Financial hardship arrangement reporting is about to change

With interest rates on the way back up, there’s no doubt some households around the country are starting to do it a bit tough. Coincidentally, some big changes kick in on July 1 when it comes to recording financial hardship arrangements.

In the past, if you were unable to meet your loan repayments, you could enter into a financial hardship arrangement with your lender and it couldn’t be reported in official credit reporting systems.

In many cases, the repayment history in your credit report would show a blank month or possibly a missed payment during the hardship arrangement period.

Neither of these two approaches told the full story about your credit history and that a financial arrangement had been agreed upon with your lender.

So what’s changed from 1 July 2022?

Ok, so from July 1, the credit reporting system will introduce financial hardship information into credit reports.

This means that if you enter into a financial hardship arrangement that reduces your monthly loan repayments, then for the next 12 months your credit report will show:

– that you were current and up to date with your payments for that hardship month, provided you made your reduced payments on time; and

– a flag alongside your repayment history information for the hardship month, indicating a special payment arrangement was in place.

The flag in the credit report will be referred to as ‘financial hardship information’ and can take two forms (A or V) depending on the type of arrangement:

A indicates there was an arrangement for the month that temporarily deferred your repayments (which will need to be repaid later or be subject to a further arrangement).

V on the other hand means the loan was varied that month to reduce your repayments.

The good news is that the financial hardship information flag will only stay on your credit report for 12 months, whereas regular repayment history information stays for 24 months.

So is all this good or bad news?

Well, like most changes in life, it comes with pros and cons.

The changes are intended to give you the ability to ‘protect’ your credit report if you experience financial hardship – in no way are they designed to exclude you from applying for credit.

However, a financial hardship arrangement flag may prompt prospective lenders to make further inquiries to better understand your situation.

If, for example, the hardship arose because of a temporary reduction in your work hours, but you’re now back in stable employment, in most cases it shouldn’t cause any major issues for your loan application – especially if we can provide proof to your prospective lender.

Additionally, hardship arrangements can stem from a natural disaster that’s completely outside your control, such as a flood or bushfire, which can be explained to a lender.

Importantly, the financial hardship information cannot be used by a credit reporting body to calculate your credit score, whereas regular repayments that are missed outside a hardship arrangement will impact your credit score.

Having trouble meeting your repayments? Get in touch

As you’ve probably noticed, the Reserve Bank of Australia has been aggressively raising the official cash rate in recent months, which means your monthly repayments would most certainly have gone up if you’re on a variable loan rate.

And if you’re on a fixed loan rate, you also need to think ahead to what your monthly repayments might be when the fixed-rate period ends and reverts to a variable rate.

So if you think more rate rises may soon strain your monthly budget, now is a good time to start putting extra money away into an offset or savings account to build up a buffer.

Other options we can help out with are refinancing and debt consolidation, both of which can help reduce your monthly repayments.

Whatever your circumstances, we’re here to support you however we can over the period ahead.

Disclaimer: The content of this article is general in nature and is presented for informative purposes. It is not intended to constitute tax or financial advice, whether general or personal nor is it intended to imply any recommendation or opinion about a financial product. It does not take into consideration your personal situation and may not be relevant to circumstances. Before taking any action, consider your own particular circumstances and seek professional advice. This content is protected by copyright laws and various other intellectual property laws. It is not to be modified, reproduced or republished without prior written consent.

Want a first home buyer scheme spot? Here’s how to get the inside lane

We’re just days away from 35,000 first home buyer scheme spots becoming available on July 1. If you’re keen to snare a place in the scheme – and buy your first home sooner – here’s how to get ahead of the pack.

Have you heard about the federal government’s Home Guarantee Scheme? (previously called the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme).

It allows you to buy your first home with just a 5% deposit and pay no lenders’ mortgage insurance (LMI)

First home buyers who use the scheme fast-track their property purchase by 4 to 4.5 years on average, because they don’t have to save the standard 20% deposit.

Better yet, not paying LMI can save you anywhere between $4,000 and $35,000, depending on the property price and your deposit amount.

But once July 1 arrives, competition for the 35,000 spots will be fierce, so here’s how to give yourself the best possible chance of securing a place.

Get the jump on the competition

End-of-financial-year: it’s a phrase that usually sends a shiver up your spine.

But getting your 2021/22 tax return in order asap can give you the inside lane when it comes to jagging one of those 35,000 FHB spots come July 1.

That’s because lenders require your most recent financial information when assessing your home loan application, and that will most likely include your latest tax return.

So now is the time to:

1. Speak to your employer to make sure they’ll provide your PAYG summary in a timely fashion.

2. Book an appointment with your accountant in July (before availability fills up).

3. Start compiling all your work-related expenses.

How we can help

Getting your tax return completed is just one (important) step in the process.

But it’s far from the only one.

When assessing your application, lenders require you to provide them with an accurate picture of your monthly expenses and discretionary spending, which can take a little time to put together.

And that’s where we come in.

Not only can we help you calculate your monthly budget – which includes your income and expenses – but we can help you crunch those numbers to give you an idea of your borrowing capacity, and therefore, what you can afford to buy.

This is especially important if you want a spot in the Home Guarantee Scheme because it has borrowing caps depending on where you want to buy.

And lenders these days are increasingly strict when it comes to your debt-to-income ratio and home loan serviceability – both of which contribute to your borrowing capacity.

Last but not least, you might have heard that interest rates are almost certain to increase over the next 12 months – so it’s also important to factor in a little buffer if needed.

Get the ball rolling today

Places in the Home Guarantee Scheme are generally allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

And don’t let this year’s expansion to 35,000 spots lull you into a sense of complacency – they’ll get snapped up fairly quickly.

So if you’re a first home buyer looking to crack into the property market sooner rather than later, get in touch today and we can explain the scheme to you in more detail, help check if you’re eligible, and take steps to get the ball rolling.

Then when spots become available on July 1, we’ll be ready to help you apply through a participating lender.

Disclaimer: The content of this article is general in nature and is presented for informative purposes. It is not intended to constitute tax or financial advice, whether general or personal nor is it intended to imply any recommendation or opinion about a financial product. It does not take into consideration your personal situation and may not be relevant to circumstances. Before taking any action, consider your own particular circumstances and seek professional advice. This content is protected by copyright laws and various other intellectual property laws. It is not to be modified, reproduced or republished without prior written consent.

No more Mr Nice Guy: the ATO wants its money

Tax time is just around the corner and the ATO has sent out a warning to businesses around the country that owe it money: the COVID-19 moratorium on debt collection has come to an end. Rest assured though, you’ve got some options.

During the early days of the pandemic, the ATO says it deliberately shifted its focus away from firmer debt collection action to help businesses that were experiencing challenges.

However, the ATO has been busy in recent months sending out almost 30,000 awareness letters for business tax debts and 52,319 awareness letters about the use of Director Penalty Notices.

“We’ve seen an encouraging response. More than 20,000 taxpayers have already responded to our awareness letters by making payments or entering into payment plans,” says ATO Deputy Commissioner Vivek Chaudhary.

What happens if you get a letter and don’t respond?

In a nutshell: nothing good.

The ATO has already issued nearly 300 intent to disclose notices and has commenced disclosing some debts to credit reporting bureaus Equifax and Creditor Watch.

The ATO is also currently issuing 30 to 40 Director Penalty Notices each day and expects that daily number to increase.

If you get one of these notices, you’re in hot water and need to act quickly.

Worst case scenario, if you don’t immediately pay back the debt, the ATO could sue you in court, which could lead to your business going into liquidation or voluntary administration.

And if you have a business loan that’s secured against your family house, that could be at risk, too.

So what are your options?

First and foremost, if you receive any correspondence from the ATO about a tax debt you should contact your registered tax professional straight away, or call the ATO to engage in a payment plan.

Mr Chaudhary says the ATO’s preferred approach is always to work with taxpayers to resolve their situation through engagement rather than enforcement.

“We understand that a lot of people – especially small businesses – have done it tough through COVID and may now have a tax debt,” says Mr Chaudhary.

“But don’t stick your head in the sand. Even if you can’t pay the full amount owed straight away, please contact us or your registered tax professional to discuss and we will work with you to set up an appropriate payment arrangement.”

That said, not everyone enjoys the ATO hovering over their shoulder waiting for them to pay off a large tax debt.

If you’re one of those people, feel free to get in touch with us to explore some of your other options with business loan lenders.

The SME lending space is growing each month, with a surge of new lenders and products recently hitting the market – some of which offer flexible repayment options.

Disclaimer: The content of this article is general in nature and is presented for informative purposes. It is not intended to constitute tax or financial advice, whether general or personal nor is it intended to imply any recommendation or opinion about a financial product. It does not take into consideration your personal situation and may not be relevant to circumstances. Before taking any action, consider your own particular circumstances and seek professional advice. This content is protected by copyright laws and various other intellectual property laws. It is not to be modified, reproduced or republished without prior written consent.

Refinancing numbers are surging across the country, here’s why

Rising interest rates got you feeling a little vulnerable? It might be time to take some control back by refinancing or asking for a rate review. Here’s why we’re seeing refinancing numbers surge across the country.

In just two months we’ve seen the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) increase the cash rate from a record-low 0.10% to 0.85%, and it hasn’t taken long for most lenders to pass those rate increases on to customers.

Unfortunately, the RBA has warned that more rate hikes are on the way, which might have left you feeling at your lender’s mercy.

But there are ways you can make yourself feel more in control, including by doing what tens of thousands of mortgage holders around the country did in May: refinancing or asking their current lender for a better rate.

Homeowners are refinancing in droves

According to PEXA’s latest refinancing insights, refinancing increased by more than 20% in May (from April) across each of Australia’s four most populous states.

Here’s a quick breakdown:

NSW: 10,838 refinances. That’s up 20.8% on April, and up 15.6% year on year.

VIC: 11,500 refinances. May up 26.7% on April, and up 23.3% year on year.

QLD: 6,699 refinances. May up 21.8% on April, and up 49.6% year on year

WA: 3,244 refinances. May up 25% on April, and up 46.1% year on year

So why the big increase in refinancing?

Lenders now, more than ever, need to attract and retain borrowers.

So just because rates are going up, doesn’t mean you can’t scope out a better deal – especially if you have a decent amount of equity and a strong track record of meeting your mortgage repayments.

If that sounds like you: you’re a good customer. And lenders want good customers.

The other big reason for the recent surge in refinancing is that smaller lenders are stealing more and more borrowers away from the major banks with super-competitive rates.

In fact, in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia combined, the major banks and their subsidiaries had a net loss of more than 5,000 borrowers to non-major lenders in May, according to PEXA.

Competition is fierce!

Why work with a broker now?

The amount of loans being written by brokers continues to grow.

In fact, brokers are currently writing 70% of all new home loans in the country – the biggest market share ever.

And as you know, brokers are loyal to you, not to any particular lender.

That means that if we think you can get a better deal elsewhere, we’ll encourage and help you to do so – not hope that you’ll stay put on your current rate.

And even if you don’t want to refinance with another lender, there’s always the option of asking your current bank to review your rate (and indicating that you’re prepared to refinance if they don’t come to the table).

So if you’d like to find out more about what options are available to you, get in touch with us today – we’d love to help you feel like you have some agency in the period ahead.

Disclaimer: The content of this article is general in nature and is presented for informative purposes. It is not intended to constitute tax or financial advice, whether general or personal nor is it intended to imply any recommendation or opinion about a financial product. It does not take into consideration your personal situation and may not be relevant to circumstances. Before taking any action, consider your own particular circumstances and seek professional advice. This content is protected by copyright laws and various other intellectual property laws. It is not to be modified, reproduced or republished without prior written consent.

RBA increases cash rate for second consecutive month, to 0.85%

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has increased the official cash rate by 50 basis points to 0.85%. How much extra should you expect to pay on your home loan?

Today’s cash rate hike is the second in as many months, with the RBA last month increasing the official cash rate from a record-low 0.10% to 0.35% amid high inflation concerns.

Before then, we hadn’t had a cash rate hike since November 2010.

Now usually, the RBA increases or decreases the cash rate by 0.25%.

However, today’s larger than expected 0.50% cash rate hike is due to inflation in Australia having “increased significantly”, said RBA Governor Philip Lowe in a statement.

“Given the current inflation pressures in the economy, and the still very low level of interest rates, the Board decided to move by 50 basis points today,” said Governor Lowe.

“Higher prices for electricity and gas and recent increases in petrol prices mean that, in the near term, inflation is likely to be higher than was expected a month ago.”

How much more will your mortgage cost each month?

Unless you’re on a fixed-rate mortgage, it’s extremely likely the banks will follow the RBA’s lead and increase the interest rate on your home loan very soon.

How much your repayments will go up each month depends on a number of factors, including how your particular bank responds to the cash rate increase and the size of your mortgage.

But let’s say you’re an owner-occupier with a 25-year loan of $500,000 (paying principal and interest).

This month’s 50 basis point increase to 0.85% means your monthly repayments could increase by about $133 a month.

If you have a loan of $750,0000, repayments will likely increase by about $200 a month, and a $1 million loan is expected to cost an extra $265 a month.

If you’re worried about your monthly repayments, get in touch

It’s very likely that we’ll see more RBA cash rate hikes before the year is out.

In fact, the RBA has basically said as much.

So if you’re worried about what interest rate rises might mean for your monthly budget, feel free to get in touch with us today to explore some options.

This could include refinancing or locking in a fixed rate ahead of any other future rate hikes.

Disclaimer: The content of this article is general in nature and is presented for informative purposes. It is not intended to constitute tax or financial advice, whether general or personal nor is it intended to imply any recommendation or opinion about a financial product. It does not take into consideration your personal situation and may not be relevant to circumstances. Before taking any action, consider your own particular circumstances and seek professional advice. This content is protected by copyright laws and various other intellectual property laws. It is not to be modified, reproduced or republished without prior written consent.

Banks tighten lending, reducing the maximum you can borrow

Some of Australia’s biggest banks have tightened their mortgage lending criteria, meaning you might not be able to borrow as much from them. How might this affect your next purchase?

This week ANZ lowered a key lending cap, indicating it will no longer lend to borrowers with a debt-to-income (DTI) ratio above 7.5 (meaning people can borrow up to seven and a half times their gross annual income).

NAB meanwhile has reduced its cap to eight times a borrower’s income.

Up until this month, both banks had been willing to lend up to nine times a borrower’s income.

In effect, the changes mean the maximum amount you can borrow with them to buy a property will be reduced.

Fellow big four banks CBA and Westpac have not announced any reductions but have said they’re already applying tighter lending rules to borrowers seeking loans with high DTI ratios.

Why are banks tightening lending?

The increased focus on lending caps comes as financial institutions and the industry regulator, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), prepare for the impact of higher interest rates (many economists are tipping another rate hike in June).

APRA started making moves as early as late last year when it announced new borrowers would need to be tested to see if they could cope with interest rates at least 3% above the current rate (up from 2.5% previously).

Then, this week APRA Chair Wayne Byers indicated the regulator was concerned about the rise in high DTI loans being issued by some banks.

“We will also be watching closely the experience of borrowers who have borrowed at high multiples of their income – a cohort that has grown notably over the past year,” he told the AFR Banking Summit in Sydney.

“Interestingly, this growth has not been an industry-wide development, but rather has been concentrated in just a few banks.”

So how do DTI ratios work?

Your DTI ratio is very simple to work out.

The formula is: total debt / gross income = debt-to-income ratio.

So, if you’re seeking a $700,000 home loan (and have no other debt), and you have $160,000 in gross household income, your DTI is 4.375 – a ratio most lenders would be very comfortable with.

However, a household in the same financial position seeking to borrow $1.4 million for a home would have a DTI of 8.75, putting it above the caps now being imposed by ANZ and NAB.

So how much can you safely afford to borrow?

There’s a fine line between maximising your investment opportunities and stretching yourself beyond your limits, especially with interest rates on the rise.

And that’s where we come in.

It’s not only important to stress-test what you can borrow in the current financial landscape, but also against any upcoming headwinds that are tipped to hit borrowers – such as multiple interest rate rises.

So, if you’d like to find out your borrowing capacity and options, get in touch today. We’d love to sit down with you and help you map out a plan.

Disclaimer: The content of this article is general in nature and is presented for informative purposes. It is not intended to constitute tax or financial advice, whether general or personal nor is it intended to imply any recommendation or opinion about a financial product. It does not take into consideration your personal situation and may not be relevant to circumstances. Before taking any action, consider your own particular circumstances and seek professional advice. This content is protected by copyright laws and various other intellectual property laws. It is not to be modified, reproduced or republished without prior written consent.