How to use equity to buy a second property

author-avatar By on August 22,2019
How to use equity to buy a second property

Photo by Jesse Collins on Unsplash

If you already own a house, there are plenty of reasons why you might consider buying a second property.

Maybe you’re eyeing up a nice holiday home on the coast, or an investment property to rent out. Or maybe you just want to buy a place you’d like to live in down the track, or if not you, your kids. 

Utilising the equity in your current home can allow you to buy that second property without a cash deposit.

What is equity in a property?

To sum it up in just a few words, your equity in a home is the value of the property minus how much you owe on the mortgage tied to it. To sum it up in more words, we’ll use an example.

Example: Augustine triples the equity in her house over 10 years 

Augustine buys a house for $500,000 with a 20% deposit ($100,000 of her own savings) and a $400,000 home loan. Her equity in the property at this point is $100,000.

Over 10 years, she pays $150,000 off the home loan’s principal (leaving $250,000 owing) and the property’s value increases to $550,000. Augustine’s equity in the house is now $300,000 ($550,000 minus $250,000).

How can you access your property’s equity?

One way of borrowing against the equity in your house is by refinancing your mortgage. Refinancing is the process of switching home loans, and to refinance, your lender will typically request a formal valuation to be made on your home. If it has grown in value, your lender may allow you to refinance the home loan based on that property’s new value, allowing you to unlock some of the equity you’ve built up.

Keep in mind that by doing this, you’re essentially borrowing more money, so your principal and interest repayments will be bigger and the loan will take longer to be repaid.  

Why refinance? 

You might choose to refinance for any number of reasons besides accessing equity to buy another property, such as:

Saving on your interest repayments

Arguably the key reason people refinance is to reduce their home loan’s interest rate, as doing so can save hundreds of dollars a year and tens of thousands over the life of a loan. 

Consolidating debts and lowering fees 

Consolidating other debts such as a car loan or a large credit card bill into a mortgage is one of the most common reasons for home loan refinancing in Australia.

Shifting all your debts into one low-rate package can make things easier to manage. But by doing this, keep in mind that you’re streeetching those short-term debts into a longer-term loan, resulting in greater interest costs overall. 

To invest in shares

Borrowing to invest is known as ‘gearing’, and you can do this with the equity in your home in order to invest in things like shares or other equities. Using the equity in your mortgage to borrow money for investing can be a solid strategy since the interest rate on your home loan will probably be lower than a personal loan or margin loan, and it can be a good way to grow your overall wealth. It can also be tax-effective since investment expenses are usually tax-deductible, according to the ATO. 

However using your property’s equity to invest can be a risky strategy, and if you’re not sure what you’re doing you should seek professional financial advice to make sure it’s the right strategy for you. Shares are traditionally a volatile asset class and can go up and down.

Need a low rate to refinance? 

If you’re in the market for a home loan to refinance to, then there’s no shortage of options. Competition is rife for your dollar among lenders at the moment, and there are dozens of different lenders to choose from

Below is a snapshot of low-rate home loans from a collection of home loan lenders including the big four banks, the larger non-banks and some of the biggest customer-owned banks.

Provider Ad rate
p.a.
Comp rate*
p.a.
Monthly
repayments
 
Purchase or Refi, P&I 80% Smart Home Loan 2.88% 2.90% $1,660 More details
Discount Variable 80% 3.07% 3.12% $1,702 More details
Base Variable Rate Special P&I 3.20% 3.20% $1,730 More details
Ad rate
p.a.
Comp rate*
p.a.
Monthly
repayments
Purchase or Refi, P&I 80% Smart Home Loan
2.88% 2.90% $1,660
More details
Discount Variable 80%
3.07% 3.12% $1,702
More details
Base Variable Rate Special P&I
3.20% 3.20% $1,730
More details

Base criteria of: a $400,000 loan amount, variable, principal and interest (P&I) home loans with an LVR (loan-to-value) ratio of at least 80%. Introductory rate products were not considered for selection. Monthly repayments were calculated based on the selected products’ advertised rates, applied to a $400,000 loan with a 30-year loan term. Rates correct as at 2 December 2019. View disclaimer.

You can see a broader range of home loans for refinancing on our refinance page

Other ways of accessing your home’s equity

Besides refinancing, there are other options available which can allow you to tap into your home’s equity:

  • Line of credit: A line of credit loan is often more expensive than a traditional home loan, but it can be more flexible. These loans provide access to a set level of credit based on your home’s equity. You can use funds up to this set level and interest is only charged on the amount that you use. These funds are secured against the equity of your home.
  • Reverse mortgage:  Reverse mortgages allow people to borrow against their equity, but don’t require them to make repayments while they still live in the home. Instead, the interest compounds over time, and borrowers only have to repay the balance in full when they either sell the property or pass away. People under a certain age may not qualify for a reverse mortgage, as they tend to be geared towards older Australians who are ‘asset rich but cash poor’.
  • Cross collateralisation: Using the equity in one home as security for loans on one or more other properties is known as cross-collateralisation. Some people consider this to be a high-risk strategy, because if you can’t service the debt on one of the loans, you could lose more than just that one property.
  • Redraw facility: Any extra repayments you make on your home loan beyond the minimum monthly/fortnightly requirement can be accessible through a redraw facility (if your mortgage has one).

How does equity work when buying a second home?

To demonstrate this, let’s revisit Augustine’s case again.

If Augustine wanted to access some her $300,000 home equity to use as a deposit on a second property, say, a rainforest retreat-style holiday house, she could consider refinancing her existing mortgage. Just like her first home, she’ll have to pay a certain percentage of that new property’s value upfront as a deposit, which might be around 20%, leaving her with an 80% LVR (loan-to-value ratio).

Now, it’s unlikely that Augustine would be able to use all of her equity. While it can depend on a variety of risk factors (e.g. income, credit rating, property location), lenders generally allow borrowers to access up to 80% of their property’s value, minus their outstanding debt.

So, in Augustine’s case, 80% of her property’s value ($550,000) is $440,000. Take away her outstanding debt of $250,000 and she’s left with her possible available equity of $190,000.

So while Augustine’s equity might be $300,000, her available equity might be $190,000, which she could use towards a deposit on her holiday house.

Value of Augustine’s property$550,000
Augustine’s outstanding mortgage debt $250,000
Value of her property @80% LVR $440,000
Available equity in home $440,000 – $250,000 = $190,000 

Keep in mind, the value of Augustine’s home ultimately comes down to what her lender thinks it’s worth, not the wild numbers thrown around by her speculative neighbour Darren or “it should be worth more than…” guesstimate from her local real estate agent. The lender bases this on a valuation report from a certified valuer, which the borrower (Augustine) will most often have to pay for.

How to raise your home’s equity

The more your house has risen in value since you bought it, the more equity you’ll have. So if you’ve owned your house for several years, then your equity may have risen significantly. Over the past 30 years, Australian housing prices have risen an average of 7.2% per year in nominal terms, according to the Reserve Bank of Australia’s Long-run Trends in Housing Price Growth report. So you might have built up some substantial equity already without even trying.

On the flipside, your equity can decrease as house prices do. A lot of people might have lost equity amid the recent falls in house prices around the country. According to CoreLogic, Sydney property prices fell by 9% over the 12 months to July 2019, while Melbourne lost 8.2%. 

Other ways of increasing your home equity could include:

  • Renovating to boost the value of the home by more than what the renovation costs (e.g. adding another bathroom or building a pool) 
  • Making larger mortgage repayments
  • Making more regular repayments – fortnightly or weekly 
  • Using a home loan offset account to reduce the interest you pay on the loan

Equity refinancing tips and traps to be aware of

As with any major financial commitment, refinancing to access a property’s equity is definitely not risk-free.

If you’re using the equity to put a deposit on a second house, you’ll essentially be paying off two home loans instead of one, so you’ll need to ensure your cash flow can handle it. Also, as mentioned earlier, refinancing your current home to access equity is essentially increasing the debt on your current home loan, so you’ll be paying it off for longer and thus paying much more in interest over the life of the loan.

You also need to consider the consequences property investment will have on your portfolio. Having most of your money tied up in the property market may leave your wealth overly concentrated in that one asset class, instead of having a diversified portfolio of cash, shares and property. So if the property market experiences a widespread dip, so too could your wealth.

Have a safety net available

If you’re purchasing your second property as an investment property, then be mindful that there may be periods of time where you aren’t receiving rental income, due to not having any tenants or your existing tenants suffering from unexpected circumstances like financial hardship or another tenant passing away or becoming injured.

If you don’t have landlord insurance for this, then having a ‘buffer’ of available cash stockpiled for slow periods can help you stay on top of your interest expenses.

Even if it’s not an investment property, a second home can still have some cost surprises, e.g. unexpected faults or damage.

Frequently asked questions

1. Do I need a deposit to refinance my home loan?

You generally do not need to pay a deposit when refinancing your home loan, but there are a range of fees you’ll probably have to pay. You may also have to pay for LMI if the value of your equity in the property (your initial deposit, plus the sum of your principal repayments so far and any capital gains) is less than 20% of the property’s value, or if you’re refinancing the loan to over 80% of the property’s value.

2. Does refinancing a home loan hurt your credit?

Most people don’t realise that every application for credit goes into their personal credit file. Refinancing your home loan often could impact your credit score which can make it difficult to receive lower interest rates for future applications.

3. How much equity do I need to refinance my house?

Many loans have a maximum LVR of 95%, which means you can’t borrow any more than 95% of the value of your home. If you want to refinance, this means you must have at least 5% equity in your property. When it comes to refinancing, a general rule of thumb is to have 20% equity in the property to avoid having to pay for LMI.

4. Is it expensive to refinance a mortgage?

Refinancing a mortgage can be costly, however, these costs can be recouped over time if you’re refinancing to a loan with a lower interest rate. The discharge fee will generally cost between $100-$400. The setup fees for the new loan can cost between $300-$1,000. A standard valuation fee alone can be between $200-$500.

5. How much can refinancing save me?

To work out what your monthly repayments might be and how much you could save by refinancing, you can use our home loan repayment calculator.

6. How do I know if I should refinance my mortgage?

You may want to refinance your mortgage for a range of reasons, including if you want to reduce your home loan interest rate, if you’re unhappy with your current lender, to consolidate debt, to fund a home renovation or extension, or to fund a big purchase (such as a car) at a lower interest rate.

Savings.com.au’s two cents

As something you can leverage to accelerate your wealth, home equity is one of the most powerful things at your disposal as a homeowner. Buying a second property using the equity in your existing home as a deposit, as opposed to saving up a cash deposit, has two major benefits:

  • You can buy that second property sooner: Saving up a cash deposit for another house can take several years, after which the value of the property you want to buy may have increased significantly. So buying that second property now using your home equity may help you get it at a lower price.
  • You’re not dipping into your cash reserves: Having an emergency stash of cash is vitally important for every household. When you’re buying a second property, that cash safety net can become even more important (as mentioned above).

But with increased leverage comes higher risk, so properly assess your current situation and make a decision as to whether you can afford to service and pay off a second home loan (sometimes referred to as ‘stress-testing’). You should also calculate how much it’ll cost you over the life of both your existing home loan and the loan on the second property. Our home loan calculator can help you do that.

And as we always say, if you’re uncertain about any aspect of a potential financial decision as large as a property purchase, consider speaking to a financial adviser to discover what the best course of action is for you.


Disclaimers

The entire market was not considered in selecting the above products. Rather, a cut-down portion of the market has been considered which includes retail products from at least the big four banks, the top 10 customer-owned institutions and Australia’s larger non-banks:

  • The big four banks are: ANZ, CBA, NAB and Westpac
  • The top 10 customer-owned Institutions are the ten largest mutual banks, credit unions and building societies in Australia, ranked by assets under management in November 2019. They are (in descending order): Credit Union Australia, Newcastle Permanent, Heritage Bank, Peoples’ Choice Credit Union, Teachers Mutual Bank, Greater Bank, IMB Bank, Beyond Bank, Bank Australia and P&N Bank.
  • The larger non-bank lenders are those who (in 2019) has more than $9 billion in Australian funded loans and advances. These groups are: Resimac, Pepper, Liberty and Firstmac.

In the interests of full disclosure, Savings.com.au and loans.com.au are part of the Firstmac Group. To read about how Savings.com.au manages potential conflicts of interest, along with how we get paid, please click through onto the web site links.

*Comparison rate includes both the interest rate and the fees and charges relating to a loan, combined into a single percentage figure. The interest rate per annum is based on a loan credit of $150,000 and a loan term of 25 years.

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author-avatar
William Jolly joined Savings.com.au as a Financial Journalist in 2018, after spending two years at financial research firm Canstar. In William's articles, you're likely to find complex financial topics and products broken down into everyday language. He is deeply passionate about improving the financial literacy of Australians and providing them with resources on how to save money in their everyday lives.

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