Australian homeowners are trapped in ‘mortgage prison’

THOUSANDS of Australian homeowners are trapped in “mortgage prison” because of a government rule change. And there is no obvious easy way out unfortunately.

THOUSANDS of Australians are stuck in a “mortgage prison” with newly imposed lending criteria leaving them unable to refinance their loans to get a better rate.

Changes in bank rules around living expenses calculations have effectively wiped huge amounts off the maximum a bank will allow them to lend you.

Many people are now finding they originally borrowed more than a bank would lend them under current conditions, meaning they haven’t got the option of shopping around to get a better interest rate — no bank will approve to them the amount they need.

Lending criteria has been tightened in the past year. The ongoing Financial Services Royal Commission is likely to tighten the criteria even further — meaning people will be able to borrow even less than they once did.

With homeowners unable to shop around, they can be stuck paying a high interest rate, which will leave them potentially paying tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands more over the life of their loan.

Recently the Bank of Queensland and Auswide Bank announced they will raise variable mortgage rates as their borrowing costs grow. This follows a warning last month from Credit Suisse that out-of-cycle rate rises were on the table.

Precise numbers of Australia’s mortgage prisoners are hard to determine, but Mozo investment and lending expert Steve Jovcevski told that he expected most of them are those who have borrowed and bought property in the last five years.

He said the changes in how mortgage eligibility are calculated have made a huge difference for many recent borrowers, particularly as banks start to raise interest rates.

Before lending criteria was changed, a flat rate for living expenses was usually applied, resulting in many hopeful homebuyers borrowing much more than they now could.

Mr Jovcevski gave an example of a couple earning $120,000 between them, who bought a home in 2013, borrowing a total of $800,000 at 5% per annum, and who would be paying $4295 a month on their loan, leaving $3680 for monthly expenses.

Even with a pay raise between them bringing their income up to $129,000 the couple now faces a change in rules around living expenses that raises the bar for any borrower.

Homeowners who have bought in the past few years are most vulnerable, especially if they borrowed 90 per cent of the value of their loan.

Previously banks estimated these expenses, with a buffer of 1.5 per cent to safeguard against rate rises. Now they are looking closer at people’s monthly expenditure, and have increased the buffer to 2 per cent.

Under this new criteria, the couple would only be able to borrow $680,000, even though their income hasn’t changed at all.

And because their mortgage is still more than $680,000, they won’t be able to find another bank to make up the difference — meaning they’re stuck with their original loan paying a high interest rate.

The difference between a 5 per cent home loan and a 3.8 per cent home loan amounts to $149,272 over the life of the loan.

“When a customer is essentially tied to a provider, they are at the mercy of whatever rate rise or conditions the bank chooses to impose. Given the current situation, banks have the power to hold some of their customers prisoners,” Mr Jovcevski said.

“The sad reality is borrowers who need competitive mortgage rates to stay financially afloat are most likely to be mortgage prisoners.”

First Home Buyers Australia director Taj Singh said he was very much aware of the crackdown on borrowing limits and living expenses for borrowers.

The mortgage broker said this was putting many borrowers in a position where they can no longer refinance to get a better interest rate.

He said given many loans were refinanced every four to six years, this issue would continue to be felt for recent first home buyers.

But Grattan Institute fellow Brendan Coates told that the impact of any tighter lending conditions would be largely confined to a small section of borrowers as rising house prices had given borrowing room to homeowners who had been in the market for several years.

He predicted the impact would largely be felt in those who’d borrowed more than 90 per cent of the value of their house, a number which had fallen in recent years from 14 per cent in 2014 to 7 per cent in 2018.

But he did say that if house prices in Sydney and Melbourne continue their fall then the pain could spread to more borrowers.


Henry Sapiecha

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Posted by Henry | BANKRUPTCY,BANKS,GETTING OUT OF DEBT,HOME LOANS,MINING TOWNS | Thursday 27 August 2015 2:19 am

Mining regions are experiencing higher rates of mortgage arrears, Fitch Ratings says image

Mining regions are experiencing higher rates of mortgage arrears, Fitch Ratings says. Photo: Manfred Gottschalk

Job cuts in the resources sector are causing more households in mining regions to fall behind on their home loans, highlighting the risk to banks from the commodities slump.

Mortgage arrears rates are rising in mining regions across Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, Fitch Ratings said, due to deep costing cutting by miners.

At the same time, the house price boom in Sydney has dragged down the share of borrowers falling behind in suburbs in the city’s west and southwest – areas that have historically had among the highest loan delinquency rates in the country.

Mackay in central Queensland, a hub for the struggling coal industry, became the region with the highest share of loans by value that were more than 30 days in arrears, at 2.01 per cent.

This occurred after the region, which includes the Hay Point coal terminals, posted the sharpest deterioration in arrears in the six months to March, with a lift of 0.59 percentage points.

Regional Western Australia, which includes mining hubs such as Broome and Kalgoorlie, was the second-worst performing region, with an arrears rate of 1.88 per cent.

Fitch said mining-heavy areas of the Northern Territory were also affected by the trend.

“The slowdown and job cuts in the mining industry have hit non-metropolitan regions in the outback of Western Australia, in Northern Territory, and in the north and outback of Queensland,” the report said.

Despite more loans in mining areas falling into arrears, Fitch analyst James Zanesi said there had previously been higher arrears rates of 2.5 per cent to 2.6 per cent in other areas, such as Fairfield and Liverpool in Sydney or the Gold Coast after the global financial crisis.

“It’s the worst performing region, but in the past we’ve had worst performing regions with a higher delinquency rate,” Mr Zanesi said.

The best performing areas, in contrast, were the inner suburbs of Perth, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.

The report also said there had been a “remarkable” improvement in performance in outer west Sydney, Fairfield and Liverpool, and the central coast of NSW, which had been among the worst performing regions in the past decade.

The 30-day arrears rate had fallen from 1.92 per cent to 1.19 per cent in Fairfield-Liverpool in the year to March. While this is still higher than average, the improvement is significant.

Mr Zanesi said one reason for this change was Sydney’s booming housing market, which allows banks to sell houses with mortgages in default more quickly, moving them off their books. Borrowers in difficulty are also more likely to sell their house before defaulting when prices are rising.

“If you have a booming housing market you actually have an opportunity to sell the property before financial difficulties materialise,” he said.

Henry Sapiecha
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Posted by Henry | DEBT AGREEMENTS,GETTING OUT OF DEBT | Thursday 24 October 2013 10:20 am
Number of Australians turning to debt
agreements is on the rise
man interviews couple
Australians are turning to debt agreements over bankruptcy to escape financial
turmoil, with an increase of 68 per cent in the last five years according to a debt
management specialist.
He says the rise in debt agreements relates directly back to people’s need to protect their assets.
“Australian’s owe over $50 billion on credit cards as living costs force them to put
everyday expenses and even mortgage repayments on plastic,” He says.
“The part nine debt agreement is the best alternative for people who need to
consider bankruptcy but have assets they want to protect
“A debt agreement is still part of the bankruptcy act and, if entered into, it’s listed on
their credit file in the same way as bankruptcy, however it is increasingly becoming
the preferred option so struggling families don’t lose their home.”
Insolvency and Trustee Service Australia figures show there were 49,034
new debt agreements made between January 2007 and December 2012.
Brisbane woman Ms Gallagher says she feared the welfare of her family as she
struggled to keep up with the mortgage as well as tonnes of consumer debts.
“We were overwhelmed by debts and at limit on credit cards so I couldn’t even find a
way to move money around to improve the situation,” Ms Cronin says.
“It was starting to look like bankruptcy was our only solution, but I was determined to
find a way to keep the house.
“It was a security thing more than anything, we had lived there for years and I was
pregnant with my second child so we needed a home for our family.”
Ms Cronin says once she had done her research and decided to enter into a debt
agreement it was a matter of finding the right financial company for the process.
“I sent an email with my long list of questions to several different companies and I
received the most comprehensive response from these funders ” Ms Cronin
Creating a debt agreement is a very complex process for finance companies but I
was only ever shown compassion and understanding to my situation.

“I was fortunate to receive fast and efficient service, with my debt agreement being pulled together before I left work for maternity leave.

“I had a set amount to pay each week that was tailored to suit my budget, I paid it to
just one account and the rest was dealt with by Some lenders
He says entering customers into a part nine debt agreement is a complex
process, but makes payments very simple and straight forward for customers.
“Once an application is approved, all unsecured debts are included in the debt
agreement and the creditors will only receive a percentage of their debt back.
“The debts are frozen so no interest can be added on and at the completion of the debt agreement the remainder that wasn’t paid must be written off by creditors
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Henry Sapiecha
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