To fix or not to fix

To fix or not to fix

The variable versus fixed mortgage rate decision will affect a homeowner for years to come and could be the difference in thousands of dollars of accrued interest. 

At its May meeting, the Reserve Bank of Australia acted to curb soaring inflation by raising the official cash rate by 0.25%. With Governor Lowe warning that this is expected to be the first of many rate hikes over the next 12-18 months, many are wondering if they should fix their home loan to safeguard against rising rates. The right answer depends on your unique situation and tolerance for risk. 

Let’s start by looking at the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Variable rate loans

Advantages
  • The main advantage is flexibility.
  • Unlimited extra repayments which will help you pay your loan off sooner.
  • It takes advantage when interest rates are decreasing by lowering interest repayments.
  • Allows you to refinance or restructure your loan at any time, for example, by accessing excess equity for renovations.
  • Variable home loans generally come with more features such as a redraw facility or offset account.
Disadvantages
  • When interest rates rise, so too do your repayments.
  • As interest rates can change at any stage you lack a level of certainty over what your repayments will be in the future. This can make detailed budgeting quite challenging.

Fixed rate loans

Advantages
  • The main advantage is payment certainty, allowing you to budget your repayments for the foreseeable future. This leads to a greater sense of financial security.
  • Your interest repayments will be lower if, during the term, the variable rises above the fixed rate.
Disadvantages
  • Most fixed rates limit extra repayments to around $5,000 per year therefore if you benefit from a lump sum of cash, like an inheritance or bonus, you cannot place this directly onto the loan without penalty.
  • You do not benefit when interest rates go down during the term of the fixed loan.
  • There are penalties for breaking a fixed rate before maturity which makes restructuring or refinancing to another lender much more expensive. These penalties also apply if you sell your property within the fixed rate term.
  • Fixed rates generally do not come with additional features such as a redraw facility or an offset account.

As you can see, there is a lot more to consider than simply a bet on where interest rates are heading.

After considering these characteristics, if the certainty of fixed rate repayments is still appealing you should then consider whether you will likely be better off with the fixed rates on offer.

A common misconception is that if the variable interest rate rises higher than the fixed rate over the term of the loan then you will pay less interest. Of course, there are periods during the term when the variable rate will be lower so you must instead consider the average rate over the term. Take an example where a rate was fixed 1% above the current variable rate for a period of 2 years. After 1 year the variable rate had steadily risen to meet the fixed. To break even, the variable would need to continue to rise another 1% (approx.) over the final year of the term. When calculating the exact breakeven point, you must also consider the timing of the rate rises and that the loan balance may steadily decrease over the term.

The calculations in the table above are based on a 30 year $800,000 loan with monthly principal and interest repayments.

Hedge your bets

Often borrowers are drawn towards the certainty of fixed repayments but do not want the additional payment restrictions that come with it. By splitting the loan, you can essentially enjoy the benefits of both. To calculate the variable split, you should consider how many extra repayments you are likely to make over the term of the fixed rate as well as how much your balance will reduce by your regular payments. A good mortgage broker can help you with this calculation. You may also consider an even split if you are undecided which rate will work best for you.

 

If you’d like to discuss your specific circumstances, or simply interested in what fixed rates are available, please do get in touch.

Open banking: What this means for you and your data

Open banking: What this means for you and your data

Open banking is widely regarded as the most significant change in the retail banking landscape for decades but many of us have never heard of it. So what is it and how does it affect me?

Whilst the term originated from Europe, Australia passed the Consumer Data Right (CDR) legislation in August 2019 which gave consumers exclusive right to their own data and enabled them to choose whether to share it with third parties. In the following years the banks and other lenders were forced to securely share some of their banking data with other accredited data recipients (ADR). The types of data include details of home loans, investment loans, personal loans, transaction accounts, closed accounts, direct debits and scheduled payments, as well as payee data. It’s important to reiterate that this data cannot be shared without the consent of the customer.

So how does this change things?

By ensuring that consumers have exclusive right to their own data, according to the Australian Banking Association (ABA), benefits to customers will include;

  • Streamlining the application process for certain financial products
  • Saving significant time and administration when switching from one bank to another
  • The availability of more products tailored to your particular financial circumstances

The changes are aimed to promote more competition within the financial services industry providing smaller tech based emerging companies the data to efficiently design products that better suit their customers. Imagine applying for a loan or credit card where, in a few clicks, your savings and credit data is used to immediately approve your application and determine the rate you are offered. There is no need to provide any supporting documents and the lengthy processing delays which have hampered the industry for years are a thing of the past.

How secure is my data?

To receive and share your data an ADR must become accredited by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to ensure they have the required level of security and data privacy settings. This process can take as long as 4-6 months and involves significant upfront and ongoing legal and labor costs. For a long time the cost of accreditation, and ongoing regulatory maintenance, was seen as a barrier for smaller companies to access the data. To overcome this, last year the Australian government approved a representative model which will come into effect this month.

As mentioned earlier consumers will need to provide consent for ADRs to access their data and the information will be deleted or de-identified after a maximum of 12 months unless permission is once again granted. You can also withdraw your consent at any time and your data must be deleted immediately. Each company that you grant permission should always provide you with the following information:

  • What information you’re sharing and how it will be used
  • Who will have access to your data
  • How long they’ll have access to your data for
  • How you can manage and withdraw consents

When will I see the benefits of this?

The type of data available has been rolled out in phases since July 2020 but open banking is still considered to be in it’s infancy.

An important milestone will occur this month when joint accounts are brought under the scope of CDR. As you can imagine this represents a huge change for the mortgage industry where a significant proportion of loans are held in joint names.

From November 2022 energy companies will also need to provide customers with access to their usage and connection data. This will kickstart a future where comparing energy providers based specifically on your usage can be performed at the click of a button. It also gives future providers the opportunity to tailor your energy charges specifically for you.

As the number of data sources increase the consumer will progressively see the benefit but until then, with many data sources such as superannuation and investment accounts still unavailable, companies utilising the data will typically operate under a hybrid model combining open banking and traditional sources of information.

What you need to know about property investing in your self-managed super fund (SMSF)

What you need to know about property investing in your self-managed super fund (SMSF)

“We want to eventually retire to the coast so we will buy a property in our self-managed superfund and rent it out in the meantime. The value of the property will rise over time and when we’re ready to retire we’ll just move in.” 

We’ve heard this statement many times, but if only it was so easy. At a time when property markets are buoyant and interest rates so low, many people are considering property investment within their SMSF but the laws around what you can do, and can’t do, with the property are complex. 

Investing in residential property

Firstly, residential property purchased through an SMSF cannot be lived in or rented by you, any other trustee or anyone related to the trustees – no matter how distant the relationship. Buying a coastal property in your SMSF and moving in when you retire is therefore not allowed. When you retire you must first purchase the property from the SMSF, perhaps from the money you receive from selling your city residence. This is just like buying a regular property except you won’t have to deal with negotiations. The transaction must take place at a fair market value, based on objective and verifiable data, and will involve additional costs such as stamp duty and legal.

Investing in commercial property

Rules regarding related parties that apply to residential properties do not apply to commercial properties. They therefore can be sold to an SMSF by its members, as well as being leased to SMSF trustees or an individual or business related to them.

This exception makes SMSF commercial properties appealing to many small business owners such as barristers to buy their chambers or manufacturers who can purchase a warehouse/factory. This allows the business to pay rent to their superfund rather than ‘dead money’ to a landlord. Again, it’s important the lease agreement is at market rate and must be paid promptly and in full at each due date. 

Regardless of whether it’s a residential or commercial property, the investment must also satisfy the overarching function of the SMSF, which is to provide retirement benefits for its members (a concept known as the sole purpose test). You must consider the yield or potential capital appreciation when selecting the property and if neither makes good investment sense, you should reconsider.

The loan

Lending through your SMSF must be done by a limited recourse borrowing agreement (LRBA). The property must be owned by a separate ‘bare’ trust that sits outside of the SMSF structure and has its own trustee. All the property-related income and expenses are then made through the superfund’s bank account. These loans are specifically designed to ‘limit the recourse’ so that if the terms of the loan are breached the lender can only access the property and other superfund assets are protected. 

Given the unique characteristics of the loan, SMSF loans generally attract significant application fees and higher rates than standard home loans. The lending criteria are also much stricter and can involve things such as reduced loan to value ratios (LVR), shortened loan terms resulting in higher repayments, and often borrowers require a minimum percentage of liquid superfund assets available to make loan repayments if needed. There are also additional legal costs associated with the setup and ongoing compliance of both the SMSF and bare trust structure. These costs must be factored in to decide if purchasing in your SMSF is the right option for you.

Renovating

The idea of renovating a residential property within an SMSF to improve capital value is also more complicated than it first appears. Whilst general maintenance and repairs can be made, any significant renovations must be funded by available cash already held within the superfund and not by the loan or borrowed money. Even if funds are available, you are not allowed to make significant changes to the original property that was purchased using the limited recourse borrowing arrangement. Renovations that substantially change the asset will require a new LRBA.

Given the right opportunity, there is no doubt that buying property in your SMSF can be an excellent long-term strategy but there are clear complexities. The considerations presented in this article are by no means exhaustive and investing through your SMSF should always be done in consultation with your financial adviser and an experienced mortgage broker. 

Contact us today to discuss whether buying a property in your SMSF could work for you.

Listed property trusts: primed for a rebound

Listed property trusts: primed for a rebound

Property was possibly the worst affected sector when governments around the world pulled the plug on their economies in 2020. Not only did workers stop going into office buildings and shoppers stopped going to malls, but landlords were forced to shoulder the added burden of rent holidays and eviction moratoriums.

Little wonder real estate indices plunged. Locally the Australian Real Estate Investment Trust (AREIT) index fell 39% between the end of January and March last year, while the global benchmark, the FTSE EPRA Nareit Global index (GREIT), dropped 28% (in USD terms).

However, lingering concerns about both delays in returning to work combined with the effect the new paradigm of working from home will have on valuations for commercial property, as well as the impact of the accelerated migration to online shopping on retail values, have seen real estate indices lagging behind the broader share markets’ recoveries following the COVID crash.

The AREITs index is still 14% below its high of last year, while the ASX200 is only 1% away. Likewise, GREITs have managed to get square with last year’s high, but they’re a long way behind the 19% increase in global shares.

These differences offer smart investors the opportunity to buy what some strategists are describing as the only cheap sector left. Tim Farrelly, a highly regarded asset allocation consultant, recently wrote “Despite pretty severe assumptions on the outlook for rental growth, such as a fall in real office rents of 45% and a fall in real retail rents of 20% over the next decade, the overall impact on 10-year returns is not nearly as catastrophic as might be expected, as markets appear to have priced in these falls and more.”

Indeed, Farrelly’s 10-year return forecast for AREITs is 6.8% per year at current levels, while the forecast for Australian shares is 4.8%. Likewise, Heuristic Investment Systems, another asset allocation consultant, has a 10-year forecast return of 6.25% and an overweight recommendation.

While AREITs do offer compelling long-term value at current levels, our domestic market does suffer some limitations. It is highly concentrated, with the top 10 companies accounting for more than 80% of the ASX 300 AREIT index, and just three sectors, retail, industrial and office, making up more than 60%. The superstar of Australian property trusts, Goodman Group, alone is almost one quarter of the whole index.

By contrast, global REITs not only offer the compelling value, plus, at more than A$2.4 trillion, the total market is more than 19 times bigger than Australia’s. The top 10 companies account for less than 25% of the index and the biggest single company is only 5%.

Most importantly, there is abundant diversification, including to sectors that offer leverage to some of the most important structural themes in global markets. If you want to gain exposure to growing digitisation, 3% of the index is data centres; or e-commerce, 12%  is industrial; for demographics, healthcare is 7%, and for urbanisation, 18% is residential.

According to Vanguard, global property was the best returning asset class in the 20 years to 2020, with an annual return of 8.5%. Resolution Capital, an Australian GREIT manager, also points out the asset class enjoyed lower earnings volatility than global equities.

Despite that history of strong returns, 2020 was its worst year since the GFC at -17%. By contrast, however, this time the fall was not because of excessive debt or weak balance sheets, it was a classic exogenous shock. With the progressive relaxation of government restrictions, conditions are in place for a strong rebound.

An added attraction is that historically REITs have been a terrific hedge against inflation, since both rents and property values are typically tied to it. This may sound counterintuitive if you’ve come across the popular misconception that REIT valuations are inversely affected by bond yields, that is, when yields rise, values fall.

Chris Bedingfield, co-portfolio manager of the Quay Global Real Estate Fund, points out that, “Over the long-term, there is actually no correlation at all between REIT valuations and bond yields. However, over the short-term, it seems there are enough investors who believe it that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.” Notably, over the March quarter, GREITs returned more than 7% despite bond yields rising sharply.

To gain exposure to GREITs, you can buy an index fund, such as the VanEck Vectors FTSE International Property ETF (REIT.ASX), or, if you’re wary about the potential for COVID risks, you can choose an actively managed fund from the likes of Quay Global Investors or Resolution Capital.

How to pay off your mortgage sooner and accelerate building your wealth

How to pay off your mortgage sooner and accelerate building your wealth

For most people, their mortgage will be the largest debt they will have in their lifetime. Because there are no tax benefits on this type of debt, it’s worth considering paying it off (or at least partially down) quickly so can make the most of the opportunity to accumulate wealth outside the home.

So, here are a few tips which can help you get that mortgage down.

1. Get the right loan from the start

There are so many factors to consider when deciding which is the most appropriate loan. And the loan your friend has may not be the best loan for you. Just like the loan with the lowest advertised interest rate could cost you more in the long term.

2. Understand how to use your loan

Once you have gone to the effort of structuring your loan correctly, it’s important that you know how to get the most benefit out of it. For example, an ‘offset’ account may not help you pay your home loan quicker unless you have the discipline to use it as it should be used.

3. Increase your repayments – every dollar helps!

Whether it be a lump sum payment or increasing your monthly repayments, every extra dollar will result in a saving to your interest cost and thus will reduce the time to repay your mortgage. At a 2.5%pa interest rate, an additional $200 per month repayment on the average mortgage will save approx. $30,000 in interest costs. At a 4.5% interest rate, this increases to approximately $60,000 in interest costs

4. Work on your loan early

During the early years, a higher proportion of your loan repayments are going towards paying the interest expense, with a smaller portion reducing your principal owed. So, commiting to make larger additional/lump sum repayments during the initial years of your loan will repay a larger amount of the principal and so will save on the interest costs.

5. Ask your bank for a discount

You’ll be surprised with the reduction you may get on your interest rate if you just ask.

6. Better still use a pro-active mortgage broker

A great mortgage broker is invaluable. From recommending the best loan specifically for you, to explaining how to best utilize it to getting on the front foot and asking the financial institution for a discount. Our lending manager, Cameron Purdy was able to secure our client a further discount 18 months into her loan by simply getting on the front foot and negotiating with bank. It resulted in a saving of over $900 per month!

7. Build Wealth while accelerating your mortgage repayments

A ‘debt recycling’ strategy enables you to simultaneously pay off your home loan sooner, while building an investment portfolio.

So rather than wait until you pay off your loan before commencing the build up of your wealth/investments, you can start doing it now!

And while the investment portfolio is growing, the income it generates is directed towards the home loan acting as another source of repayments and accelerating the time taken to be mortgage free!

Debt recycling is an extremely effective strategy and while popular among many professionals, it is something all who have a mortgage should consider.

Download out free eBook to learn more about how debt recycling strategies allow you to start investing for the future now whilst continuing to pay off your home loan.