Posts Tagged ‘mortgage rate’

Is it better for potential first home-owner to save first or jump first?

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

Among the different class of property buyers, first home-owners are the most vulnerable. This is because they have the least outstanding equity, which means there is a greater chance of negative equity should they have to sell their home in a hurry. The equity portion of your property is its market price less the outstanding debt you owe on it. Let’s say the market price of a property is $500,000 and you have an outstanding debt of $450,000 remaining on the mortgage debt, your equity is $50,000. Negative equity occurs when the market price of the property falls so much that it is below your outstanding debt. This means that if you liquidate the property, you will still owe the bank money.

Worse still, for first home-owner, at the initial stage of the debt repayment, most of the payments goes to servicing the interest, leaving very little for reducing the principal of the debt. For example, for a 30-year $450,000 at 8.5% interest p.a., the first monthly repayment of $3460.11 consists of $3187.50 of interest payment. At the end of 3 years, the interest payment is $3111.11. In other words, in the first 3 years, the first home-owner gets to reduce the outstanding debt by only $11,000 while paying a total of around $124,000!

So, given the amount of bad news regarding the economy lately, many potential first home-owners are becoming more cautious about jumping into the property ladder. Some may opt to delay their purchase in order to save more to ensure that they have a greater equity when the time comes to buy the property. But what if the property prices climb too fast while they save, resulting in them being priced out of the market by the time they are ready to buy? Or, should they jump in now or should they delay?

Well, the answer to this question will depend on these factors:

  1. How much they save
  2. Savings interest rate
  3. Mortgage rate
  4. How fast property price rise
  5. How much deposit they already have

To answer this question, we constructed an Excel model to simulate the financial outcome between jumping in now or delaying to save. Our Excel model contains the following parameters:

  1. Wage inflation rate- this determines the growth of monthly savings due to wage rise
  2. Property price inflation rate- this is the rate at which property price rise per year
  3. Savings rate- this is the interest paid on the savings
  4. Mortgage rate
  5. Initial deposit for the property
  6. Extra repayment- the extra amount above the mortgage repayment that you can pay/save
  7. Amount of to borrow
  8. Loan period in number of years

So, we punch in the following numbers for our simulator:

  1. Loan period- 30 years
  2. Amount to borrow- $450,000
  3. Initial deposit- $50,000 (i.e. 10% deposit for a $500,000 home)
  4. Mortgage rate- 7% (this is far below the current mortgage rate)
  5. Savings rate- 5% (this is far below the current term deposit rate)
  6. Property price inflation- 6% (this assumes that property prices will increase 6% p.a. forever and ever)
  7. Wage inflation rate- 0% (this assumes that your wage rate get frozen for 30 years and thus, cannot increase your monthly savings amount or make extra monthly repayment for the next 30 years).
  8. Extra repayment-0

These numbers are intentionally unrealistic to illustrate a point. Guess what is the outcome? By the 359th month, the property price will be $2,709,193.95. If you choose to save, your savings will be $2,711,133.30. This means, if you buy with cash on that month, you will have $1935.35 left over. But if you choose the borrowing route, you will still have $2,976.50 in outstanding debt.

Let’s tweak the figures a little. Let’s say your wage inflation rate is 3%. This means you can make extra loan repayments or increase your monthly savings as your wage grows. You will then find that your debt balance is always higher if you jump into the market now. Now, let’s make the property price inflation rate be 7%. You will find that it is more advantageous to save than to jump in for the first 6 years.

Playing around with the simulator, we find that if you are a high-powered saver, you can still be better off delaying your purchase for several years even if property prices appreciate (up to a certain point) in those years.

Why are Australian banks not willing to lower mortgage rates?

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

Australian banks have been under pressure from many fronts to lower their mortgage rates in response to a possible interest rate cuts from the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA). The government and opposition parties are demanding that the banks should do the ‘right’ thing by easing the strain of the working majority. The RBA added to the pressure by declaring that it sees no reason why mortgage rates should not lowered in response to monetary easing. The media poured fuel into the fire by accusing the banks of greed.

So far, none of the banks are committed to do so- none pledged to lower their lending rates to match the RBA’s cut in the cash rate. As we said before in Too eager for an interest rate cut?,

Fourth, an interest rate cut by the RBA need not necessary mean a cut in the mortgage rate. In fact, the opposite can occur.

Understandably, with Australian households under unprecedented debt stress, this has fuelled popular sentiments against the banks. They have become the new bogeyman to target. But as one of our readers said very well in Would the RBA?s rate cut do any good?,

It is not so much bank bashing (kind of pointless beyond the immediate feel good and but easy to slip into) but the realities do need to be looked at, and yes, I agree it may be far too late for the banks to do much else and are themselves to an extent pawns in the bigger global picture.

Here, we try not to pass moral judgements on banks. After all, banks are just impersonal profit-making institutions. Therefore, it is inappropriate to apply moral motives on non-person entities. What can expect from entities in which their clearly stated objectives is to make profits?

While it is true that the money market rates for the banks have fallen since the market’s expectation of an interest rate cuts has risen, does that automatically mean that this alone is a good reason to cut mortgage rates? Motives aside, what are the possible reasons why banks are not willing to lower mortgage rates? We can think of a few reasons here:

  1. Mortgages are long-term debt (typically up to 30 years). Cash raised from money markets are short-term credit (which ranges from 1 month to 1 year). How can we expect the banks to lower their long-term lending rates just because the cost of their short-term credit has fallen? Indeed, as the situation for the non-bank lenders like RAMS had shown, borrowing short-term money to fund long-term lending is a good way to become bankrupt, thanks to the credit crunch. This flows on to the next point…
  2. Because of the risk involved with funding long-term debt entirely with short-term credit, banks have to diversify their lending source. As this news article said,

    Our banks raise about half their cash from local deposits, a quarter from local bonds and the rest from the global market.

    While the RBA may have some influence on the domestic short-term money market rates, we can assure you that they have no influence on the global markets. Indeed, as we explained before in Can falling interest rates and rising mortgage rate come together?, there is insufficient savings domestically to fund all the loans. Therefore, the banks have to get the shortfall from overseas and submit themselves to the global credit conditions. The global credit conditions are far from settled and major eruptions can still occur any time. As we said before in The next financial time bomb- Credit Default Swaps, CDS is the next global time bomb to explode. Indeed as this news article reported,

    Most institutional investors expect another failure of a major financial services firm in the coming year and view credit default swaps as a serious threat to market stability, according to a survey by Greenwich Associates.

    Once the banks cut their mortgage rates, it will be very unpopular for them to raise them again in the event of further ructions in the global credit markets.

  3. What if the banks expect more bad debts in the future? Lending rates are proportional to the risk of default of the loans. The banks’ unwillingness to lower mortgage rates could be a sign that they are pricing in more risks on their loans.
  4. It is open knowledge that price inflation is still on the rise in Australia. In fact, the RBA expects price inflation to peak at around 5% before turning down again. For any given nominal rate, rising price inflation implies a lowering of real rate. As we explained before in Is property a good hedge against hyperinflation?, during times of hyperinflation,

    At the same time, you can expect bankers to raise borrowing rates very quickly to protect their profits.

    By not raising their lending rates when price inflation are trending upwards, banks are actually losing money in real terms.

Finally, we would like to point out that we are by no means defending the banks. Neither should this be construed as ‘predictions’ that banks will never lower their mortgage rates.

Can falling interest rates and rising mortgage rate come together?

Monday, July 21st, 2008

Yesterday, in Too eager for an interest rate cut?, we said that

Fourth, an interest rate cut by the RBA need not necessary mean a cut in the mortgage rate. In fact, the opposite can occur.

Today, we will elaborate on that.

A large fraction of Australia’s borrowed money is sourced from overseas through the ‘shadow’ banking system. In other words, there are not enough domestic deposits to fund all the needed credit (e.g. home loans) in this country. As we explained before in Rising price of money through the demise of ?shadow? banking system, with the fall of the ‘shadow’ banking system, the supply of credit shrinks. This resulted in a rise in the price of money.

That is why non-bank mortgage lenders (e.g. RAMS) found their business in trouble. Because they are not banks, they do not have access to deposits to fund their lending. Their only source of funding is through the ‘shadow’ banking system. When money from that system dried up (i.e. credit crisis), they could no longer lend money as cheaply as before.

The banks, on the other hand, are not left off the hook. Because of their deposit base, they are in a better to weather the credit crisis storm. But overall, there is still a shortfall of deposits to provide for all the demand for lending. As the de-leveraging of the global financial system continues, the price of money will continue to increase. This left the banks with two choices:

  1. Increase the cost of loans (e.g. mortgage rate).
  2. Attract more deposits with higher interest rates- that’s where all the attractive term deposit interest rates from the banks come from.

For Australia to be completely free from the ‘shadow’ banking system, two things must happen:

  1. Borrowing must decrease.
  2. Savings must increase.

This is the only way to bridge the gap left by the credit crisis in the absence of any central bank intervention. We believe that the credit crisis will worsen (see Is the credit crisis the end of the beginning?), which means the gap will widen, which in turn implies even higher lending rate. Since the Australian economy is very much addicted to credit to keep going, any dramatic fall in its supply will have serious repercussions. What to do if such a day eventuate?

Not to worry, because Australia has a central bank (note: sarcasm here)! Since the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) is the only institution that can create credit out of thin air, we can be sure they will cut interest rates and be the lender of last resort when the day of reckoning comes. But that does not necessarily mean that mortgage rate will come down too, as reported in this news article, RBA rate cuts may fail to ease mortgage pain,

National Australia Bank chief economist Alan Oster, just back from a month in Europe, said a reprise of the British experience, where banks failed to ease the burden on borrowers despite official rates falling 75 basis points over six months, was not out of the question.