October 2007 – Mortgage Rates in Australia

Mortgage rates are a hot topic in Australia at the moment. Two issues are at the forefront of any discussion on mortgage rates today.

Firstly there is general concern amongst borrowers in Australia that mortgage rates may further increase over the short term. The Reserve Bank has increased the Official Cash Rate (OCR) a number of times this year and it is currently sitting at 6.50% p.a. These increases immediately impact on the cost of funds for lending institutions, both bank and non-bank, and as a result mortgage rates have also increased, with the banks standard variable rate now at 8.32% p.a. and the non-bank lenders generally in the market with mortgage rates around 7.75% p.a. By increasing the OCR the Reserve Bank is well aware that mortgage rates will follow suit. Under its charter, the Reserve Bank is responsible for formulating and implementing monetary policy that will contribute to:

(a) the stability of the currency of Australia;

(b) the maintenance of full employment in Australia; and

(c) the economic prosperity and welfare of the people of Australia.

These objectives have found practical expression in a target for consumer price inflation, of 2-3 per cent per annum. Controlling inflation preserves the value of money and is the main way in which monetary policy can help to form a sound basis for long-term growth in the economy.

So, how does an increase in the OCR and mortgage rates generally help achieve these inflation targets? As the mortgage rates increase across Australia, borrowers have less surplus cash to spend, there is less demand for consumables, businesses have less money to invest and as a result the economy is slowed down and the inflation rate is held in check. If the economy is too slow the Reserve bank can effectively reduce mortgage rates (by reducing the OCR) and thereby provide borrowers with more surplus funds. This increases demand for consumables and one sees greater economic activity.

It is ironical that because in Australia we are enjoying strong economic growth and have employment at an all time high we end up finding our mortgage rates increasing. If we were to save more rather than spend and borrow, inflation would not be increasing at the level it is and mortgage rates would remain steady.

But would they? This brings me to the second issue which has had a significant impact on mortgage rates and has made headlines in newspapers in Australia over the past few months. In the past mortgage rates in Australia have been pretty much domestically driven (i.e. by the Reserve Bank) but more recently we have seen mortgage rates influenced by problems occurring in international financial markets. The main culprit is the United States where there have been unprecedented mortgage defaults which have frightened off would be global lenders and investors in mortgage securities. Even though mortgage rates in Australia remain relatively low and defaults here are not a significant problem (in other words they remain a sound investment), the US default crisis has scared off potential investors. As a result mortgages are no longer flavour of the month and those that are still prepared invest are seeking a higher rate of return. Consequently the cost of funds world wide increases for debt securities and mortgage rates across the world increase as result. As noted earlier the banks current standard mortgage rates sit at 8.32% p.a. variable which is up to .50% more than the non bank mortgage rates of 7.75% p.a. Because the banks’ mortgage rates were considerably higher than the non-banks before the impact of the US situation, to date they have been able to hold their rates. The non-bank lenders, who have historically priced their mortgage rates below the banks, have had to move their mortgage rates sooner because they simply don’t have the profit margins, the “fat” in their pricing, which most banks enjoy.

The banks are endeavouring to gain market share with claims that they are holding their mortgage rates (8.32% p.a.) but hopefully borrowers will recognise that the mortgage rates of the non-bank mortgage manager lenders remain competitive. They might also want to consider where mortgage rates would be without the mortgage manager competing with the banks for their business. Prior to the non- bank mortgage manager entering the market, the banks’ mortgage rates contained profit margins of up to 3 % p.a. Back in the 1990s the non-bank lender was able to enter the market and compete aggressively for business because they were not trying to maximise profit at the expense of borrowers but rather offered mortgage rates that were well below the major banks. The banks were initially quite arrogant, holding their mortgage rates and profit margins, thinking that lower mortgage rates would not be enough to woo borrowers. Little did they realise that the non-bank sector not only offered lower mortgage rates but also professional and friendly service. It took around 3 years before the banks finally reduced their margins and offered mortgage rates that were somewhat more competitive.

The next few months will determine whether the US mortgage crisis will be a short term problem for mortgage rates or whether the meltdown in America will have a long term impact on mortgage rates in Australia. In the meantime keep an eye on mortgage rates across the market, sit tight because no matter which lender you are with, mortgage rates over the next few months will be a little unpredictable but inevitably are likely to settle down again.

Homeowners Lowest Mortgage Rate Dilemma

The Lowest Mortgage Rate in Decades

Homeowners are today missing out on some the lowest fixed mortgage rate deals available in the last twenty four years. On the 9th March 2009 the Bank of England first reduced the base rate to 0.5% where it has remained for the last 31 months and homeowners have become complacent about changing their mortgage arrangements as the mortgage rate has remained static.

Lowest Mortgage Rate Dilemma Faced By Homeowners

Homeowners have preferred to remain on the standard variable rate (SVR) rather than change to any other type of mortgage deal around. In the past the standard variable rate was known as the worst mortgage rate a borrower could be acquire as it was always more costly than any of the other mortgage rates available.

Many homeowners have chosen not to review their mortgages in the last 31 months and one in six homeowners with mortgages does not believe they needed to review their mortgages until the base rate starts to rise. Waiting until the base rate starts to rise is like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. We have never seen interest rates this low and it is now that homeowners should be seeking the best mortgage deal for their personal circumstances.

Many homeowners have seen their monthly mortgage payments reduce considerably as they have come off previous mortgage deals. The extra money they are saving by remaining on the standard variable rate (SVR) has lessened the effects of the recession on their household income and expenditure. All householders have seen an increase in fuel and food costs and many employees have not had a pay rise for the last three or four years and homeowners don’t want to pay more for a new mortgage arrangement

Mortgage Rate Dilemma Facing Homeowners

Currently the Best 5-year fixed mortgage rate for first-time buyer and remortgages is 4.39% from the Nationwide for a 70% loan-to-value or a 30% deposit plus lenders arrangement fees of £999, you can make over payments of £500 per month and early repayment penalties do apply. Furthermore if you are remortgaging then this great 5-year fixed mortgage rate deal comes with free valuation fees and legal fees which will save you thousands.

Surely every serious homeowner who is worried about the future of their mortgage payments would want to tie themselves into a great mortgage deal that would provide them with 5 years of stability and the knowledge that they had a fixed affordable monthly mortgage payment? But unfortunately that is not the case when you have the cheapest mortgage deal from HSBC – a 2-year discount mortgage rate deal that is linked to their Standard Variable rate (SVR) which currently stands at 3.94% plus a 1% product fee. Please note that you will need a perfect credit history and be able to meet their strict lending criteria to obtain this mortgage

The Mortgage Rate Will Rise

Homeowners are out of touch with the current mortgage market conditions and they have a belief that the Bank of England base rate will remain low for ever. It’s similar to the belief that everybody had that property prices would just keep going up and then the boom time went bust in August 2007.

The mortgage rates we currently have are unprecedented and there are winners and losers. The winners at the moment are the mortgage borrowers who were reported to have saved fifty one billion pounds whilst the savers had lost some forty three billion pounds. This discrepancy will need readjusting at sometime in the very near future without doubt. As inflation rises higher then the bank of England will want the mechanism of being able to increase interest rates to control the inflation.

However homeowners still have the lowest mortgage rate dilemma and they will need to be sure that they are able to move quickly and secure another great rate before the rates increase.

3 Details That Affect the Mortgage Rate Offered

Everyone is aware of the rates that are offered by lenders, however, these are basically the lowest advertised interest rates available to borrowers. Very often, borrowers may feel that they have been lied to when they do not receive the rate that they are hearing or reading about. However, there is definitely a reason for this because there are 3 details that affect the mortgage rate that is offered to a borrower.

1. Debt to income – The debt to income ratio (DTI) is a calculation of the total debt held by a borrower in comparison to the total income. Mortgage products have maximum debt to income ratios that are acceptable. In addition, lenders may add their own restrictions which may further reduce the debt to income that is necessary for a particular mortgage program. Since debt to income measures the total amount of debt that a borrower has and will have with the new mortgage, it is important that as much debt as possible is reduced prior to applying for a mortgage. The higher the DTI, the mortgage rate offered to a borrower will also be higher.

2. Credit Scores – While DTI is an important measurement of debt and income held by a borrower, credit scores are a reflection of that debt and how it is managed. While both scores and credit history are considered when processing a mortgage, the actual middle score will be used when determining the mortgage rate to be offered. Borrowers who have higher credit scores, are offered the lowest rates.

3. Loan to Value – The loan to value (LTV) of a mortgage is the measurement of the loan against the value of the property that is either being purchased or refinanced. It is the final appraisal that determines the loan to value for the lender. While different mortgage programs have varying loan to value rules, such as FHA and VA, conventional mortgages require the lowest loan to value. This means that borrowers must have a larger down payment for this type of mortgage. Any LTV above 80% will require that the borrower pay private mortgage insurance. In addition, with higher loan to values, the mortgage rate will also be higher.

Lenders use rate sheets when quoting a mortgage rate to a borrower. These rate sheets have adjustments for each of these separate occurrences listed above. Each adjustment adds a certain percentage to the initial mortgage rate. For this reason, the final mortgage rate that a borrower is offered and accepts is seldom the same as the advertised rate.