5 common property finance mistakes to avoid

1. Thinking a major bank will give you more “bang for your buck” in your property investment loan

Over the last few years APRA has been reviving competition in the finance sector, particularly between the big banks and non-bank lenders.

However when you look beyond the massive advertising campaigns that banks can afford to flood the market with, often you’ll find that their smaller, non-bank counterparts can provide just as good, if not better deals.

Banks rely on consumers to go with what they know and most of us have been a bank customer all of our lives, hence we feel more confident dealing with them for a mortgage.

But are you really getting the best deal?

Rather than remain in your comfort zone, when you start researching lenders there are good reasons to consider smaller operators who might be able to better what the banks have on offer?

Often you’ll get more personalised service from non-bank lenders and your money will still be safe as they are regulated by the same industry body – the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority.

2. It’s the lenders fault if I can’t make the repayments on my property investment loan

While legislation was introduced to give lenders a greater duty of care when it comes to ensuring borrowers can afford the loans they’re offered (it’s called responsible lending) a large responsibility still falls on your shoulders when it comes to knowing what financial commitments you can uphold.

Getting in over your head is never a good idea and it’s not going to help if you fall behind on your repayments and try to point the finger at your lender.

If you think you might be about to sign up for something you could struggle with financially, don’t proceed.

There is no point putting yourself in financial hardship and enduring sleepless nights for the sake of a bigger and better home or trying to escape the rental roundabout. If in doubt, wait or lower your expectations, draw up a budget and make sure you have enough left over after all of your expenses to meet your mortgage repayments.

3. I can get finance for any property I buy

Over the last few years lenders have restricted their criteria when it comes to the type of property they’ll accept as security against a loan (as they need to ensure they can offload the asset quickly if you default on your mortgage in order to cover their costs).

Bearing this in mind, some types of real estate are more favorably looked at than others by the banks and they’ll assess the location, size and features of a property before accepting it as security.

For example, a small regional town or small one bedroom apartment in a new high rise complex or an off the plan CBD apartment will be less likely to pass the test than a suburban detached family home or spacious apartment.

Before you commit to any property, you should check whether the asset is acceptable as security or not and if there will be any higher costs for doing so.

4. I haven’t maxed out my credit cards, so I should be safe

One of the biggest mistakes first time borrowers make is not being aware of what lenders look at when they assess your current financial commitments.

Many believe if they have a credit card or two, it won’t make that much difference to their application as long as they haven’t spent up big or missed their minimum monthly repayments.

This is not the case though as the lender will actually consider the limits you have on your credit cards, not just how much you owe, reasoning you could go out and spend it all tomorrow… in which case you still need to be able to afford your loan.

One of the best ways you can avoid being turned down for a loan or getting less than you need is by reducing your credit limits before applying, or cutting up your cards entirely.

The other bonus of doing so is that you’ll be less likely to notch up too much unnecessary debt.

5. Thinking you’re covered by LMI

Lender’s Mortgage Insurance or LMI is required by lenders when you borrow at a certain loan to value ratio.

For instance, if you have a 10% deposit, chances are you’ll be required to pay LMI, whereas if you have a 20% deposit you probably won’t.

The common misconception surrounding LMI is that it protects the borrower if they can’t meet their monthly repayments.

Unfortunately, this is not the case.

LMI protects the lender should you default on your mortgage.

In the event that they need to sell your property to recover their costs but the sale price does not provide adequate funds to cover your outstanding debt, the insurer pays the lender the balance, not you.

This doesn’t mean you’ll be off the hook since the insurer, and possibly the lender, will then chase you for the money you owe.

LMI is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact for investors it can mean the difference between buying more property and making your cash or equity deposit stretch further.

If you want to be protected should you get into financial difficulty there are products out there that can assist.

Lenders themselves often provide the option of buying mortgage insurance and of course, there’s always income protection insurance should you find yourself off work for an extended period due to illness for example.

The responsibility to organise and cover the cost of these products is on you – the borrower so, speak to a finance professional who can help you find, understand and help you navigate the market.

While applying for a loan and trying to gain an understanding of how the mortgage market really works might seem like a daunting prospect it is possibly easier now with lenders competing rigorously for your business.

The key to getting it right and potentially saving yourself thousands of dollars is to separate the property financing fact from fiction and not be too focused on what a particular lender is offering but on whether their product suits your specific requirements now and in the future.

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