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Mortgage Prisoners: Most Aussie homeowners want to refinance but can’t

Mortgage Prisoners

A whopping 83% of mortgage holders would like to change lenders, but can’t and are therefore “mortgage prisoners” according to a new report by Mozo.

Here’s the problem: while 38% of people intend to make the switch, 45% are unable to due to limited earnings and therefore paying a premium to own their property.

Quick facts from the report:

  • 29% of mortgage holders who opted for repayment holiday recently lost their job and 16% experienced a pay cut.
  • 40% of those on a mortgage holiday were confident they could resume principal and interest repayments while 29% felt they could make interest only.
  • A further 27% felt it would be ‘touch and go’ to make either principal and interest or just interest-only payments, while 3% stated they could not afford to make repayments.
  • 62% of mortgage holders have concerns about selling their home or foreclosure
  • 83% of mortgage holders would like to change lenders.
  • 38% of people intend to make the switch, 45% are unable to due to limited earnings.
  • One in ten mortgage holders admitted they didn’t shop around when obtaining a loan.
  • By switching from the average to best rate on the market borrowers can save $2631 per year on average.

Captives of cost

The Mortgage Prisoner Report from Mozo found that many Australians are paying a premium to own their property and for a growing number that high cost has become a bridge too far.

In fact, research from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority in August shows there is $229 billion worth of loans in Australia on temporary repayment deferrals, accounting for around 8.5% of total outstanding loans.

In a year when the economy has been upended, the reasons are simple.

Mozo surveyed 3,270 property owners for its latest study and found that 29% of mortgage holders who opted for repayment holiday had recently lost their job and 16% experienced a pay cut.

While there’s a portion of mortgagees who remain unaffected by the economic downturn to this point, it seems the majority of people want to make a home loan switch and refinance.

Mozo has found that a whopping 83% of mortgage holders would like to change lenders.

Here’s the problem: while 38% of people intend to make the switch, 45% are unable to due to limited earnings.

On the precipice: 27% say paying off their home loan is touch and go

According to the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), around 8.5% of all loans in Australia – approximately $229 billion worth – have been put on hold.

But the uneven impacts of the economic crisis mean some mortgage holders are better placed to resume repayments than others.

A recent survey conducted by Mozo found that among those who have paused their mortgage repayments, 29% had lost their job and 16% had experienced a decrease in pay.

A majority, however, had remained unaffected by the downturn.

When asked about restarting their mortgage, 40% of respondents said they were confident they could make principal and interest repayments, while 29% felt they could just afford to make interest only repayments.

Meanwhile, 27% believed paying off their loan would be ‘touch and go’, and 3% said they would not be able to service their loan at all.

For perspective, a 3% default rate across paused mortgages would equate to nearly $7 billion in loans.

mortgage prisoners repaying

These worries have come front and centre as banks contact mortgage deferers to discuss restarting repayments.

Depending on their financial situation, borrowers will have to either resume P&I repayments, restructure their loan, extend their mortgage holiday for an additional four months, or sell their property.

Trapped: Defining the mortgage prisoner

So who are Australia’s mortgage prisoners?

These are homeowners who are stuck with their current home loan and unable to refinance to a lower rate and make use of the savings that could provide.

This is not down to a lack of desire. In a recent Mozo survey a considerable 83% of mortgage holders said that they would like to change lenders, however, as in many parts of life, COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the incomes of many Australians.

Here’s how: 29% of survey respondents reported having recently lost a job, while 16% said that they had experienced a pay cut.

As a result, 45% of all of the mortgage holders surveyed are currently unable to switch home loans because of limited earnings.

And therein lies the problem, and the first reason that some homeowners find themselves in ‘mortgage prison’ – a significant drop in income.

mortgage-prisoner locked in

Refinancing is simply taking out a new loan.

But lenders need to adhere to responsible lending standards too, so during the process of vetting a new loan application they need to make sure that borrowers can prove that a) they have the income to meet their repayments and b) they’ve got a history of meeting those repayments.

Without being able to meet those requirements, mortgage holders will find it very difficult to refinance.

Another issue which could be born out of the pandemic is a fall in property values, with 66% of mortgage holders admitting that they are worried about a housing equity plummet in the next year.

mortgage-prisoner locked in

Why homeowners fear market plunges

Given the slower real estate market of 2020, Aussie mortgage holders are also worried (66%) about a housing equity plummet in the next year, which could propel a potential mortgage prisoners crisis.

Equity is the difference between the current value of your property and the amount you owe on it (if you have a loan), so negative equity occurs when the amount you owe is greater than your house’s value.

Falling equity can be an issue for borrowers looking to refinance, particularly if their loan-to-value ratio (LVR) becomes higher. In most cases as LVRs increase, so do the rates on offer. In a situation where the LVR goes above 80%, borrowers may be forced to take out lenders mortgage insurance – an additional expense which can cost thousands of dollars.

Among the mortgage holders surveyed by Mozo, 73% believed property prices would plummet (though 39% of that group anticipated a bounce back).

Conversely, 21% felt housing prices would remain stable, while a meagre 5% predicted a property price upswing.

Mozo Director Kirsty Lamont says a price plummet could tip some property owners into mortgage prisoner territory, or deepen their inability to switch.

“For mortgage holders seriously concerned about making repayments, it’s only natural that they’d be nervously eyeing the housing market and hoping things don’t slide. The double whammy of foreclosure and plummeting home value is a real concern for many,” said Kirsty Lamont, Mozo Director.

mortgage-prisoner australia

As the figures above show, around two-thirds of mortgage holders in most states reported being concerned about the possibility of falling property prices and the flow on effect that could have on home equity.

That’s particularly true for homeowners in New South Wales (71%) and South Australia (70%), though slightly less so for residents in Western Australia (54%).

Refinance strategy: Tips for property owners

Mozzo recommends that if refinancing seems like a tall order, the first thing you should do is research what’s on offer elsewhere, along with what your lender is offering new customers, and try to negotiate your current rate down.

If your lender won’t budge, consider ways you can become more appealing to another one.

One thing to keep in mind is that when lenders assess refinance applications, they pay close attention to a borrower’s recent repayment history.

So if your mortgage has been on pause for several months, lenders won’t have much to go by when determining your ability to service a loan.

To get around this problem, would-be refinancers will have to get a few months’ worth of repayments under their belt with their current lender before shopping around.

For some, especially those whose financial situations have stabilised since March, this won’t be such a large hurdle.

Beyond this, it’s also a good idea to lower your day to day expenses and focus on tackling any other debt you might have.

And when it comes time to find another lender, avoid making inquiries with too many as this might affect your credit score. Instead, do your research upfront and narrow down your options to a select few.

A final note from Mozzo’s report is that most homeowners don’t shop around on home loans.

As such, they might not even realise the savings that can be had by doing the right research.

For this report, Mozo found that:

  • One in ten mortgage holders didn’t shop around when obtaining a loan.
  • By switching from the average to best rate on the market borrowers can save $2631 per year on average.

So, if you can get yourself into a stable financial position, there are excellent long term savings to be had by switching your home loan.

In summary, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • How does my current rate compare to the rest of the market?
  • What’s being offered to new customers by other lenders?
  • Does my recent repayment history look reasonable to a lender?
  • Can I also lower my current day to day expenses?
  • And, can I lower my overall debt?
  • Have I pinpointed just a select few lenders to approach about refinancing?

Now is the time to take action and set yourself for the opportunities that will present themselves as the market moves on

mortgage prisoners

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The post “Mortgage Prisoners: Most Aussie homeowners want to refinance but can’t” by Rita Thomas appeared first on the Blog


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RBA unlikely to advance interest rate moves after lower than expected inflation figures


The consumer price index (CPI) came in materially lower than what was forecasted across markets

Australia’s inflation, a key metric in the RBA’s future interest rate calls, rose 0.6 per cent over the March quarter, according to data released by the ABS.

The consumer price index (CPI) came in materially lower than what was forecasted across markets and broadly in line with the RBA’s below market expectation.

Westpac was forecasting a one per cent lift in the CPI, with AMP Capital forecasting a 0.9 per cent rise.

The RBA say they will not increase the cash rate until actual inflation is sustainably within the two to three per cent range.


Seafarers 731 Flinders Street, Docklands VIC 3008 

For this to occur, wages growth will have to be materially higher than it is currently, which will require significant gains in employment and a return to a tight labour market, the RBA noted at its April board meeting.

The latest results will unlikely change the RBA’s thinking that rates won’t move until 2024 at the earliest.

CPI was 1.1 per cent up annually, compared to the forecasted 1.4 per cent.

New dwelling prices declined 0.1 per cent over the quarter, namely due to the impact of the Federal Government’s HomeBuilder grant and similar grants by Western Australian and Tasmania state governments.

“Without the offset from these grants, the price of new dwelling would have risen, reflecting increases in materials and labour prices in response to strong demand”, head of prices statistics at the ABS Michelle Marquardt said.


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How will the end of mortgage deferrals affect the housing boom?

mortgage deferrals

Australia’s red-hot property market has enjoyed extraordinary support from the federal government’s economic stimuli, wage subsidies and leniency in lending policy from the banks.

A key question now is how the market will adjust as this COVID-19 induced emergency support is wound back.

At the height of the worst peace-time recession in a century last year, banks pulled out all stops to avoid a meltdown in the asset that dominates their loan books: residential property.

Home loan and small business customers were given an option of putting their loan repayments on hold, and hundreds of thousands took up the offer. At the peak, banks allowed some $250 billion in small business loans and home loans to be put on hold.

These deferrals officially ended at the end of March and banks say the vast majority of affected customers have returned to making mortgage repayments. However, a small minority are still struggling – some may need to eventually sell their properties.

Commonwealth Bank provides a case in point. It says the overwhelming majority of people who deferred have returned to making repayments or restructured their loans. About 1.9 per cent are working with teams that help sell properties.

The bank has a moratorium on forced sales by owner-occupiers until September.

CBA retail banking group executive Angus Sullivan expects the end of deferrals would have a “very, very marginal” impact on the supply of homes for sale, as it would probably be overpowered by the stimulatory impact of ultra-low interest rates.

“I think the driver of the housing market, first and foremost, is probably low rates,” Sullivan says.

CBA’s rivals have experienced similar trends. National Australia Bank had 1037 deferred home loans at the end of February after allowing about 110,000 people to pause repayments last year.

“Given the significant number of customers who have returned to making repayments and additional support available, we don’t expect the end of deferrals to have a material impact on the housing market,” says NAB’s group executive for personal banking Rachel Slade.

Westpac has about 2000 loans in deferral – a tiny proportion of its mortgage book, while official figures last week showed ANZ Bank had 0.9 per cent of its housing loans in deferral at the end of February.

However, the end of mortgage deferrals could still weigh on some parts of the property market.

CoreLogic research director Tim Lawless says the risk from deferred loans has “significantly diminished,” though parts of the market dominated by investors could still feel the impact of deferrals ending.

Banks have not said where most of the remaining deferred loans are located, but Lawless says they are probably concentrated among investors, particularly in inner-city Sydney and Melbourne apartment developments. He believes banks would start being less patient with struggling property investors.

“Just reading between the lines, it seems like there will probably be less flexibility for investors,” he says. “It’s a net negative for the housing market but I think the impact will be quite localised.”

Like the banks, Lawless believes the broader property market has enough momentum to offset the impact of loan deferrals ending, but he does not think the pace of price growth can continue for much longer.

It is clearly not sustainable for Australia to continue notching up the fastest growth in house prices since the 1980s at a time when household incomes are not rising. It will simply get too expensive for buyers to keep bidding up prices.

The end of JobKeeper and other government schemes, including building grant program HomeBuilder, are also likely to temper the red-hot demand for housing in the months ahead.


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New low as Homestar Finance cuts its two-year fixed owner-occupier rate to 1.74%


Homestar is equal lowest with Reduce Home Loans for the lowest variable rate at 1.79%.

Homestar Finance is offering the lowest two-year fixed rate in the home loan market.

Homestar Finance has cut its two-year fixed owner-occupier rate by 14 basis points to 1.74%.

The rate cut move knocks Westpac from the top spot after it offered the lowest rate.

The increased rate competition was dubbed a “raging rate war” by the Mortgage Professional Australia website.

“This loan is the lowest two-year fixed rate on the market and also the lowest overall home loan rate available nationally,” RateCity research director Sally Tindall told The Australian.

“It also has one of the most competitive revert rates at 2.24%.”

Some 450 fixed mortgage rates have been cut over the last two months.

Homestar is also equal lowest with Reduce Home Loans for the lowest variable rate at 1.79%.

Greater Bank has the lowest fixed rate in the market, with its one-year fixed rate sitting at 1.69%, with the rate only available to customers in New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory.


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