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It’s been nearly eight years since the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) last raised the country’s official cash rate. Interest rates have been at historical lows for quite some time and as a homeowner, you may never have experienced an “official” rise in interest rates.

At present, interest rates remain low and we expect them to stay that way for a while. However, forecasters predict Australia’s economy will continue to strengthen over the next 12 months and as it does, an RBA cash rate rise becomes more likely.

So, how does the cash rate affect interest rates and ultimately, your home loan repayments?

Understanding the RBA cash rate

The RBA cash rate sets the prime interest rate on overnight loans in the money market. In simple terms, it’s the interest rate that every bank must pay on the money it borrows. The official cash rate is currently at 1.5%.

The RBA may decide to change the official cash rate for a variety of reasons. These include:

  • stimulating the economy,
  • managing inflation,
  • controlling fluctuations in the Australian dollar,
  • to encourage or discourage consumer borrowing and spending. (For example, a rate rise often stimulates the Australian dollar, which can negatively affect export businesses and our tourism industry).

How would a rate change affect your home loan?

When the RBA makes a change to the cash rate, lender’s interest rates will usually move in line with the change. In recent times, lenders have also been making minor ‘out-of-cycle’ interest rate changes (outside the RBA’s rate movements) but historically, major home loan interest rate changes have been determined by RBA decisions.

A change in the official cash rate will affect the interest rate you pay on your home loan and can drastically affect your mortgage repayments if you’re on a variable rate home loan.

Rate changes usually occur in fractions of a percentage point, but this can still have a big impact on the size of your monthly home loan repayments.

So, how do you prepare for a home loan interest rate rise? Here’s a few suggestions that could help to make sure you’re not caught on a financial back foot.

Consider switching to a fixed interest rate

With a fixed rate home loan, your interest rate will be locked in for a pre-determined period. You won’t have to worry about fluctuations in the cash rate or interest rates. Plus, you’ll know exactly how much your repayments will be during the fixed period.

Another option is to hedge your bets and fix part of your mortgage, while leaving the rest variable. This is called a split loan. These options could help to protect you from interest rate rises in the near future, however you will still need to plan and budget for a rise in repayments once the fixed period has ended.

Build a buffer into your home loan

A good idea is to make extra repayments while interest rates are still low, so you can build in a buffer by getting ahead on your repayments. You could also channel any spare money into a redraw facility or offset account. These loan features reduce the interest you’ll have to pay over the life of the loan.

Shop around for lower interest rates now

If your current home loan isn’t competitive, you’ll be left even more out of pocket if rates rise. It may pay to shop around now for a more competitive home loan that better suits your financial circumstances and goals.

Pay down your debts and consider consolidating

It’s a good idea to pay down any variable debt, particularly credit cards, while interest rates are low. Concentrate on paying off debts with the highest interest rates first, then knock over the others.

If you have multiple debts of different types, you may like to consider consolidating everything into your home loan or a personal loan. Consolidating is not necessarily right for everyone, so it’s very important to speak to your broker before proceeding.

As a homeowner, it’s important to be prepared when interest rates head north. If you’d like to know more, please get in touch with Element Finance today. We are always ready and willing to answer any questions you may have, help you save money on interest and find ways to prepare for any future rate rises.

Last year, important changes to tax deductions for property investors were announced. For some investors, the changes may have a significant impact on the annual deductions you can claim on your rental properties. As your mortgage broker, we like to keep you up to date. Here’s what you need to know about the changes when doing your tax this year.

Travel expense deduction scrapped

As of July 1, 2017, property investors can no longer claim a tax deduction for travel to maintain, inspect or collect rent for their rental property. Likewise, you can no longer claim travel expenses for preparing the property for new tenants, or for visiting a real estate agent to discuss your property.

Investors who own property interstate will probably be the most affected by this change. If these changes do affect you, perhaps consider employing a property manager to perform some of these tasks for you, as their costs are usually still tax deductible. Talk to your accountant to find out more.

Depreciation deductions tightened

Depreciation is the decline in value of an asset with a limited life expectancy. Depreciating assets include carpets, furniture and appliances like water heaters and cookers (also known as plant and equipment).

Residential property investors can now only claim depreciation deductions for plant and equipment expenses if they purchased them. Previously, investors could claim plant and equipment depreciation on assets that were installed by a previous owner.

This “integrity measure”, introduced in last year’s Budget, was intended to prevent multiple property owners from depreciating the same assets, exceeding their actual value. The changes apply to second-hand plant and equipment acquired after last year’s Budget night (May 9, 2017). You also can’t claim a deduction for plant and equipment installed on or after July 1, 2017 if you have ever used it for private purposes.

If you owned or entered into a contract to buy your investment property before May 9, 2017, you will not be affected by these changes. You can still claim deductions for depreciating plant and equipment assets that were in the rental property before that date.

Further reading

You can find more information about the expenses you can claim for residential rental properties on the ATO website, available here. You’ll find details about expenses that are deductible immediately, such as management, maintenance and interest; and expenses that are deductible over several years, such as capital works and borrowing costs.

Your tax time checklist

Here are some tips to prepare for tax time:

  • Update your Depreciation Schedule. You can find a Guide to depreciating assets 2018 here. If you’re confused, seek advice from your accountant. If it’s a new property investment, you may need to have a quantity surveyor prepare a Depreciation Schedule report.
  • Understand what you can claim (refer to the ATO website for clarification).
  • Get your documents together and organise your receipts.
  • Tally up your deductions. It’s a good idea to create a spreadsheet with all your income and expenses listed. That way, you can save on accounting fees (rather than giving them a shoe box of receipts to go through).
  • Book in with your accountant (they are flat out at tax time, so the sooner the better).

As your mortgage and finance broker, we’re happy to work with your accountant or financial planner on your investment property finance. And if you need a recommendation for a good accountant, we can help with that too. Good luck with your tax, and if we can assist in any way, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at Element Finance!

Loan refinancing is a strategy used by property investors to access funds – usually to grow or improve the value of their property portfolio. The right time to do it largely depends on your strategy, plans and equity. In this article, we highlight some of the key considerations for this strategy and how savvy investors often use the funds. If you’re considering investing in property or taking the next step in your investment journey, remember your mortgage broker is a great source of information and support, so please don’t hesitate to give Element Finance a call.

Why refinance?

Refinancing your loan allows you to access the equity in your property. Equity is the proportion of the property you own – for example, if the property is worth $500,000 and you owe $200,000 to the bank, then you have $300,000 in equity.

Savvy property investors use their equity for a variety of different purposes:

  • To renovate and add value to an investment property
  • As a deposit for their next investment property
  • To fund their lifestyle and living expenses.

Another popular reason to refinance is to secure a more competitive interest rate or a loan that better suits your needs. There may be loan features that can improve your interest savings or cash-flow, like offset accounts and redraw facilities. It pays to talk with your mortgage broker and reassess your property investment loans regularly, to ensure you’ve got the right loan to maximise your financial benefits and tax advantages.

Key considerations

1) Market value and equity
Generally, the right time to refinance your investment property is when the equity has grown sufficiently to take the next step in your investment strategy, or to fund your renovation plans. To get an idea of the value of your property, and how much your equity has grown, you’ll need to compare public sales data for similar properties in the area. Ask Element Finance for a free suburb and property profile report with the latest on-the-market information.

You could also ask real estate agents for an estimate (make sure you hit up at least three different agents) or pay for a professional property valuation. Keep in mind that a lender’s valuation will be on the conservative side of any estimates, and a formal valuation will be required by the lender before they will allow you to refinance.

2) Consider the costs
Switching lenders and refinancing your investment loan can help you achieve your goals, but there are costs involved. These may include break fees or discharge fees, establishment fees for your new investment loan, and valuation fees. Speak to Element Finance and we’ll run you through the costs and help you decide whether refinancing is worthwhile right now, or if it may be better to wait until your equity has grown further.

3) Investigate how the market is performing
Part of the decision about whether to refinance will depend on how the property market is performing for your investments. National dwelling values have been falling in many capital cities in recent months, while regional dwelling values have been edging higher. That may mean the location of your investment property will be a key consideration when deciding to refinance.

It’s important to be aware that if do you refinance after your property’s value has decreased, you may be facing negative equity territory. This is when the value of your investment falls below the outstanding balance on the mortgage. In this situation, it may be better to wait until the market recovers before you refinance.

4) Other considerations
The investment lending landscape has seen many changes in recent times. In April, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) announced the 10 per cent limit on bank lending to property investors (in place since 2014) would be removed for lenders that could demonstrate prudent lending. As a result, we’re seeing interest-only investment loans becoming easier to obtain, and interest rates being reduced by some lenders. That means now may be a good time to reassess your investment strategies and refinance requirements.

Talk with your mortgage broker first
If you’d like to access equity to grow your investment portfolio or renovate, or you just want to know you’re getting the best deal, it’s worth having a chat with your mortgage broker. You’ll find we are a wealth of information – and it’s always best to make a fully informed decision. If the time is right for you to take the next step in your investment journey, we’ll help you find the right refinance option to help you achieve your goals. Call Element Finance today!

Buying an investment property can be a clever way to build wealth for your future. There are government incentives that make this form of investment great for mum and dad investors – such as the potential to claim back losses as a tax deduction.

So, how do you go about finding the right property for your needs, particularly if you’re not an experienced property investor? In this article, you’ll find some insights about what to look for in an investment property. And remember, when you need the right finance for your investment, we are here to help!

Capital growth potential 

Capital growth is the increase in value of a property over a period of time. Investors use a range of strategies to build wealth, and looking for the properties that are most likely to experience significant capital growth, is often high on their radar.

So, how do you find an investment property with solid capital growth potential? Look for locations and suburbs experiencing economic growth. Economic growth creates jobs, which brings more people to an area, which may flow through to the property market via increased demand for housing. Greater demand means more chance of capital growth.

Next, be sure to choose an investment property that is close to amenities such as schools, shopping centres and public transport – when an area is experiencing economic growth, these properties will be in the most demand.

Rental returns

Some investors choose to focus on properties with a high rental yield, rather than just looking at capital growth potential. The rental yield is the rate of income return compared to the costs associated with the investment property. It’s typically expressed as a percentage, and may be calculated as a gross or net figure.

Investors who are following a rental yield strategy will typically look for areas where rents are high compared to the property value. Talk to us as we have access to have access to exclusive property tools to help you locate a suitable area.

Low maintenance costs

As an investor, it’s wise to opt for a low-maintenance property. They not only cost less to keep, but they’re less hassle too. Units can be easier and cheaper to maintain than old houses for example, but keep in mind you’ll most likely have to pay body corporate fees.

Ways to add value 

When choosing an investment property, ask yourself whether there is room for improvement, or ways to add value. You might not renovate it right away, but when you do, be sure to do plenty of research to find out what’s in high demand. Ask your local real estate agents what kinds of property features resonate well with tenants and future buyers in the area.

Choosing the right investment property requires careful research and planning. Luckily, one area you don’t have to worry about is finding the right investment loan for your specific needs. We can take care of finding you a loan product that matches your financial circumstances, while working with your investment goals. Please call us today!What to look for in an investment property

Christmas is just around the corner and isn’t it a wonderful time of year? It’s a time for family and friends, a little self-indulgence, of recognising how hard you’ve worked all year and rewarding yourself for your efforts. If you’ve been contemplating a property purchase, why not make that dream a reality? We can help you secure the finance you need, so please get in touch!

Interest Rate News

Thankfully, there was no pre-Christmas surprise this month from the Reserve Bank of Australia. The board decided to leave the cash rate on hold at 1.5 per cent. The central bank’s board will next meet in February 2018.

Property Market News

On the whole, national dwelling values were largely steady in November. Again, Melbourne seems to be proving more resilient than Sydney, with dwelling values up 0.52%. In contrast, Sydney’s housing market saw prices fall -0.72% in November. Canberra’s dwelling values rose by 0.86%, while Hobart experienced 0.64% growth. Things are looking up for property owners in Perth, where values rose by 0.21% in November. The city recorded the first rolling quarterly capital gain since late 2014 (up 0.3% in the three months to November). In Brisbane and Adelaide, there was less fluctuation (0.07% and 0.01% growth respectively). Darwin, like Sydney, experienced a fall in property values – the month-on-month change was -0.42%.

In the week ending December 3, there were 3,276 auctions held across the combined capital cities. According to CoreLogic, the preliminary clearance rate was 63.5% – up from the previous week’s clearance rate of 61.6%. Auction volumes remain in line with last year’s figures, but this time last year the clearance rate was much higher, at 72.3%.

Melbourne and Sydney’s clearance rates picked up compared to previous weeks. In Victoria, there were 1,800 scheduled auctions and a clearance rate of 67%. New South Wales held 1344 scheduled actions and cleared 62% of the stock. Meanwhile, the ACT had the highest clearance rate – 76% on 105 scheduled auctions. Tasmania only held 11 auctions and cleared 67% of stock, while South Australia had 148 scheduled auctions and 65% of properties sold. In Western Australia, 61 properties went to auction and 46% went under the hammer. Queensland held 395 auctions and the Northern Territory had 17. Both had clearance rates of 36%.

As the sun sets on 2017, we’d like to take the opportunity to wish you a safe and happy festive season. Remember, now is a great time to purchase a new property for the New Year, or to re-evaluate your mortgage. If you’d like advice about finding a mortgage that suits your financial circumstances and plans, we’d love to help! We’ll do the hard yards for you, so that you can concentrate on the fun stuff this summer, like playing beach cricket and being with the family. Here’s to an exciting 2018 – hopefully one that includes an exciting new property purchase! Welcome to our December Newsletter


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