If you’re one of many Australians that feel like they’re getting a raw deal on your home loan, you have the power as a borrower to do something about it. By refinancing your home loan to a new loan with a lower interest rate or better features, you could save yourself thousands of dollars over the course of your loan period.
What is refinancing?
Switching home loans used to be a bonafide nightmare. Prior to 2011, lenders could charge exorbitant exit fees for customers who switched within a specified period, which discouraged people from refinancing despite being unhappy with their current loan. Fortunately, the Federal Government outlawed exit fees after that (except for loans written before 2011), making refinancing much easier.
There are a range of reasons for refinancing your home loan:
- You might want a better interest rate
- You’re sick of paying too much in ongoing fees
- You might want to switch between variable and fixed rates
- You want to access the equity in your home
- You want to access more beneficial features (such as offset accounts)
Whatever your reason, the process of switching loans or lenders is called refinancing.
There technically isn’t such a thing as a ‘refinancing home loan’. They are just home loans that you switch to. These loans don’t have to be from another provider – you can refinance your home loan to a different loan product with your existing lender too.
When refinancing, you don’t have to take on any extra debt – you can simply refinance the amount left to repay (the ‘principal’). For example, let’s say you’re five years into a $500,000 home loan, with $100,000 repaid so far. If you wanted to refinance to a more suitable loan that had, say, a 15-year loan term, an offset account and a lower interest rate, then you would only have to refinance the remaining $400,000.
Some Australians do take on extra debt when refinancing as a way of borrowing more money (e.g. to pay for renovations, a deposit on a second house etc.), which they do by utilising the equity they’ve built up in their house.
This is a question only you can really answer, as your living situation will be unique to everyone else’s. We can’t read your mind through the screen, as useful as that would be.
BUT, refinancing is generally a good idea if you think you’re paying too much in interest on your home loan. You don’t have to quite be at mortgage stress levels (mortgage repayments making up 30% of your take-home pay) to be unhappy with your home loan, and keep in mind that even a slight reduction in interest rates, fees and features can make a noticeable difference to your budget.
However, it might NOT be worth refinancing if you:
- Have only just taken out the loan
- Have a loan with high refinancing costs
- Don’t have not much time remaining on your loan term
- Your remaining principal is small
Essentially, if the costs of refinancing outweigh the potential savings or other benefits, it’s probably not worth it.
Luckily for you, you now live in a world where switching home loans with certain providers can be done almost entirely online and in a timely manner. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who actually enjoys the process of looking at their home loan and applying, it’s a pain!
If you’ve crunched those numbers and are ready to make the switch, have your documents ready, such as payslips, loan statements, your ID and anything else you might need.
If a few years down the track after refinancing you think you can get an even better deal, you might consider refinancing again! When it comes to home loans, lenders need to earn your loyalty.