Monday, March 8, 2010

Tips on refinancing your home loan

Tue, Jul 21, 2009

The Straits Times
By Annie Lim
With banks aggressively marketing their promotional packages, some home owners are looking into their current home loan interest rates and contemplating refinancing.

Refinancing refers to a situation where the property owners move from one mortgage loan package to another with the intention of (1) saving money by reducing interest rates; (2) restructuring the loan by including cash term loan or overdraft facilities; (3) moving to a different loan structure, such as from the conventional interest rate package to one that is linked to the interest rate of a current account.

However, do bear in mind that the low rates that are advertised may come with certain terms and conditions which may not suit your financial planning requirements. Here are some things to consider:

Flexibility: If you are planning to sell your property in the short term - say in one year or so - you may not want to get into a new package that locks you in for a period longer than you intend to keep the loan. If you do go ahead, be prepared to pay a lock-in penalty which is usually between 1per cent and 2 per cent of the loan amount as well as 'claw back' amounts.

The lock-in period is usually a percentage of the original or reducing loan amount. And claw back applies to the amount that must be returned to the lending bank should you terminate the loan. This usually includes legal subsidy, valuation, fire insurance or cash rebates.

Certainty: If you are currently in a fixed rate package where there is certainty and predictability, are you comfortable about moving to a variable package with volatility and uncertainty? Variable loan packages linked to the Singapore Interbank Offered Rate or the Swap Offer Rate are key products offered by most banks.

Before you sign into a seemingly attractive loan rate from a competing bank, check if your existing lender can offer you the same rates or terms that first drew your attention. Most lenders - once they know their borrowers wish to refinance - will be inclined to beat their competitors, particularly if the client is one with good financial standing and payment record.

For clients without fantastic payment records, it may be difficult to refinance as the new bank may not want to take them in. In such situations, there is more reason for the home owner to try to negotiate for better rates from his existing lender.

Advantages of staying with existing lender

To keep loans that they might otherwise lose, many lenders have loyalty programmes designed to recapture borrowers who are determined to refinance.

If you are currently in a lock-in period, it may be more advantageous to stay with your current bank and re-negotiate rates as moving to another bank may be costly. For instance, you have to incur a settlement cost with your existing lender before you move to a different bank and this may include a lock-in penalty and claw back amounts. Sometimes, the new lender may entice you by offering to pay the penalty subsidy, that is, absorbing all your present settlement cost. But this often comes with conditions, such as longer lock-in periods, some up to seven years.

Moreover, if you are not looking to take any cash out of your home loan but only seeking to reduce the interest rate, the lender may elect simply to reduce the interest rate on your current loan rather than refinance. This avoids all settlement costs except for some charges required for changing the contract.

Disadvantages of re-pricing with your current lender

Most banks do expect their existing client to re-negotiate loan rates. As such, they have in place a standard 'rate change package'. However, though the rate offered by such packages is usually lower than your existing rate, it is higher than current market rates offered to new customers.

For example, if the market loan rate is 2 per cent, the lender might offer you 3 per cent because your mortgage rate is currently 4 per cent. But a similar borrower moving to another bank may be offered 2 per cent.

In addition, you may not get the best service from your existing lender, since there is little incentive for the lender to close a deal at a lower mortgage rate than previously. This may not be deliberate but new loans are generally being signed faster than re-pricing loans. However, of late, most banks have set up a special re-pricing team and hence service levels for existing customers have improved.

Refinancing with the same bank is not cost-free either, as most would charge at least $500 to $800 to cover costs like the mortgage stamp fee.

On the flipside, most banks offer a legal subsidy to new customers who are refinancing. So as long as the refinancing results in net savings, the client will consider doing so.
Finally, do note that whether it is re-pricing with the current bank or refinancing with another bank, once you have signed the Letter of Offer, there is no turning back and the cancellation penalty kicks in if you change your mind.

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

No comments:

Post a Comment