If you already own a house, there are plenty of reasons why you might consider buying a second property.
- What is equity in a property?
- Refinance to access your property’s equity
- Other ways to access your property’s equity
- How to refinance to buy another property
- How to raise equity of your home
- Equity refinance tips and traps to be aware of
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.
Buying a home or looking to refinance? The table below features home loans with some of the lowest interest rates on the market for owner occupiers.
Smart Booster Home Loan
- Discount variable for 1 year <=80% LVR
- No ongoing fees
- Unlimited redraw facility
Monthly repayments: $1,476
- Discount variable for 1 year
- No ongoing fees
- Unlimited redraw facility
Base criteria of: a $400,000 loan amount, variable, fixed, principal and interest (P&I) home loans with an LVR (loan-to-value) ratio of at least 80%. If products listed have an LVR <80%, they will be clearly identified in the product name along with the specific LVR. The product and rate must be clearly published on the Product Provider’s web site. Monthly repayments were calculated based on the selected products’ advertised rates, applied to a $400,000 loan with a 30-year loan term.
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).
Equity is a very powerful tool for a homeowner to use. Building up equity in your property increases your wealth, gives you access to some money if you need it, can make it easier to pay for renovations, and can give you a big advantage if you want to buy more properties, as you can use built-up equity as a deposit on a new loan.
Having equity in a home is also crucial for later in life. In the Treasury’s Retirement Income Review of 2020, accessing equity can reduce your reliance on superannuation and the pension.
"Homeowners also have the opportunity to access the equity in their home to supplement retirement income and manage longevity risk, although few currently do so," the Treasury said.
"Available home equity can double the amount of their superannuation and help fund their retirement. Accessing home equity can offer a responsible, long-term solution to allow current retirees to boost their retirement funding.”
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 (P&I) will be bigger and the loan will take longer to be repaid.
Why should you 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.
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.
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 of 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
Augustine’s outstanding mortgage debt
Value of her property @80% LVR
Available equity in home
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 calculate your equity
If this example doesn't apply to you, or you're just not a fan of doing maths (and why would you be?), Savings.com.au's Equity Calculator can work out roughly how much equity is in your home for you. Simply enter:
- The property’s current value (you may need to get a valuation done)
- Your outstanding loan balance
- The interest rate on your desired loan
- And how long you want the loan to be
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 30 years to 2015, Australian housing prices rose an average of 7.2% per year in nominal terms, according to the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA). More recently, the RBA predicted prices to rise 30% from 2021-2023.
So you might have built up some substantial equity already without even trying, and could continue to do so. But on the flipside, your equity can decrease as house prices do. A lot of people might have lost equity when Sydney property prices fell by 9% over the 12 months to July 2019 (CoreLogic) for example.
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 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.
If you don’t have landlord insurance for this, then having a ‘buffer’ of emergency 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
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 is less than 20% of the property’s value, or if you’re refinancing the loan to over 80% of the property’s value.
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.
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.
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, upfront fees around $250, and potential break costs from fixed mortgages can cost thousands.
5. How much can refinancing save me?
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.
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’). Our home loan calculator can help you work this out. As always, 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.
Photo by Jesse Collins on Unsplash