What are the different types of home loans?

William Jolly By on August 8, 2019
 
Types of home loans

Photo by Vladislav Babienko on Unsplash

Finding the right home loan can be a lot like finding a romantic partner. There’s many to choose from, but few to match your needs. Some will reject you, some you’ll dump after a while and some you’ll be stuck with for over 20 years. 

There are quite literally thousands of home loan products on the market for a range of different purposes. Having this many options can be overwhelming, leading many to rush into making a bad choice. And like a bad relationship, the wrong home loan can have a significant impact on your finances and your standard of living. 

Different home loans will be more beneficial (and often required) for certain circumstances, so it’s worth knowing which type of home loan can be used for what purpose. So we’ve briefly summarised each of the main types of home loans below and how they work. 

What kind of interest rate can you get? 

Before we get into the different types of home loans, we’ll quickly recap the different types of interest rates, because this too can make a difference to how much you pay. 

A fixed interest rate is a ‘locked’ rate: it doesn’t change for a set period of time, usually between one and five years. Customers can take advantage of this by locking in a lower interest rate if they expect rates to rise in the coming months/years. On the other hand, fixed-rate loans can disadvantage borrowers if rates continually drop – you normally have to cop a break fee if you choose to break the fixed component of your loan contract before the term is up. 

A variable interest rate is a loan with an interest rate that changes based on market forces. This means your interest rate could regularly change over the life of your home loan, which could quite significantly impact your monthly repayments. Variable home loans are generally more flexible and can also have appealing features like the ability to make extra repayments (often at no extra cost) to help you pay off your loan sooner, but don’t have the budgeting certainty a fixed-rate loan provides. 

Read our article on fixed vs variable home loans to gain a greater understanding of the pros and cons of each. 

What is a split home loan? 

A split home loan allows you to get the best of both worlds – fixed and variable. A split loan splits your repayments into a fixed-rate component and a variable-rate component. 

At the end of the fixed-rate period (up to five years), that fixed portion of the split loan will often revert to a ‘rollover rate’ usually specified in the terms and conditions. This rate can be higher than the variable component of your home loan, and essentially means you’ll be on two different home loan interest rates for the remainder of the loan term.

Principal & interest repayments 

The term ‘principal and interest’ (P&I) refers to two components of your home loan repayments:

  • The principal, which is the initial amount you’ve borrowed for the loan 
  • The interest, which is the cost charged by the bank to borrow the money 

So if you borrowed $400,000 for a home loan at a 4.00% p.a. interest rate, that $400,000 is the principal which you have to pay back, while the interest is what you pay back on top of that principal (4.00% per annum on the balance owing). With each principal & interest repayment, an increasing portion of the payment will go towards paying off the principal and a decreasing portion will go towards paying interest, since you’re chipping away at the balance owing right from the beginning. 



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Interest-only repayments 

Interest-only (IO) loans, on the other hand, delay the repayment of the principal (aka the borrowed amount), for up to five years, although in some cases you can pay interest-only for up to 10 or even 15 years. During this time you only need to repay the interest component, before reverting to principal and interest afterwards. 

For this reason, IO loans can be much cheaper to start with since the repayments will be much smaller. But once that IO period is over, repayments can jump significantly, and they can be more expensive overall. 

The table below shows the difference in monthly and total repayments of an IO and P&I home loan, based on a 30-year loan of $400,000 at an interest rate of 4.00% p.a. 


LoanMonthly repayment during IO periodMonthly repayment after IO periodTotal cost (principal + interest) of the loan
P&I loan$400,000N/A$1,910$687,478
IO loan$400,000$1,333$2,111$713,404
Total cost difference$25,926

In this instance, the interest-only option is more than $25,000 more costly – and that’s without even taking into account the fact that IO loans typically have higher interest rates than P&I loans, not to mention the high revert rates at the end of the IO period.

The different types of home loans 

The following types of mortgages are commonly used around Australia: 

We’ll also go over ‘refinancing loans‘ and ‘guarantor loans‘, which aren’t technically a thing but are commonly sought terms. 

Owner-occupier home loans 

Owner-occupier home loans (OO) are for borrowers that will be living in the property for which the home loan is being used to buy. These are your stock-standard home loans – there are hundreds of them on the market from more than a hundred different lenders and banks, and they can be used by a variety of people, whether you’re a first home buyer or a refinancer. 

Owner-occupier home loans often have lower interest rates on average compared to other sorts of loans, like investment home loans, since they’re used for a property that will likely be your main residence for years to come, making you more likely to hang onto it. 

Refinance home loans

While you’ve probably heard of refinancing before (and may well have done so already, given a large portion of home lending every month is for the purpose of refinancing), ‘refinancing home loans’ generally aren’t a product. Lenders might advertise home loans to attract customers looking to refinance, but many home loans will generally be available for people refinancing or purchasing a house.  

So don’t get confused when you can’t find any ‘refinancing home loans’ – they’re just regular home loans you can refinance to, whether that’s with another lender or the one you’re with now. 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.

Guarantor loans

A guarantor home loan isn’t actually a specific product either. There are home loans that allow the use of a guarantor, who is someone (usually a close family member like a parent) who agrees to take responsibility for making repayments in the event that you can’t. Guarantors can be useful for people with low incomes or those who are struggling to reach their deposit goal, since some lenders allow guarantor-backed customers to take out a 0% deposit home loan. 

We’ve written in greater detail about ‘guarantor home loans’ as well as other ways to get a home loan with a 0% deposit here.

Investment home loans 

An investment home loan is a home loan for people looking to buy a property for investment purposes, which typically involves renting it out and profiting through a rise in the property’s value. They tend to have higher interest rates and stricter eligibility criteria than owner-occupier loans since investors are usually considered riskier borrowers than those buying a property to live in.

There can be tax benefits to taking out an investment home loan, as the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) states interest payments (among other things) can be claimed as a tax deduction. 

See here for more information on investment home loans. 

Low-doc home loans 

A low doc home loan is a low documentation home loan, available to those that don’t have the correct proof of income documents available, such as: 

Low-doc home loans often have higher interest rates and fees to compensate for their more generous lending restrictions, and they aren’t offered by as many mainstream lenders as owner-occupier or investment loans are. 

Read more about low-doc home loans here. 

Reverse mortgages 

Reverse mortgages allow people who are asset-rich but cash-poor (and usually over 60) to access the equity in their home. Reverse mortgage borrowers do not have to make repayments while living on the property, but like any loan, interest is charged on the balance, and when they sell the home or pass away the loan needs to be repaid in full, including interest.

According to ASIC, reverse mortgages can create financial difficulty later in life for a number of reasons: 

  • Interest rates and fees are generally higher than standard home loans
  • Compound interest can cause your debts to increase as your interest-owed does
  • If the value of your home doesn’t rise you will have less money for future needs (like medical treatment) 
  • Reverse mortgages can affect your pension eligibility 
  • Fixed reverse mortgages can be costly to break 

The older you are, the more you can borrow with a reverse mortgage. Generally, 60-year-olds can borrow roughly 15-20% of the value of the home, while 70+-year-olds can usually borrow 25-30%. 

Construction loans 

A construction home loan is a mortgage you take out when you are either building a new home or you are doing a major renovation. Unlike a regular home loan, construction loans cover expenses as they occur during the construction process, something that’s called progressive draw-down. These payments usually occur in a five to six-stage process, which are often the following:

StageIncludes
DepositPaying the builder to begin construction
BaseConcrete slab complete or footings 
FrameHouse frame complete and approve
LockupWindows/doors, roofing, brickwork, insulation
FixingPlaster, kitchen cupboards, appliances, bathroom, toilet, laundry fittings/tiling etc.
CompletionFencing, site clean-up, final payment to builder

If one of these stages (such as the base) costs $100,000, then you only pay the loan’s interest rate on that $100,000. The rest comes later. Most lenders charge slightly higher interest rates for construction loans. 

Bridging loans 

A bridging loan is a loan designed to help you when you’re in the transition period between selling your old home and buying a new one. It’s technically an additional home loan you take out on top of your current one, with extra money given to you to help buy your second property while the other sells. During the ‘bridging period’ you have two loans – typically interest-only repayments – and when the current home is sold the bridging component is added into your chosen loan for your new property. 

Bridging home loans are usually shorter, often up to a maximum of 12 months in most cases, and often come with a higher interest rate than standard home loans. Some lenders don’t charge higher rates though, so look around. 

Line of credit loans 

A line of credit home loan is a loan that is borrowed against the equity of your home. Line of credit loans can actually be a home loan feature – it’s essentially a sort of ‘credit limit’ where you can swap the equity you’ve built up in your home for cash, up to a certain amount (the credit limit) set by the lender. A line of credit loan is typically reusable, meaning you can borrow and repay funds up to the credit limit as much as you like, which makes it similar to a credit card, except with much lower rates.

Line of credit loans can be used for things like: 

Line of credit loans tend to be interest-only, but the home loans that offer them often have higher interest rates and administrative fees.

Savings.com.au’s two cents 

There are a bunch of different home loan types out there, and when you mix them up you get thousands of different variations of home loans on the market. For example, you can get a variable P&I owner-occupier loan, a fixed IO investment loan, a split home loan, a low-doc home loan with added features like an offset account, a home loan that allows a 5% deposit as well as the use of a guarantor…we could go on like this. 

The takeaway is there is no one “best” product on the market, but there are certainly ones out there that are better for you based on what you’re after. And some loans will be unsuitable. For example, you can’t take out a construction loan for an existing property, and it would also be inefficient to apply for a low-doc home loan when you can easily provide proof of income in your application. 

In most cases, what is really important is the interest and the principal you end up paying. So with this in mind:

  • Look to buy a home in a price range you won’t struggle to afford
  • Try to find a loan with a low interest rate, as this will make a real difference

You don’t necessarily need the lowest interest rate on the market, as there might be a more suitable product for you with a slightly higher rate. But for purchases as gargantuan as a home, even the small difference in the interest rate can lead to tens of thousands of dollars difference. 

William Jolly
William Jolly joined Savings.com.au as a Financial Journalist in 2018, after spending two years at financial research and comparison website 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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