Islamic Home Loans
You can fulfil the dream of buying a home while living in accordance with Islamic law
Islam prohibits interest being charged on home loans, which makes it difficult for someone of Islamic faith to find the right home loan that’s consistent with their religious beliefs. While Islamic home loans enable you to finance your own home- Australia’s lending laws still apply.
Islamic home loans are available for many purposes such as construction and purchasing vacant land, although they are not typically used for refinancing purposes. They also come in full documentation and low documentation versions, depending on your leasing needs.
With an Islamic home loan, you can choose the home and then the financial institution will buy it from the seller. This same financial institution then makes an agreement to lease the home for a pre-determined period of time, which is known as Ijarah Muntahiyah Bittamlik. At the time of the final lease payment, ownership of the home will be transferred to you in the form of a promissory gift, or hiba.
As General Manager of Iskan Finance, Russell Murphy confirms: “For our customers, at the date of settlement, they are registered as the owner. We’ve taken the mortgage from them, and secured a transaction agreement that doesn’t express principal or interest.”
“This style of mortgage financing has many of the hallmarks of an operating lease with the object of better alignment with Sharia law, hopefully providing financing alternatives for Muslim’s otherwise uncomfortable to pursue home ownership.”
With just 1.7% of the Australian population being Muslim, there are limited Sharia compliant home finance programmes on the market.
However, according to Ernst & Young (2010), Islamic banking assets have experienced rapid growth and are forecast to increase by an average of 19.7% a year until 2018, and a number of Australian financial institutions have examined Muslim financing concepts such as profit sharing and rent to buy, whilst trying to avoid terms such as ‘interest’ in contractual agreements.
Islamic finance is underpinned by Sharia values that are consistent with Islamic legislation. The fundamental principles concerned with Islamic home loans are outlined below.
- Prohibition of paying and receiving interest (ribā): Interest cannot be charged or paid in any financial transaction under Islamic law.
- Prohibition of uncertainty (gharār): While ambiguity is forbidden, risk-taking is permitted when the leasing agreement terms are clearly laid out between all parties involved.
- Profit and loss sharing: Under Islamic law, all parties must share the risks and rewards associated with the financial transaction.
- Musharakah (profit and loss sharing partnership): Under this contract, a partnership is established in which the parties agree to contribute to the capital of the partnership and agree to share the associated profit or loss.
- Musharakah Mutanaqisah (diminishing partnership): This is a musharakah contract in which one of the parties agrees to purchase the equity share of the other party in the form of rental installments until the title of equity is transferred to the buyer in full.
The purchase of a property is typically financed through a mortgage agreement where the property is financed through borrowed funds from the lender. The borrower is required to repay this loan amount, plus interest, via a predetermined repayment schedule.
The bank has security over the property, which means that if the borrower defaults on their home loan, the lender can enforce a sale of the property to recover the outstanding funds that are owed.
In contrast, some of the earlier Islamic home finance programmes in Australia involved the institution partnering in the purchase of the property and then selling it to the buyer at a cost plus profit, or joining in a capital gain on sale. For the period of the transaction, the buyer amortised the outstanding debt through rental installments.
More recent product developments, however, have had stamp duty and capital gains tax implications, and have looked to the Islamic principles of Ijara (lease) or Murabaha (sale with profit) where the financial institution enters into a virtual rent to buy arrangement with the buyer over a specified time frame.
Mr Murphy states: This means that every rental payment the customer makes will increase their equity in the property and subsequently decrease the provider’s equity. Once the customer has fully repaid the amount, there’s no actual transfer of title involved and this addresses tax implications.
“Islamic finance is largely about the philosophical side of things- it’s where Western banking meets Islamic banking. We offer an alternative solution for Muslims in an Australian landscape.”
“Ours is a common mortgage transaction that’s fully functional. It has all the bells and whistles of a traditional banking facility, such as an offset with a debit card attached to it and the ability to transact over the internet, but the main difference is that although we refer to capital, we don’t express principal and interest. Rather, we charge a rental facility fee.”
“In a highly regulated environment you have to be pragmatic about what you can, and can’t offer. When people have English as a second language, you have to place yourself on the moral high ground, as people often misunderstand what they’ve been told, so National Consumer Credit obligations aside, we’re very careful to disclose all the costs involved.”
Therefore the fundamental difference between a typical home loan and a Sharia-compliant home loan is underpinned by the borrowing terms (i.e. interest with a typical home loan, and rental or profit fee with an Islamic home loan).
Aaban wants to own a home in AustraliaAs a hard working Australian resident, Aaban has decided that he would like to settle down and buy a home in the outskirts of Auburn, Sydney.
As the Islamic religion forbids borrowing money to be repaid with interest, Aaban approaches a local financial institution that provides alternative forms of lending. The lender conducts a preliminary assessment of Aaban’s financial situation and issues a conditional letter of approval on behalf of the funder.
The property he’d like to purchase is valued at $310,000 and with his $60,000 deposit, he needs help coming up with the $250,000 difference, before the house can be transferred to him.
With the lowest variable rate offered by the lender of 5.2%, he’ll have to pay an extra $197,225 on top of the $310 000 principal over 25 years. Aaban enters into a rent to buy mortgage agreement and his monthly rental payments are made through direct debit from his nominated bank account.
A representative from the financial institution tells Aaban that as he makes rental payments, the funders’ equity in the property will diminish whilst Aabans equity will increase so that by the time the debt is extinguished, or if he wishes to sell in the meantime, ownership of the property transfers solely to Aaban.
Mr Murphy stresses that when comparing Islamic home loans, you keep an eye out for the service level offered by the provider :
“Just like any conventional facility in any other organisation, customers should be alert to the service aspect of the product. I believe Iskan Finance operates as an ethical business and we’re firm on NCCP (National Consumer Credit Protection Act) compliance so people should take the comfort in the fact that we, and other providers, respect people’s rights under Australian law.
Additionally, Mr Murphy recommends that you conduct thorough research regarding the regulations, laws and associated costs of a home loan:“Do your research and have a look at the legislation in your state, particularly in regards to stamp duty. We always ask the customer to have a chat to a conveyancer so they fully understand what the costs will be. There’s no point in slapping together an application that has no chance of approval, so we teach people the discipline of submitting an application that will be approved.”
Islamic home loans come with many of the features that are also offered with traditional home loans. Compare the features among different lenders before deciding which home loan is right for you.
- Early payoff. You should ensure that you may make a lump sum payment in the future. Mr Murphy says that the vast bulk of Iskan customers are happy to pre-pay their facilities if they are able to do so “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a customer of Iskan or any other institution, people are wary of exposure to debt and we find customers are pre-paying their way out of their mortgage as a common defensive strategy” .
- Loan to Value Ratio (LVR). The LVR ratio refers to the amount of the property value or purchase price you can borrow with the lender. A loan with a high insured LVR allows you to borrow funds without paying Lender’s Mortgage Insurance (LMI).
- Repayments. There should be options for the frequency in which you make your repayments to the financial institution. Look for a lender that offers weekly, fortnightly or monthly payments so you can arrange your payments to suit your income.
- Rate. Although technically interest isn’t charged for an Islamic home loan, the financial institution will still be charging in the form of a rental or perhaps profit. Make sure you have a clear understanding of exactly how much extra you’re being charged as a result of the profit rate.
- Ongoing Fees. Some institutions will charge annual fees which will increase the amount of your payments. Look for financial institutions with low or no account-keeping fees so you can focus on meeting your repayments and paying out your lease in full.
- Sharia acceptance. This alternative method of obtaining a home is designed to better align with sharia law to offer Muslims a means of pursuing home ownership without offending their religious values.
- Features. In most cases you are offered the same features as a typical home loan. Some of these help you in achieving property ownership sooner, while others can give you the option of lower payments if you make lease payments only.
- Pre-approval. Your lending institution may approve your circumstance beforehand, allowing you to immediately choose a home that is within the price range they agreed upon, thereby facilitating your application process.
- Could be more expensive. The unique circumstances surrounding an Islamic home loan and the limited size of the market can make lenders charge more compared to a typical home loan in the form of a profit.
- Documentation. The providers of this style of finance all operate under the National Consumer Credit Protection Act and are unambiguous about obligations to make independent enquiries as to a your ability to meet the financial commitments without undue hardship. This often means Islamic finance comes in the form of a “ full doc” application process.
While there are several foreign banks in Australia, including the Arab Bank and HSBC, few of them offer Islamic home loans. However, Westpac and National Australia Bank (NAB) have introduced Shariah compliant products to the market. In 2010, Westpac introduced a Special Interbank Placement for Islamic Financial Institutions while NAB offers an interest-free personal loan for low-income earners that receive Centrelink benefits, which could be an alternative for Islamic Australians. Currently, the main Australian financial institutions offering Sharia-compliant products or assistance are Iskan Finance, Equitable Financial Solutions, Amanah Islamic Finance, the MCCA Islamic Finance and Investments, and the Islamic Cooperative Finance Australia Limited (ICFAL).
Generally Islamic home loans are offered as full-documentation products. This means you’ll need to provide evidence of funds for your deposit, your savings history, employment history as well as information related to any other assets or liabilities you have. In regards to Iskan Finance and their application process, Mr Murphy states: “We generally start the application process with a deposit equation. We’re inclined to let the customer know that there will be costs accountable such as stamp duty, legal fees and conveyancing costs.” “As full-doc loans, people need to have adequate income and they need to be able to document their income. We talk about what will happen over the next 30 years or so, we discuss how they’ll set their lease payments and whether or not they like the arrangement is up to them to decide.”
Do you have to be Islamic to qualify for this type of loan?
Are there any benefits of these loans beyond religious adherence?
Is there really a difference between Islamic and non-Islamic home loans?
Do they charge interest?
Is stamp duty and insurance payable? Are there any exemptions?
Are the lease payments fixed for the term of the loan? What happens when the interest rate changes?
Will I pay more for an Islamic home loan compared to a non-Islamic home loan?
How does the financial institution make money?
Can I carry out home improvements? What happens if I make a capital gain?
What documentation will I need to provide?
Can I live in the property before I have paid my rental payments in full?
Click here to read a full interview with Russell Murphy from Iskan Finance *Please note that the home loan offers listed below are generic site-wide offers, and these lenders currently do not offer Islamic home loans.