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Mastering Home Loan Features: A Balanced Guide for Borrowers

Explore key home loan features and their impact on your finances in our balanced guide. Understand the benefits and risks to make informed decisions.

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Introduction

Navigating the complexities of home loan features is essential for any borrower looking to make informed financial decisions. Understanding both the advantages and potential drawbacks of each home loan feature can significantly impact your financial planning and outcomes. This guide aims to provide a balanced view, helping you make choices that align with your personal financial goals.

Understanding Loan Costs and Fees

Low Fees

Explanation: Low fees in home loans often attract borrowers due to the immediate cost savings. Typical low-fee loans reduce or waive costs like application fees, ongoing service fees, and exit fees. Potential Drawbacks: Opting for low-fee loans might lead to selecting a loan that excludes features which may be more economical for you. Missing these features can limit flexibility or lead to higher interest costs over time, negating any initial savings.

Package

Definition and Benefits: A package loan bundles various financial services, such as a home loan, credit cards, and savings accounts, usually for a consolidated annual fee. This can offer convenience and savings on individual product fees.

Risks: The main risk is paying for bundled services that are unnecessary for your personal financial situation, potentially leading to higher overall costs compared to purchasing services separately.

Interest Rate Options

Split Interest Rate

Benefits: Split interest rates allow borrowers to allocate a portion of their loan to a fixed rate and another to a variable rate. This arrangement provides flexibility and helps manage interest rate fluctuations. Downsides: If not managed correctly, you might end up paying more if the fixed-rate portion is set during a period when rates decrease, missing out on lower repayable amounts.

Locked Rate

Benefits: A rate lock feature can protect borrowers from rate increases during the loan application process, providing peace of mind and stability. A great option for borrowers who want some certainty over their loan repayment amount, not to mention providing protection against rising loan repayments off the back of interest rate increases.

Disadvantages: Lock-in fees may apply, and while there is the benefit of protection against rising rates, there comes the risk of missing out on the savings from falling interest rates.

Interest In Advance

Advantages: Particularly beneficial for investors, paying interest in advance can offer tax advantages and help in financial planning.

Limitations: For personal borrowers, this can lead to cash flow issues, as paying interest upfront requires substantial liquidity and may not always be advantageous if financial circumstances change.

Repayment Flexibility

Flexible Repayments

Benefits: Flexible repayment options align your loan repayments with your cash flow, allowing payments to be made weekly, fortnightly, or monthly. It’s worth noting that an increased payment frequency, such as fortnightly over monthly, has a savings benefit (interest savings) and can potentially pay off your home loan 5 years faster.

Risks: Without careful management, flexible repayments could lead to higher total interest costs if smaller amounts are paid over a longer period.

Additional Repayments

Financial Benefits: Making extra payments can significantly reduce the interest payable and shorten the loan term.

Drawbacks: While additional repayments is a common feature across variable rate home loans, you should also ensure your home loan offers Redraw, allowing you to access and withdrawal any surplus payments made. While redraw is common, not all home loans have them and, for the ones that do, may have fees attached or limits on the amount you can redraw which can result in financial strain for borrowers.

Access to Funds

Redraw Facility

Benefit: Enables borrowers to access extra repayments made on their loan, acting as a form of savings.

Potential Risks: Fees and minimum redraw amounts can apply, which might restrict the usefulness of this feature, especially if funds are required quickly.

Offset Account

Benefits: An offset account reduces the interest payable by offsetting the loan balance against the money in the account.

Drawbacks: Potential account fees or higher interest rates on the loan might negate the benefits if the offset account is not utilised effectively, such as not maintaining a strong enough offset balance consistently.

Special Repayment Conditions

Repayment Holiday

Relief: Provides temporary relief from repayments during times of financial challenges, such as a borrower taking parental leave and temporary reduced income, or financial hardship.

Long-term Implications: Can lead to an extended loan term and higher total interest costs, particularly if used without strict necessity.

Home Loan Portability

Benefit: Allows borrowers to transfer their existing loan to a new property, avoiding some of the fees associated with closing and reopening a loan.

Possible Limitations: Additional fees and terms from the new loan arrangement may not always provide savings, making thorough comparison essential.

Loan Modification Options

Loan Switch

Flexibility: Permits adaptation to better loan conditions or rates, such as entering into a fixed home loan term or getting a home loan increase (or top-up) for home renovations.

Associated Costs: There are typically costs associated with making adjustments to the home loan contract such as converting your repayments to interest only for a period or increasing your home loan amount or changing the term. These fees are avoided for packaged products, which encompasses a variety of features in a single annual or monthly fee.

Loan Increase (Top-Up)

Convenience: Offers access to additional funds for significant expenses like renovations or even consolidating high interest debt with your home loan.

Increased Debt Burden: Raises the total loan amount and potentially the lifetime interest costs, which can be detrimental if the additional funds are not critically needed. Consolidated debt while reducing the repayment amount, will result in higher interest costs with the consolidated debt paid back over a longer period.

Conclusion

Understanding both the positive and negative aspects of home loan features is crucial. This guide encourages borrowers to consider their personal financial situations and needs thoroughly before deciding on loan features, ensuring that each choice adds value to their financial future.

Disclaimer: Unless otherwise specified, the opinions expressed in this article are strictly for general informational and entertainment purposes only and should not be taken as financial advice or recommendation. Views are subject to change without notice at any time.

Written By

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The Craggle Team

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