reduces the interest rate on its home loans, usually in line with a cut in official interest rates, your first thought may be to reduce your loan repayments accordingly. However, by maintaining your loan repayments, you effectively repay more than the minimum loan repayment. If it’s possible to do so, this will help you cut the term of the loan and save on interest.

 Pay both principal and interest

While you can make lower repayments by choosing an interest-only loan, doing so means the principal component of the loan will not be repaid while you are only paying interest.

Pay fees upfront

When initially taking out a mortgage, lenders will often roll the establishment costs and charges into the loan. While this may help the short-term budget, it’s worth paying these costs separately to lower the overall balance of the loan from the start.

Use your home equity

As home prices rise, you build more equity in your property. Redrawing funds from a home loan to pay for renovations and other costs can be a much cheaper source of funds than others.

Set up a split loan

A split loan, sometimes referred to as a combination loan, enables borrowers to divide their mortgage into both variable and fixed components. By doing this, you can not only make extra payments on the variable component, but also lock in a lower fixed rate. Extra payments can often be made on the fixed loan too, up to a limit specified by the lender.

Get a financial package

You can often lock in a discounted loan rate with a financial package and also find special rates on other products and services. Putting those savings into your mortgage is a great way to get the best of both worlds.

With just a few easy steps, borrowers can significantly reduce the length of their mortgage and save thousands of dollars in the process. A mortgage broker can assist you in setting everything up.

For more information on how you can pay off your home loan sooner, contact your mortgage broker.

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What you need to know about refinancing

A home loan is generally a long-term proposition, but in some situations it can make sense to refinance your mortgage. Read this guide to the refinancing process, and speak to your broker, before deciding whether it’s right for you.

Refinancing involves taking out a new mortgage and using those funds to pay off your existing mortgage. Doing so can save money and result in significant financial gains over time.

Why you might refinance

You might want a lower interest rate.

The lending products market is highly competitive and interest rates can vary significantly between banks. One of the most common reasons people choose to refinance their mortgage is to secure a lower interest rate from another lender. This could assist you to pay off your home loan sooner, potentially saving you thousands of dollars

That makes sense, but before taking any action it’s a good idea to speak with your broker. They can not only look for a better interest rate for you but also help find you the type of lending facility that suits your lifestyle. This may even mean renegotiating a better deal with your existing lender. Either way your broker will help with the right advice.

Keep in mind that not all mortgage products are the same. A mortgage with a lower interest rate may not have all the benefits of your existing loan.

The interest rates, fees and the features need to be carefully considered and your broker can help you to navigate the options.

You want to change your loan type

You may want to switch from a variable loan to a fixed loan with your existing lender, to lock in a low interest rate. Depending on the type of mortgage you have, this may require refinancing into a different product. You might also have to refinance if you want to change to a split loan, which has part variable and part fixed rates.

You want to renovate or purchase an investment property

Another reason refinancing might be an option is because you want to renovate your home or buy an investment property. If you have equity in your home, you may be able to access some of the equity by refinancing your mortgage. (Note that you could also do this by redrawing or increasing the limit on your existing mortgage.) Your broker can help advise on the best option for you. Before going ahead with an increase or refinance, your home may need to be revalued and your broker will advise how much you can borrow.

Your circumstances have changed

Refinancing could also be suitable if your circumstances have changed – for example, a significant change in your income. By taking out a new mortgage (or increasing your limit on the existing mortgage) through your current broker, you may be able to consolidate other debts, including personal loans and credit cards, into one facility, lowering your monthly payments and saving you interest.

While refinancing can save money, it may not be right for everyone. Consider your financial situation and ask yourself whether refinancing is right for you .

The refinancing process

Getting the refinancing ball rolling is simple once you’ve determined your needs and done your research through your broker.

The application. Your broker will evaluate your circumstances and assist you in submitting your application. You’ll be asked to provide identification documentation and proof of income such as pay slips, and to list your assets and liabilities. If you’re staying with your existing lender, you may not need to provide as much information.

Getting a valuation. Lenders will often require a valuation on your existing home to determine how much you can borrow. This bank valuation happens during the loan approval process and generally requires an inspection of the property by a licensed valuer.

Receiving approval. Once the lender is completely satisfied, full loan approval is granted. You’ll receive an approval letter with a copy of the loan contract to review, sign and return to the lender.

Your funds will be cleared once all the signed documentation is reviewed. Your lender (or your new lender if you’re changing lenders) will arrange settlement of your existing loan and establishment of your new loan.

There are many reasons why you may want to refinance your mortgage. Before taking any action it’s important to talk with your broker. They can help you to select the best loan product for your needs, based on your individual circumstances.

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FIXED, VARIABLE, SPLIT – FIND THE RIGHT FIT FOR YOU

In Australia, there are a number of ways to structure your home loan repayments. Finding the best option may save you time and money on your mortgage. Here is some information to help you choose the repayment structure that works best for you.

Variable rate loans

Variable interest rate loans are all about flexibility. Essentially, with a variable rate loan, the interest rate moves up or down as the market moves. This means your loan repayments may also change month-to-month.

If the interest rate drops, then your repayments may drop as well. However, in the event of an interest rate rise, your repayments could also increase.

Many variable rate loans come with additional features, which can reduce the amount of interest paid over the life of the loan. For example, a variable rate loan with a 100% offset arrangement links your loan account to your savings account. Any funds held in your savings account are offset against the borrowed amount, reducing the interest you have to pay.

Many variable rate loans offer flexibility in terms of increased payments, allowing you to pay off your loan faster if you have additional funds available.

Fixed rate loans

A fixed rate loan is one where the interest rate is fixed for a limited period, and immune from any movements in the market. The most popular choices are three and five-year fixed interest loans, although options ranging from one to ten years are available.

Fixed rate loans allow you to make steady, regular repayments. They’re great for borrowers on strict budgets, or if you’re entering into a mortgage at a time when interest rates are likely to rise.

In the event of a drop in interest rates, being locked into a fixed rate may mean your repayments are higher than they otherwise would be. It’s also worth noting that breaking a fixed rate loan can potentially cost thousands of dollars in fees.

Additionally, many banks will charge you a fee for making extra payments towards the loan during the period it has been fixed.

Split rate loans a foot in each camp

A split rate loan is when you break your mortgage into two loans – one with a fixed rate and one with a variable rate.

It’s something of an ‘each-way bet’. A split loan offers borrowers protection from rate rises (with the fixed portion of the loan) alongside the advantage of rate drops (with the variable portion of the loan).

Most banks will allow you to split your loans from the outset, without having to pay for two separate loan applications.

Choosing the right kind of loan depends on your personal situation, earning capacity and long-term goals for your property. Speaking with a mortgage broker can help you to figure out the best way forward, and could help you save money along the way.

Your guide to investment property loans

There are certain things to look out for when selecting and applying for a loan for your investment property. Here we look at the main differences, the most popular loan types, and how to get the best mortgage for your situation.

Interest-only, fixed, variable, offset – finding the investment home loan that’s right for you can seem like a minefield of financial jargon and conditions.

The key to finding the right loan is to have a clear investment strategy: are you going to renovate and sell, or stay on for the long term and ride the property wave?

Fixed interest rate loan

Arranging a mortgage with a fixed interest rate gives you certainty – you’ll know up-front what you need to repay annually. This means that once you know what you are going to receive in rent you can estimate whether there will be a cash surplus or deficit and manage your cash flow accordingly.

Some lenders allow you to prepay up to 12 months’ of interest on this type of loan potentially bringing any eligible tax benefit forward; speak to your tax advisor about claiming the payment as a tax deduction.

Bear in mind that many lenders will charge you a break fee if you repay more than the fixed rate allows for. Before making any extra payments, check with your bank. And if you plan to make additional payments during the life of your loan, make sure you enter into a loan that doesn’t charge these break fees.

Variable interest rate loan

Your payments will fluctuate with a variable interest rate mortgage, but the pay-off is flexibility – if the loan has a redraw option, you’ll be able to redraw funds from any extra payments you may have made.

You can also choose a split loan, with a mix of fixed and variable interest rates. Package home loans may feature split rates, along with credit cards, waived fees and other products.

 Interest-only loan

As the name suggests, with interest-only loans, you won’t pay anything off the principal. If the value of your property increases, you’ll have that equity even though you’ve paid nothing off the principal. If the market flattens, however, you might not have any equity.

The sweetener for investors is that, unlike principal repayments, interest payments are tax deductible. Please check with your accountant or financial planner for tax implications.

You can also choose an interest-only loan for a period of time while you renovate. Your repayments are less than if you’re paying the principal plus interest, so you’ll have cash up your sleeve to pay for your renovations.

An interest-only mortgage can be arranged for up to 10 years.

Offset account

Products such as interest offset accounts allow you to use your mortgage as a kind of savings account, offering great flexibility and with interest calculated daily.

For example, you could have your salary paid into your offset account, which is linked to your home loan. The balance of your mortgage will be reduced by your offset balance, meaning that you’ll pay less interest over the long term, and you’ll still be able to withdraw your cash when you need it.

Most offset accounts are linked to variable rate loans rather than fixed rate loans.

Line of credit

Also known as a home equity loan, a line of credit home loan allows you to use the equity in your existing property to secure your investment loan. Rather than receiving a lump sum, you can access as much or as little of the loan as you need, meaning financial discipline is key. Canny borrowers can have their salary paid into their line of credit loan account, to offset the loan.

Whichever loan you choose, seek professional advice from a mortgage broker and shop around to compare competitive rates.

Investment loans have stricter eligibility restrictions, may require a larger deposit than other home loans, and often incur a slightly higher interest rate. You’ll also need to have funds to cover potential costs or loss of rental income if your property is untenanted for any length of time. The trade-off is that as a landlord you can claim associated expenses as tax deductions.

To discuss your home loan options, and to find an investment property loan that’s right for you, contact your mortgage broker.