Westpac relaxes lending restrictions for investors (again)

Alex Brewster By on November 7, 2019
Westpac relaxes lending restrictions again

Photo by Devon Divine on Unsplash

Westpac has launched another bid to kickstart its sluggish mortgage growth, loosening rules around its Household Expenditure Measure (HEM) for investment borrowers.

In a statement sent to its broker network on Wednesday, the big four bank said it was changing the calculation used to determine an investor’s HEM band.

The HEM is what many lenders use to estimate a borrower’s living expenses, which helps to determine how much money someone can afford to borrow for a home loan.

Previously, borrowers who reported lower living and property management costs than those implied in the HEM benchmark were assessed as if their living costs were higher.

“Effective Wednesday 6 November 2019, a customer’s HEM band will be determined by their gross annual income plus their gross annual rental income less any investment property operating costs/expenses or investment loan interest costs,” Westpac said in its statement.

“Prior to this policy change, a customer’s HEM band did not deduct any rental expenses or investment loan interest costs.”

Westpac said as a result of the changes, existing investment borrowers would see immediate benefits.

“This change aligns our practice to how the HEM value is derived for different income bands,” it said.

“As a result of this policy change, your customers may experience an improvement in borrowing capacity.

In particular, Westpac said customers with an investment property or those who are looking to purchase an investment property and are currently reliant on HEM would benefit.

Westpac posted a 16% loss in profits for the 2018 financial year, part of which has been attributed to strict lending criteria and the introduction of a HEM tool that was highly unpopular among brokers.

In the 12 months to September 2019, Westpac’s home loan growth was only around 1.5%.

Westpac CEO Brian Hartzer said 2019 has been a disappointing year for the major bank.

“Financial results are down significantly in a challenging, low-growth, low interest rate environment, he said.

Speaking to media on Monday, Mr Hartzer said internal changes were partly to blame for the poor results.

“Some of it has been self-inflicted through the changes that we put through on the expense categorisation and the tool that we put out there – that we feel we’ve fixed,” Mr Hartzer said.

“We’re seeing the application volumes increase again.

“So, I think there’s no reason why over time we shouldn’t be growing at or above system in our different businesses.”

It’s the second change in lending restrictions for borrowers, with the bank announcing in October that it was halving deposit requirements for interest-only investors.

Effective from 21 October, the maximum loan-to-value ratio for interest-only loans was raised from 90% to 80%.

Looking for a low variable rate home loan? The table below displays some of the lowest interest rates on the market.

Provider Ad rate
Comp rate*
Purchase or Refi, P&I 80% Smart Home Loan 2.88% 2.90% $1,660 More details
Low Rate Home Loan w/Offset 2.90% 2.92% $1,665 More details
Base Variable Rate Special P&I 3.20% 3.20% $1,730 More details
Ad rate
Comp rate*
Purchase or Refi, P&I 80% Smart Home Loan
2.88% 2.90% $1,660
More details
Low Rate Home Loan w/Offset
2.90% 2.92% $1,665
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 18 November 2019. View disclaimer.


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 2018. 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.

Some providers’ products may not be available in all states.

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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Alex Brewster
Alex joined Savings.com.au in 2019. He is passionate about providing Australians with the information and tools needed to make them financially stable for their futures.
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