Home loan exit fees can make all the difference between a seemingly good deal and one that goes sour.
If you want to pay off your home loan ahead of time or want to refinance an existing home loan you should be wary of the exit fees you might have to pay. While the 2011 ban on exit fees does make matters simpler if you’ve got a variable rate home loan, if you’ve got a fixed rate loan you’ll still have reason to watch out for them. Even a variable rate loan can attract fees in other forms if you decide to repay it before the term is actually over.
Exit fees can come in the form of discharge fees, early termination fees and break costs. Lenders have these in place primarily to deter borrowers from changing loans frequently, but also to cover costs they incur as part of the process.
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Exit fee ban
Exit fees, until lot so long ago, discouraged many borrowers from switching loans, given that they often amounted to thousands of dollars. However, as part of reforms to some banking products, government regulations banned lenders from charging exit fees for all variable rate home loans taken out after 1 July 2011. This move came about after the government felt that exit fees served as a major impediment for people trying to switch loans or pay them off early. Fixed rate home loans and variable rate loans taken before 1 July 2011 will still attract exit fees, but anecdotal evidence suggests that if some lenders will waive or discount the exit fees on some variable rate home loans taken out before the ban.
While the government banned exit fees for variable rate loans, lenders can still charge legitimate administrative costs. Discharge fees vary from $150 to $400 and this is what you’ll have to pay to get a hold of your title deeds. Lenders can also charge what they refer to as ‘early discharge’ or ‘early termination fees’. You might have to pay this if you repay the loan amount completely within a stipulated time frame, for example within the first five years. The flipside is that the law states that these charges cannot exceed the losses incurred by lenders owing to such early loan terminations. The most important takeaway to remember is that if you feel these charges are excessive or unfair, don’t hesitate to lodge a complaint with your lender.
What are the big four banks' home loan exit fees?
- Westpac charges $350 in discharge costs for their Rocket Repay Home Loan
- CBA charges a discharge fee of $350 for their Standard Variable and Base Home Loans but do not charge a fee for their No Fee Home Loan.
- NAB charge $350 in discharge settlement fees for their Tailored Home Loan
- ANZ charge $160 in settlement fees (in addition to other fees to access government records and to lodge paperwork).
How expensive are exit fees?
Just how much you have to pay in the form of exit fees depends on the kind of loan you have. In any case, expect to pay discharge fees, which lenders charge to cover administrative costs (see the table below). If you have a fixed rate loan and want to exit early, you can expect your lender to charge a break fee.
Break fees, also known as break costs or early repayment fees, depend on multiple factors like the original loan amount, outstanding balance, how much time remains on the fixed term and the prevailing interest rate. The higher the outstanding balance, the higher the break costs. The same also applies with the remaining loan term. When it comes to the interest rate, lenders compare the interest rate of loans with the prevailing interest rate—if the prevailing interest rate is lower, expect to pay break costs.
Break costs often come into the picture if you want to leave your home loan when there’s a better deal, or if you make too many additional repayments on your home loan. Even if you’re not leaving your loan to refinance, there are many reasons you might leave your home loan, such as moving overseas or interstate, accepting sudden profitable offers from buyers or receiving a substantial increase in income.
Irrespective of the reason, knowing just how much you have to pay in the form of break costs can help you make an informed decision about your home loan. Remember that there’s no standardised break fee and you can ask your lender ahead of time how much you might have to pay if you choose to repay your loan sooner than scheduled.
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How can I avoid them?
While having to pay some kind of a fee is almost guaranteed if you choose to repay your loan ahead of time, you can take certain measures to avoid them. If you have a variable rate loan taken before 1 July 2011, you can attempt to ask your lender to waive the fee. If that doesn’t work, you can ask your lender to at least offer you some kind of a discount considering that variable rate loans today don’t charge it.
If you’re looking at refinancing options owing to better interest rates, consider pressuring your lender into offering a discount by stating that you wish to refinance rather than leaving your loan. To keep your business, they may match the offer you have presented to them. With this discount in place, you don’t have to worry about refinancing and the associated exit fees. However, before you bargain with your bank, make sure you study existing options on the market so you know exactly what you’re up against.
People who know they’ll own their homes for limited periods should look for home loans that charge little or no exit fees, even if it means looking for loans with slightly higher interest rates. If you plan to refinance, know that certain non-banks charge as much as 1.5 per cent of your loan amount as early termination fees. Most importantly, read all the fine print relating to exit fees carefully when you apply for a loan, as this can save you considerable heartache later.
If you’ve decided that you want to pay off your loan ahead of time or that you want to switch to a new loan, establish just how much you’ll have to pay as part of the process after accounting for all exit and early repayment fees. If you’re looking for refinancing options, compare the rates of existing loans and find out if you’ll actually save by making the switch. If you’ll save money, go for it.