Australians pay off loans faster

Sydney: Australians have an unusual habit of paying off their mortgages much faster than borrowers in most other rich nations, a valuable trait that gives households a safety buffer were the economy to slow sharply.

Around half of all borrowers are ahead on mortgage payments, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) reported on Tuesday, a level only reached by Canada among developed nations.

In this way, many households have a buffer that they could temporarily draw on to stay current on their loan repayments if their incomes were to fall, the central bank said in its semi-annual report on financial stability.

This peculiar feature of the Australian market was noted by officials from the International Monetary Fund in the country recently to assess the local banking system. It was one reason the IMF awarded the banks top marks in a series of stress tests, setting them apart from many of their

ONE in four home buyers is opting for interest-only home loans despite low interest rates and falling house prices, mortgage experts say.

Managing director of mortgage lender myrate.com.au Kevin Sherman says about 25 per cent of owner-occupiers are choosing interest-only home loans, while about 75 per cent of investors take this route.

However, Sherman says owner-occupiers need to think carefully before entering into interest-only territory, which can effectively result in the borrower "renting the property from the bank".

"You are not making any progress in returning the funds that have been borrowed," he says. "When you pay interest only, you are not paying down any principal.

"If you borrow $500,000 and pay interest only for five or 10 years, you still owe $500,000."But he says interest only does result in borrowers having leeway to borrow more.

 

"The same monthly payments for interest only versus principal and interest would give you a higher loan amount for interest only.

"If you really, really want something, go interest only and you will be able to borrow more, but obviously there are risks associated with it."

For investors it's a different story. Interest is the only part of an investment home loan that can be claimed as a tax deduction and is the reason many investors opt for this type of loan. It's best to consult a financial expert before you make any decisions.

Comparison website Mozo found of all its home loans searches in the past three months, 85 per cent were for principal and interest loans, while 15 per cent were for interest-only loans.

Resi Mortgage Corporation chief executive Lisa Montgomery says owner-occupiers should think twice before they choose interest-only home loans or simply make interest-only repayments on their loan.

"We still see people taking out interest-only loans however they are more for investors, particularly if they still have an owner-occupier property that they are paying off as well," she says.

"But if you can pay principal and interest, you should pay principal and interest."

* INTEREST-ONLY OPTIONS *

You pay off interest on the loan for a fixed time.

This will reduce your repayments for a certain period, but not the principal.

It will take you longer to pay off the loan.

You will also pay more interest in the long run.

If house prices drop, you will end up owing more than your house is worth.