There’s nothing quite like the sweet satisfaction that comes from holding a shiny new set of keys to your very own home.

If you’re a self-employed borrower, you’ve no doubt worked hard to get where you are and you deserve to enjoy the fruits of your labour. Here are our best tips for buying a home when you’re self-employed – but be warned, you may feel tempted to break out a spontaneous “happy dance” when you secure your new digs. It’s that exciting!

1) Save the nest egg

If you’re considering buying property in the not-so-distant future, it’s a good idea to start saving and planning the purchase well in advance. Lenders like to see a solid savings history over several months when assessing home loan applications.

While you may be able to borrow up to 95% of the property’s value by using your personal and business tax returns from the last two years to verify your income, you will be subject to Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI) if you have less than 20% for your deposit. LMI protects lenders if you default on your home loan and it can be costly, so it’s a good idea to aim to save a deposit of 20% or more.

2) Be fastidious about financials

As a self-employed borrower, one of the best ways to maximise your chances of approval is to make sure your financial records are up-to-date and accurate. Lenders are typically more careful about granting home loans to self-employed borrowers, as your income streams fluctuate more than PAYG applicants and it’s more difficult for lenders to gauge whether you can meet repayments into the future. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) also requires lenders and mortgage brokers to ensure you are able to repay your loan without suffering financial hardship.

Lenders like to see consistency of income, and if your financial record-keeping is top-notch, it will be easier to illustrate your earnings and ultimately have your loan application approved. If you’re self-employed and thinking about buying a home, it’s a good idea to have your last two years’ financial statements, income tax returns and notices of assessment ready to go.

3) Get your accountant on the job

One challenge self-employed borrowers may face is not being able to prove they can service a loan because their accountant has been clever about reducing their taxable income. While you may save money on your tax bill, reducing your taxable income can also affect your ability to apply for credit and invest in property. It’s important to talk to a qualified accountant about your home buying aspirations and the tax implications. We have some great contacts, so let us know if you need a referral.

Often there are business expenses that can be added back to your taxable income to work out your borrowing capacity. These “add-backs” include larger stand-alone costs, non-cash expenses like depreciation, additional super contributions, and interest on loans being refinanced. Talk to us about whether “add-backs” could improve your chances of being approved.

4) Provide the necessary documentation

If you’ve been self-employed for more than two years, you can verify your income by providing two years of personal tax returns and the correlating ATO notices of assessment, two years of tax returns for all entities (company, trust, Self-Managed Super Fund), and two years of profit and loss statements (if applicable).

If you’ve been self-employed for less than two years, the income requirements on Alternative Documentation loans include: six months of Business Activity Statements, six months of business account statements, six months of personal bank account statements, confirmation of ABN and confirmation of GST registration. You will also need a letter from your accountant confirming your full legal name, trading name, how long the accountant has serviced you, gross taxable income for the past three years and any relevant deductions.

5) Talk to us about pre-approval

Organising pre-approval before you begin looking for a property will make the process a whole lot easier, as it will give you a realistic idea of how much you can afford to borrow, so that you can put a budget on your search and find the home you want sooner. We can help you establish your borrowing power and determine your eligibility for finance. We’ll explain the merits of each lender and which loans could work for you.

As part of the pre-approval process, we will approach your lender of choice, who will check your credit history and verify your income. Pre-approval gives you an assurance from the lender that you can take out a loan up to a certain amount – handy ammunition when trying to convince real estate agents and vendors you’re serious about buying.

6) Find your property

Once you’ve organised pre-approval, it’s time to find the right property. Remember, this is one of the biggest decisions of your life, so it pays to do plenty of research before choosing ‘the one’. Make sure you get a building inspection done to check for issues such as structural movement or plumbing problems, as well as pest inspections for termites and other unwanted guests. A solicitor or conveyancer will be able to take care of the legalities involved in buying the property.

7) Apply for your home loan

As your mortgage broker, we will find the right home loan to suit your financial situation and future objectives. As a self-employed borrower, we can help you find ways to make your cash flow work harder. If you are a contractor or sub-contractor, you may be considered ‘an employee’ rather than self-employed by some lenders, so it’s worth asking us to check.

If you’re self-employed and looking to buy a home, it’s a good idea to consult a mortgage broker like us to discuss your options. Lenders’ policies vary widely when it comes to self-employed applicants, but we know which ones will view your application most favourably. We’ll explain your buying capacity, provide advice about which application method would work best (given your income and documentation), and help maximise your chances of approval. Best of all, you’ll feel confident in the knowledge your home loan is structured correctly from day one, so that it works for you.

PS. We won’t judge you if the “happy dance” happens in our office. We may even capture it on video and post it on our Facebook page!

7 easy steps to buying a home if you’re self-employed

Over the past few months, there has been a lot of chatter in the media about APRA tightening controls on lending for investment property purchases. And as property investment is one of Australia’s most popular ways to build wealth for the future, it has understandably raised a lot of questions from our clients about how this will change the game for those currently looking to invest. But what is APRA actually doing and why? How will it affect your capacity to get an investment property loan if you’re looking to buy this spring?

What is APRA? 
First of all, we should explain APRA and the role it plays in the finance industry. APRA is the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority and it acts as Australia’s finance industry watchdog. Their role is to regulate the behaviour of lenders, banks, credit unions, building societies, general insurance companies, private health insurance agencies and the superannuation industry. Their mission is to establish and enforce standards and practices to ensure that our financial industry remains stable, efficient and competitive.

APRA is concerned that the property market is becoming overheated, particularly in Sydney. This follows home price growth of over 18% in the Sydney market over the past year. APRA is concerned that an overheated market may be subject to rapid price adjustments and this could not only destabilize our entire financial industry, but prove to be extremely risky for the average residential property owner or investor.

What restrictions has APRA imposed?
APRA is primarily concerned about the rate at which the big four banks have been issuing property investment loans. In order to cut it back, they have done two things:

  • Increased the capital reserves the big banks are required to hold for their exposure to residential property mortgages; and
  • Enforced their requirement that the bank’s investment lending does not grow by more than 10% annually.

The result is that the big four banks have raised interest rates on property investment loans. They have also tightened their lending criteria, so that property investors may now require a larger deposit and must be in a financial position to meet their repayments in the event of significant interest rate rises in future. They are also discouraging interest only property investment loans as these are considered more risky in a property market that may be subject to rapid declines in home values.

How will this affect you if you’re looking to invest now?
First of all, let’s look at interest rates on property investment loans. While it’s true that some banks have raised interest rates on property investment loans, these rate rises only represent a 20 – 50 basis point rise, meaning that the increased interest rate on property investment loans is only a half a percent or so higher on average than most owner-occupier loans. When you take into consideration that interest rates were down to all-time historical lows anyway, this will not prove to be much of a deterrent to those of you looking to invest in property this spring.

Additionally, not all of the lenders are at risk of exceeding APRA’s requirement that investment lending does not grow by more than 10% annually. This means that many of the smaller lenders have not raised their interest rates on property investment loans very much – in fact, some of them have not raised their rates at all.

This is where it really pays to have a good mortgage broker on your team. If you are planning to purchase an investment property this spring then talk to us and we will shop around to find you the most advantageous rate!

What about the tighter lending criteria – how will this affect you?
If you are about to purchase an investment property, then the bank’s tightening of lending criteria may have some effect. It is likely that the amount you can borrow has recently been reduced by 10-15% for the same level of income. Additionally, the big four banks will most likely require a 20% deposit, whereas in the past they would have accepted 10%. (Some smaller lenders are still approving investment property loans with a 10% deposit, so if necessary ask us to shop around.)

The result is that your purchasing power may be reduced and if you want to invest this spring, you may have to look at purchasing a less expensive property. For most property investors, this will prove to be only a minor stumbling block – after all a 15% reduction in your buying power isn’t very much. You may have to work a little bit harder to find a suitable investment, but at the end of the day you will most likely be able to find something that suits your budget.

Good advice is now more valuable than ever
The fact is, it’s more important than ever to be able to get good advice about your loan structuring and a mortgage broker who is able to shop around amongst a wider variety of lenders to get you the best rate the market has to offer.

We’re happy to say that’s our job! Since the APRA restrictions have come into play, we have been able to help several clients find great financing options for their investment property purchases and lower rates for those looking to refinance. We’re confident that we can help you too. If you’re in the market to purchase a property this spring, then give us a call. We’re here to help.


Copyright 2016