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If you’ve only taken out your home loan in the last few years, refinancing is probably the last thing on your mind. But having a set-and-forget attitude to your home loan is not ideal! Leaving your home loan unchanged for its entire term could mean you miss out on substantial savings, or opportunities to make your money work harder for you to build wealth for your future. In this article, we look at the top 5 reasons why you might want to consider refinancing your home loan.

1. To pay less on your mortgage repayments
Refinancing can often reduce the amount of your mortgage repayments – and this is probably the number one reason why people consider refinancing. Everyone would like to save money on their home loan repayments – since they usually account for around 30% of our income every month.

If you’ve had your home loan for a while and interest rates have fallen, you could access a better rate and this will reduce the amount you have to pay for each mortgage repayment. Even if interest rates have not fallen since you first took out your loan, you can sometimes access a better rate if your personal financial situation has improved in that time.

Accessing a better rate can not only reduce your home loan repayments, just a slight drop in interest rates could potentially save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.

Refinancing could also help you to reduce your mortgage repayments if you extend the life of your home loan. For example: Say you have been paying off your home loan for ten or fifteen years. You could potentially refinance the outstanding amount over a 30 year term, thereby substantially reducing your monthly repayment amount.

2. To extend or remodel your home
If your family is growing and you need a few more bedrooms or a bit of extra space, buying a bigger house is not always the ideal solution. Many people refinance their home loan to access funds to extend and remodel their existing home, rather than go through all the upheaval of moving.

Renovating, remodeling and extending is a great way to get the home you want. What’s more, it can potentially increase your home’s value at the same time. So even though you may be taking out some of the equity you have in your home to do the extensions, the resulting increase in value of the home could potentially increase your equity again and help you to recoup some of the costs.

3. To consolidate debts
We often talk about the difference between types of debt. A home loan is a ‘good’ type of debt because it carries a relatively low interest rate and can be used to build wealth. Other types of debt can be ‘bad’ because very high interest rates can trap you into continually paying interest instead of paying off your debt. These debts are usually things like credit cards – which can often carry an interest rate of 20% pa or more, car loans, store credit and so on.

Refinancing could allow you to access funds to pay off these expensive debts once and for all. By rolling all your debts into your home loan, you will be paying them off at a lower interest rate. You could also save yourself money every month on interest payments, simplify your situation by only having one payment to make, and beat the interest trap of credit cards and other expensive forms of credit.

4. To access the equity for other purposes
The equity you build up in your property is a valuable asset. We mentioned earlier that a mortgage is a ‘good’ form of debt because it can be used to help build wealth for your future. That’s because your equity increases as you pay down your mortgage and property values go up – and this can potentially give you access to funds you would not have had if you did not have a mortgage.

That means your mortgage really can be used to facilitate your lifestyle and build wealth for your future. By refinancing, you could access your equity and use the funds for a deposit on a property investment, to invest in stocks and shares, education costs, to support your children in purchasing their own home or for a wide variety of other reasons.

5. To fix your interest rate or switch to a different mortgage product
Switching to a fixed interest rate loan, (or a different type of loan that offers additional benefits) is another popular reason for refinancing a mortgage.  As time goes by, your needs change and it could be that another mortgage product like a fixed interest rate loan would be more beneficial for you.

The number one benefit of a fixed interest rate mortgage is that your mortgage repayments will remain the same for the length of the fixed term – usually 1, 3 or 5 years. This gives you more peace of mind because it makes it much easier to plan your budget.

Many people think that switching to a fixed interest rate mortgage will save them from future interest rate rises. And whilst this is true to a certain extent, fixed interest rate mortgages are often a bit more expensive to start with than your standard variable rate home loan, so interest rates would probably need to rise considerably before you came out in front.

There are also many other mortgage products on the market that may have more beneficial features than the home loan you have now. For example, redraw facilities or a mortgage offset account. If your current home loan simply doesn’t offer you the flexibility you need, then by all means talk to us about some alternatives.

Talk to us now about your annual home-loan-health-check
About this time every year, we like to encourage you to talk to us about a home-loan-health check.

A frequent home-loan-health-check is necessary to ensure that your current home loan is still the best home loan product available for you. We recommend that you have a chat with us at least once a year to see if the lending environment has changed or refinancing may be beneficial for you in some other way.

If you’d like to organise your home-loan-health-check, just give us a call. We’re here to help you assess your home loan’s performance and ensure that it is still the right mortgage product for your personal financial circumstances and goals now and into the future.

Winter is usually the quiet period for property market news, but with the recent tightening of controls on investment lending by the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority (APRA), there has been a lot happening, particularly with interest rates.

Even though the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) decided to keep the official cash rate on hold at 2.0 per cent during its August meeting, interest rates have been on the move. Due to APRA’s increased supervision on investment lending, the big 4 banks have all raised their interest rates on investment loans. We expect that many other lenders will also be raising rates on investment lending in the coming weeks, with rises varying between 25 and 50 basis points, depending on the lender.

Whilst property investment interest rates have been going up, many lenders have also moved to shave a few basis points from interest rates on owner-occupier loans, so interest rates on many of these loan products are coming down! And that means we’re still looking at some of the lowest interest rates in history overall.

This news does not seem to have had much effect on our property markets. Activity is still quite high for this time of year. For the week ending August 2, there were 787 auctions recorded in Victoria with a clearance rate of 78%. In NSW there were 825 auctions with a clearance rate of 76%. Queensland held 144 auctions with a clearance rate of 58%, and South Australia 75 auctions with a clearance rate of 68%.

Other states showed less activity, with Western Australia holding 23 auctions with a clearance rate of 40%, Northern Territory 13 auctions with a clearance rate of just 17%, Canberra 41 auctions with a clearance rate of 72% and Tasmania only 8 auctions with a 43% clearance rate.

Home values showed increases for most of our capital cities. Sydney home values were up by 3.30 % over last month and up by 18.35 % over this time last year. Melbourne is also doing very well, with home values rising by 4.91 % over the last month and 11.48 % over this time last year. Brisbane/Gold Coast also showed increases, with home values rising by 0.43% over last month and 4.36% over this time last year. Canberra showed an increase of 0.29 % month on month and 1.21% over this time last year and Hobart was also up by 1.06% this month and 2.51% over this time last year.

In other states home value movement was not as strong. Adelaide’s home values decreased by 1.13% this month, but they are still up by 3.40% over this time last year. Perth’s home values didn’t show much movement – they rose by 0.09% this month but are down by 0.27% over this time last year. Darwin showed an increase of 0.39% this month but are down by 5.25% over this time last year.

With lenders moving to adjust interest rates on both investment and owner-occupier loans, you may want to talk to us to find out how these changes may affect you. If you already have a home loan or property investment portfolio, we can work together to give your loans a health-check to see if they are still the best financial products available for you. We’re here to help you organise the most beneficial financing arrangements for your property purchasing needs according to your personal financial situation and goals. So please don’t hesitate to give us a call – we’re always happy to help.

The information provided in this newsletter is general in nature and does not constitute personal financial advice. The information has been prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on any information you should consider the appropriateness of the information with regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. Information sources: Auction results: www.realestate.com.au. Home values:www.corelogic.com.au

 

With interest rates at all-time record lows, property has recently become very attractive to a wider range of investors. The media is full of articles and commentaries talking about using property to help fund retirement, with many even talking about it as a means to completely replace an employment income so they can quit work early.

Whilst property investment has a proven track record as being a comparatively safe way to build wealth for the future, is it really possible to use property as a means of finding financial freedom and funding your retirement? And if so, how do you go about it?

Here’s an outline of two commonly used property investment plans:

Plan A – Living off the rental income
Many people create an investment property portfolio with the notion that one day, the properties will be all paid off and they will be able to live on the rental income. But if you are planning to fund your retirement this way, you’ll need to take into consideration that this rental income will be subject to income tax and some of it will also be required for property management, maintenance, insurance and rates. In other words, a sizeable chunk of the income your properties produce – around 50 – 60% – will be used up before you can allow for your living expenses.

In theory, it ought to be possible to create a property investment portfolio large enough to cover all these expenses if you start soon enough and plan carefully from the outset. How much income you will need is up to you. Considering you will lose at least 50% of the income to tax and expenses, then if you want an after tax income of $100,000 you will need to plan to have a portfolio of properties that is generating at least $200,000 a year.

Plan B – Living off the equity
Many property investors take the approach that paying off the loan completely is not ideal. Instead, they simply reduce the loan to value ratio as far as they can and then fund their retirement living expenses by borrowing against the equity if and when they need it.

Acquiring funds this way does not attract income tax*, which is one of the main benefits of this plan. However it should be noted that every time you withdraw some of your equity, the repayment amount and interest due on your loans will rise.

As long as your properties continue to experience capital growth and the rental income keeps pace with the rises in your repayments, this plan may seem like an endless cash machine. But if market conditions create a situation where both rents and property values fall dramatically, you may find yourself in a position where your equity declines so much that you can’t borrow any more money, or you may need to start selling off your properties in order to meet your repayment commitments – which may not be ideal.

Of course, selling off your properties to fund your retirement is also a possibility. However, you will need to take into consideration capital gains tax and carefully plan ahead to ensure you have generated sufficient potential funds to meet your needs.

Get professional advice before you start
The truth is that using property to fund your retirement is not as simple as it sounds – there are many variables involved. But one thing is for sure, if you want to use property to gain financial freedom in the future, then you need to have a plan. And the sooner you start to implement your plan, the more likely it is that you will achieve your goal of funding your retirement with property.

Before you take the plunge and start buying up investment properties, it is very important that you get some expert advice to help you formulate an investment plan that is right for you. If you want to be a successful property investor, then it pays to have a team of professionals who can advise you along the way and help you to avoid making costly errors. This team might include a financial planner, tax specialist, property manager and certainly us – a reliable team of mortgage experts.

If you’re thinking of using investment properties to build wealth and perhaps, fund an early retirement, then give us a call now. We can not only help you with the right financing, we can also refer you to some of the experts you will need to create your team of professionals and formulate a firm plan for success. So please give us a call today!

*This article does not constitute tax advice. The information contained in this article is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation. Tax issues relating to property investment can be complicated and you should always consult an accountant or qualified tax adviser. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice.

Some of you may have heard that APRA has cracked down on investment lending, influencing many lending institutions to review their investment lending policies.

But we imagine for the majority of you, it’s a case of “APRA, who?”.

In short, APRA are making some changes to investment loans, and we thought you would like to know if and how these changes impact you. In this article, we take a look at APRA and what they’re doing to keep borrowing conditions stable for you as an investor.

What is APRA?
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) is the prudential regulator of the Australian financial services industry. 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.

APRA plays a critical role in protecting you, and the financial well-being of the Australian community, by upholding standards of trade in the financial industry. Their mission is to establish and enforce standards and practices designed to ensure that under all reasonable circumstances, financial promises made by institutions are met and that our financial industry remains stable, efficient and competitive. As a consumer, APRA’s activities ensure that you have a reliable, fair financial industry and you can go about your day to day transactions and investments with confidence.

What are APRA’s new measures regarding property investment lending?
In December 2014, APRA wrote to all deposit-taking institutions (such as banks and other lenders) setting out sound lending standards, particularly for investment lending, that included a benchmark for the 10% maximum growth of residential investment mortgages. This occurred because of concerns over the number of people entering the property investment market and the stability of lending for this market considering current economic conditions.

Their particular focus is on restricting high loan-to-value and high loan-to-income lending, which may be risky for consumers if there should be a rapid or sudden decline in housing values or the property market in general. They also perceive the rapid growth in property investment lending as risky insofar as Australian consumers may be ‘placing all their eggs in one basket’ and they would prefer to encourage investment diversity amongst consumers.

By taking these measures, APRA is looking to make property market conditions safer for you as a consumer. By slowing down investment lending, APRA is also looking to slow down the rapid growth in property prices, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney where property prices are considered to be overheated by many property market analysts.

What does this mean for property investment borrowing?
Many lenders and financial institutions are changing their criteria for property investment lending in order to meet APRA’s requirements. Most major banks have announced that they will be cutting the discounts available on investment loans, which means that interest rates on new investment loans could be slightly higher than interest rates on owner-occupied home loans.

Additionally, most lenders have tightened up their criteria for investment borrowing. Many are focusing on loan-to-value ratios, meaning you may require a larger deposit than previously and may find it more difficult to leverage properties or access equity to invest further if you are already an investor.

Can I still get a property investment loan?
As your professional mortgage broker, your financial well-being has always been our number one concern. One of our primary responsibilities has always been to assess your personal financial situation and goals, and ensure that any loan we offer to you suits you, your financial goals, and your expenses.

Before applying for a loan for you, we always take into consideration whether or not you would be able to service your loan in the event that interest rates should rise and recommend insurance products such as mortgage protection insurance and income protection insurance to mitigate the risk of you not being able to meet your loan repayments if faced with a hardship situation.

Plenty of lenders are still offering property investment loans to borrowers who qualify under their new property investment lending criteria. It is likely that you will still be eligible for a loan and if you are looking to use property investment as a means to build wealth for your future, you should talk to us about your plans and investment goals sooner rather than later.

We’re here to help you work out if property investment is right for you. We have access to a wide variety of lenders and we’ll shop around amongst them to find you the most favourable loan considering your personal financial circumstances and investment goals. Call us today.

For more information on APRA, please visit their website, or speak to us.

Property investment has always been popular in Australia. However, like all forms of investment, there are loads of variables involved and it’s easy to make expensive mistakes. Building wealth through property investment can be a lot of work – particularly if you’re new to property investment and are not aware of exactly what’s required. In this article, we outline some of the common mistakes made by first time property investors so you can plan ahead to avoid them.

Not doing your homework
Many people make the mistake of buying a property simply because they like it, or think it is a bargain. But not every property makes a good investment. When you find a property that you might like to purchase, it is very important that you do your research to ensure it will give you the return on your investment that you will need. Ask yourself these questions, and importantly, take the time to research the answers carefully:

• Will it be easy to find tenants/will the property be in high demand?
• What rental income can I expect?
• Does the property have strong capital growth potential? Is it in a growth suburb?
• Am I paying the right price? How long will I have to hold the property before I can make a profit by selling it?

Not factoring in all of the costs
Cash-flow is a very important factor when you plan to invest in property – and it’s the area where many first-time investors come undone. It’s not only important to factor in all the costs of buying the property, you must also factor in all the costs of running the investment and maintaining it from the outset.

When you research the rental income you can expect from a property, you will first need to know exactly how much rental income you will need to cover the costs of holding it. The actual costs will vary from property to property – if you purchase a new home, for example, you will not need to factor in much by way of maintenance costs at first. But if you purchase an older property, you will need to make an estimate of what work is going to be needed and when, and how much this will cost and factor that into the budget.

Ask yourself these questions:
• Will the rental income be enough to cover the costs of a property manager, advertising for tenants, regular general maintenance, council rates, building insurance and landlord’s insurance?
• How will I cover the costs of large repairs – say if the hot water system needs replacing quickly?
• How will I cover the costs when the property is untenanted and there is no rental income? How long is the average vacancy time in this area? How long will I have to budget for?

Not getting the property management right
A property manager is the liaison between you as the landlord, and your tenant. First time investors often believe that managing their own property will save them money. However, it should be remembered that your property management costs are usually tax deductible and few people have the skills to not only find tenants quickly, but choose the right ones.

Property managers find your tenants, vet them by performing credit checks and then collect the rent every month. They deal with tenant requests, organise regular maintenance and pursue action when disputes arise. They keep track of rents in your area and make sure your rent keeps pace with the market.

In short, a good property manager will help you maximise the return on your investment and save you from many sleepless nights. However, some property managers are better than others, and fees vary. You should carefully research your property manager before engaging them – ask around, check references and make sure they have the resources to do a good job. If you need help with this, ask us for a referral.

Not talking to a tax professional
Did you know that you should obtain a depreciation schedule as soon as you purchase the investment property, preferably at settlement? Not many people do. It’s a document that helps your accountant determine how much you can claim back on tax each year.

One of the major mistakes people make with investment property is not planning ahead to make the most of their tax deductions. In order to ensure you understand what you can and cannot claim, you need to talk to a tax professional and/or accountant early on in the process. Getting it right will help to ensure you come out ahead and enjoy substantial savings. Getting it wrong will cost you money you may never get back. We have many expert contacts in this area so if you need a quality referral to an accountant, please get in touch.

Getting the finance wrong
Before you commence your property investment journey, it is wise to make a plan about what you want to achieve – your financial goals for the future. We recommend you sit down and talk to us about getting the right financing to achieve these goals. Taking a haphazard approach to financing your first, and then subsequent investments, could cost you more money, limit the amount of investment properties you can acquire and even be a recipe for disaster if something goes wrong.

We can’t stress enough how important it is to formulate a plan before you begin, and talk to us about your financing before you even consider making a property purchase. We will help you set up the financing arrangement that is most advantageous to you – considering your goals and your personal financial circumstances.

If you’re thinking about making a property investment, why not talk to us? We are happy to take the time to discuss your plans, get you pre-approval for your financing and introduce you to a team of other professionals who can help you to avoid these expensive mistakes above! Give us a call – we’re here to help.


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