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The simple guide to lending criteria for home loans

Applying for a home loan? Find out the approval policies banks have in place to determine if you qualify.

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Banks have a set of criteria by which they assess home loan applications. These criteria determine whether or not you’ll be approved. Unfortunately, individual lenders don’t often make these policies public.

This means there’s a bit of guesswork involved in knowing exactly whether or not your application is going to be approved. However, there is a general framework most lenders operate on. Most lenders will ask the following questions when assessing your application.

What kind of borrower are you?

The first detail banks will look at is exactly what sort of borrower you are. Lenders definitely have preferred borrowers, and there are some borrowers they’re unlikely to approve.

Your age

You have to be at least 18 years of age in order to be approved for a home loan. In general, many banks are also hesitant to lend to older borrowers.

While there aren’t exceptions for borrowers over 18, there are exceptions for borrowers over the age of 55. If you’re an older borrower, you may have to do a bit of extra work to see your application approved. You’ll have to provide a written exit plan to demonstrate your ability to repay your home loan, and lenders may only be willing to offer you a shorter loan term.

Mortgages for over 55s

Your residency

A lender will want to know whether or not you’re a permanent resident of Australia. However, if you’re not a permanent resident you’re not necessarily excluded from borrowing.

If you’re a non-resident who is the spouse or de facto partner of an Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident or New Zealand citizen, lenders will assess your application like any other resident’s application.

If you’re a non-resident, lenders may place limits on the amount you can borrow. You may need a larger deposit. In some cases, you may also have to seek approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board.

Learn more about investing in property as a non-resident

Your situation

A lender will want to know if you’re borrowing as an individual or a collective. In other words, you may be sourcing a home loan as a company or as the trustee of a trust. Lenders will allow companies and trustees to borrow, but will require specific documentation and are likely to have different lending criteria in place.

However, not all companies or groups are eligible for home loans. Clubs and associations cannot be approved for home loans, and neither can limited liability companies (LLCs).

What is your work situation?

Lenders will need to examine your work situation to determine that you have a steady source of income. The way your income is assessed will depend on your type of employment.

PAYG employees

If you’re a PAYG employee, meaning you receive a payslip with tax withheld, you should have a relatively easy time proving your income. However, there are a few things lenders will scrutinise.

  • Length of employment. Lenders usually require that you’ve been employed in the same job for 12 months, or in the same industry for two years.
  • Type of employment. Lenders will want to know if you’re full-time, part-time or casual. If you’re a casual or seasonal employee you could face greater challenges getting approved for a home loan, though some lenders are willing to consider this type of employment on a case-by-case basis.

Self-employed

If you’re self-employed, you won’t have PAYG payslips to prove your income. Instead, a lender will need alternative documentation to demonstrate your income. You’ll have to apply for a special type of home loan known as a low documentation, or low doc, home loan.

You’ll usually be asked to provide Business Activity Statements, tax returns or a letter for your accountant. While it’s sometimes more difficult for self-employed borrowers to provide income documentation, there are lenders who specialise in providing loans to these borrowers.

Home loans for self-employed borrowers

What is your financial position?

The next thing lenders will want is a detailed view of your financial history, habits and overall position. In order to get that, they’ll look at a few different factors.

Your income

Lenders will want to know that you have a steady source of income. As stated before, this is easy to demonstrate if you’re a PAYG employee. You’ll just provide your last three payslips so your lender can determine your average pay amount.

But even PAYG employees may have sources of income apart from their normal pay. Some of these will be accepted by lenders, and some won’t. Some of the sources of income lenders will accept include:

  • Rental income. A lender will generally accept up to 80% of the income you receive from an investment property.
  • Overtime pay. You’ll generally need to provide two years of payslips to demonstrate how much overtime you’re likely to work.
  • Centrelink benefits. Certain Centrelink benefits, such as child support payments, are accepted as income. You can find the full list here.
  • Fringe benefits. Lenders may accept up to 80% of any fringe benefits you receive such as a stipend, a living allowance or car allowance.
  • Share dividends. Some lenders, though not all, will accept a portion of share dividends as income.

Some lenders may accept other alternative forms of income on a case-by-case basis. Likewise, if you’re self-employed you’ll use different documents to demonstrate your income, as mentioned above.

Lenders assess your income to determine serviceability, or your ability to repay your home loan. Your income helps a lender calculate the size of a home loan payment you’re likely to be able to manage.

Your credit score

Lenders will also want to look at your debt repayment history. They do this by looking at your credit history and credit score.

There are a few different credit providers that can give you a credit score. Credit scores from bureau Experian range from 0 to 1,000 and credit scores from credit bureau Equifax range from 0 to 1,200. You can check your credit score and full credit report for free with finder here.

If you have had some rough patches in your credit history, there are still lenders who may be able to help. Some lenders specialise in helping borrowers with bad credit and offer home loans to borrowers who’ve had defaults, writs, judgements and even discharged bankrupts.

Home loans for bad credit borrowers

Your expenses

Lenders will assess your monthly expenses to determine your disposable income, or the income that’s not currently devoted to bills, household necessities, groceries and discretionary spending. To calculate this, lenders tend to use one of two methods, either the Household Expenditure Method or the Henderson Poverty Index. The Household Expenditure Method calculates the median spend for basics necessities and discretionary items, while the Henderson Poverty Index is based on a survey of Australian families and assumes a family of two adults and two children.

You can head here to find out more about how your living expenses are calculated.

Your assets

A lender will also take into account any assets you have. This includes vehicles you own, any shares you have, your superannuation and any other properties you might own.

Your liabilities

Your liabilities include any debts you might have. This could be credit cards, personal loans, car loans or HECS or HELP debts.

How HECS and HELP debts affect your application

When assessing your credit card debt, it’s important to note that lenders will look at the combined credit limit of all your cards rather than what you owe on them. So if you have a card you don’t use, it pays to cancel it or reduce the limit.

Your deposit

Lenders want to see that you’ve saved a deposit because it demonstrates your financial discipline. You will require at least a 5% deposit, except in some special circumstances.

If you have less than a 20% deposit, you’ll have to pay for lenders mortgage insurance (LMI), an insurance policy that covers your lender in the event you default. This expense can add tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of your home loan.

Parts of your deposit can come from sources like gifts, financial windfalls or inheritances, but most lenders will want to see at least 5% coming from genuine savings. Genuine savings are funds you’ve held in your account for at least three months.

However, there are ways to get a home loan without a deposit. One way is to use a guarantor.

A guarantor is a close family member, usually a parent, who offers their home as security for your home loan. This security serves as a deposit, eliminating the need for you to save one yourself. However, this means your parents’ home is at risk should you default on your home loan.

More about home loan guarantors

There is also one Australian lender that offers a home loan using a parental loan as a deposit. The parental loan is then managed and repaid through the lender.

However, in all other cases you’ll need to save a deposit yourself, and you’ll need at least 5%.

How much are you borrowing?

The type of home loan and the size of the loan amount also affect how the lender assesses you. This includes:

  • The amount you wish to borrow must not exceed the loan’s maximum loan-to-value ratio (LVR). In other words, you’ll need to have a minimum deposit saved, with a common amount being 20% of the property’s purchase price
  • Your proposed borrowing amount must fit between the minimum and maximum loan limits imposed by the lender
  • You must use the financing from the loan for the purpose it is designed for, such as using an investment home loan to purchase an investment property

Determining your borrowing power with an estimate calculator can also give you a better idea of how much you can borrow.

What sort of property are you buying?

Next, lenders will want to know the kind of property you’re buying. The property will be used as security for the home loan, meaning that if you default on the home loan, your lender will sell the property to recoup the money they’ve lent you. Because of this, banks scrutinise the type of property you’re considering.

  • Its location. Some lenders have restrictions on which postcodes they will lend in. Some rural areas, undesirable areas or areas of oversupply may face restrictions.
  • Its nature. Your lender will want to know if you’re buying a house or a unit. Lenders often have more stringent criteria when it comes to lending for units. They’ll also want to know that the property has running water and electricity, is zoned for residential use and that it can be accessed without driving through someone else’s property.
  • Its size. The property size is usually relevant only to units. Most lenders will not lend for units under 50 square metres. However, land size is relevant to rural properties. If a property sits on more than ten hectares, some lenders will not consider it. Some lenders will consider land sizes up to 100 hectares as hobby farms, but anything above 100 hectares is generally considered income-producing.

Rural property home loans

  • Its title. The property will need to have a freehold or strata title without encumbrances. In the event you default on your home loan, your lender will want to be able to sell the property without restrictions.
  • Its use. If you’re buying a rural property, it must be not be used for commercial farming.

Why are you buying it?

Lastly, a lender will want to know why you’re purchasing the property. The reason you’re buying your property will dictate the type of loan you’re eligible for, and often the amount you can borrow.

  • To live in. If you’re buying as an owner-occupier, you’re likely to face fewer restrictions and get offered a home loan with a lower interest rate.
  • As an investment. While investors face tighter lending criteria and are often saddled with higher interest rates, they are sometimes able to borrow larger amounts because lenders assume rental income will help them service their home loan.

How to increase your borrowing power

First home buyer? Compare your home loan options below

Data indicated here is updated regularly
$
Loan purpose
Offset account
Loan type
Repayment type
Your filter criteria do not match any product
Name Product Interest Rate (p.a.) Comp Rate^ (p.a.) Application Fee Ongoing Fees Max LVR Monthly Payment Short Description
UBank UHomeLoan Variable Rate - Discount Offer for Owner Occupiers, Variable P&I Rate
2.49%
2.49%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Enjoy flexible repayments, a redraw facility and the ability to split your loan. Plus, pay no application or ongoing fees.
HSBC Home Value Loan - Promotional Offer (Owner Occupier P&I)
2.59%
2.60%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Get a low interest rate loan with no ongoing fees. Plus you can make extra repayments and free redraw online.
Greater Bank Great Rate Home Loan - Discounted 1 Year Fixed with Family Pledge Home Loan  Up to 110% LVR (Owner Occupier)
1.99%
3.52%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Requires a family member to act as guarantor.
Get one of the lowest rates on the market with this fixed rate mortgage and borrow more with help from a family guarantor. NSW, QLD and ACT residents only.
homeloans.com.au Low Rate Home Loan with Offset - LVR 80% to 90% (Owner Occupier, P&I)
2.74%
2.76%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
Save on interest with a free 100% offset account and buy your property with just a 10% deposit. This loan is not available for construction.
IMB Budget Home Loan - Special LVR  ≤90% (Owner Occupier, P&I, NSW and ACT borrowers only)
2.78%
2.84%
$449
$0 p.a.
90%
NSW and ACT customers only. You can get an interest rate discount for a limited time with this competitive variable mortgage.
HSBC Fixed Rate Home Loan - 2 Year Fixed Rate LVR 80% or below (Owner Occupier, P&I)
2.09%
2.98%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Lock in a competitive fixed rate for 2 years and buy your home with a 20% deposit.
IMB Budget Home Loan - LVR ≤80% (Owner Occupier, P&I, NSW and ACT borrowers only)
2.61%
2.67%
$449
$0 p.a.
80%
A competitive variable rate for borrowers with 20% deposits saved. Available for NSW and ACT borrowers only.
Heritage Bank Discount Variable Home Loan - LVR ≤ 80% (Owner Occupier, P&I) New Customers Only
2.78%
2.83%
$600
$0 p.a.
80%
Family guarantee option available. Enjoy flexible repayments and a low minimum loan amount.
Greater Bank Great Rate Discount Variable with Family Pledge Home Loan - Up to 110% LVR
2.68%
2.69%
$0
$0 p.a.
110%
Pay no deposit or LMI and get a discounted rate with this family pledge loan. Requires a family member to act as guarantor. NSW, QLD and ACT only.
Yard Variable Home Loan - LVR 80% Special (Owner Occupier, P&I)
2.39%
2.42%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
A very low variable rate loan for home buyers with an optional offset account ($10 monthly fee). 20% deposit required.
Bankwest Complete Home Loan Package Variable - $200k to <$750k LVR ≤80% (Owner Occupier, P&I)
2.73%
3.18%
$0
$395 p.a.
80%
A low variable rate loan with a 100% offset account and package discounts.
Well Home Loans Balanced Variable - LVR 80% Special Offer (Owner occupier, P&I)
2.17%
2.20%
$250
$0 p.a.
80%
A very low interest rate for home buyers with 20% deposits saved. Add an offset account for a small fee. This special discount rate is available for new borrowers who apply and get approved by 30 November 2020. Not available for construction purposes.
Hunter United Fixed Home Loan - 2 Year Fixed (Owner Occupier, P&I)
2.19%
2.71%
$350
$0 p.a.
90%
Lock in a competitive rate for two years. Available with a 10% deposit.
Newcastle Permanent Building Society  Premium Plus Package Fixed Rate - 1 Year Fixed (Owner Occupier, P&I)
2.39%
3.85%
$0
$395 p.a.
95%
$2,000 refinance cashback
Enjoy a competitive rate with no application fee for this package loan. $2,000 cashback for eligible refinancers borrowing $250,000 or more.
Westpac Flexi First Option Home Loan - Basic Variable Rate (Owner Occupier, P&I)
2.29%
2.72%
$0
$8 monthly ($96 p.a.)
95%
Up to $3,000 refinance cashback.
A flexible and competitive variable rate loan. Eligible borrowers refinancing $250,000 or more can get $2,000 cashback per property plus a bonus $1,000 for their first application. Other conditions apply.
IMB Fixed Rate Home Loan - 2 Year Fixed (LVR 90% Owner Occupier, P&I, NSW and ACT borrowers only)
2.19%
3.10%
$449
$6 monthly ($72 p.a.)
90%
NSW and ACT customers only. 2 years fixed interest terms and free access to redraw facility online. Available with a 5% deposit.
Newcastle Permanent Building Society  Premium Plus Package Fixed Rate - 3 Year Fixed (Owner Occupier, P&I)
2.49%
3.68%
$0
$395 p.a.
95%
$2,000 refinance cashback
A two year fixed rate home loan with no application fees. $2,000 cashback for eligible refinancers borrowing $250,000 or more.
UBank UHomeLoan - 1 Year Fixed Rate (Owner Occupier, P&I)
2.14%
2.46%
$395
$0 p.a.
80%
Fix your mortgage for 1 year with a very competitive rate and no ongoing fees.
Newcastle Permanent Building Society Fixed Rate Home Loan - 1 Year Fixed (Owner Occupier, P&I)
2.49%
4.12%
$595
$0 p.a.
90%
$2,000 refinance cashback
Investors can take advantage of a short term fixed rate with no ongoing fees. $2,000 cashback for eligible refinancers borrowing $250,000 or more.
BankSA Basic Home Loan - Owner Occupier, P&I
2.54%
2.56%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Up to $4,000 refinance cashback
A competitive variable rate loan from BankSA. Refinancers borrowing $200,000 or more can get a $4,000 cashback (Other terms, conditions and exclusions apply).
Newcastle Permanent Building Society Premium Plus Package Home Loan - New Customer Offer Discount 1 ($150k+ Owner Occupier, P&I)
2.94%
3.34%
$0
$395 p.a.
95%
$2,000 refinance cashback
New borrowers or refinancers can get a discounted rate with this package loan. $2,000 cashback for eligible refinancers borrowing $250,000 or more.
IMB Fixed Rate Home Loan - 3 Year Fixed (LVR 90% Owner Occupier, P&I, NSW and ACT borrowers only)
2.39%
3.08%
$449
$6 monthly ($72 p.a.)
90%
NSW and ACT customers only. 3 years fixed interest terms and free access to redraw facility online. Available with a 10% deposit.
Newcastle Permanent Building Society Real Deal Home Loan - Special Offer 1 (Owner Occupier, P&I)
2.59%
2.63%
$595
$0 p.a.
80%
$2,000 refinance cashback
$2,000 cashback for eligible refinancers borrowing $250,000 or more.
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Logo for Westpac Flexi First Option Home Loan - Basic Variable Rate (Owner Occupier, P&I)
Westpac Flexi First Option Home Loan - Basic Variable Rate (Owner Occupier, P&I)

Up to $3,000 refinance cashback. A flexible and competitive variable rate loan. Eligible borrowers refinancing $250,000 or more can get $2,000 cashback per property plus a bonus $1,000 for their first application. Other conditions apply.

Logo for St.George Basic Home Loan - LVR 60% to 80% (Owner Occupier, P&I)
St.George Basic Home Loan - LVR 60% to 80% (Owner Occupier, P&I)

Up to $4,000 refinance cashback. A competitive variable rate loan from St.George. Refinancers borrowing $250,000 or more can get $4,000 cashback (Other terms, conditions and exclusions apply).

Logo for Athena Liberate Home Loan - 70% to 80% LVR Owner Occupier, P&I
Athena Liberate Home Loan - 70% to 80% LVR Owner Occupier, P&I

A competitive variable rate mortgage for owner occupiers $0 application and $0 ongoing fees. This interest rate falls over time as you pay off the loan.

Logo for UBank UHomeLoan Variable Rate - Discount Offer for Owner Occupiers, Variable P&I Rate
UBank UHomeLoan Variable Rate - Discount Offer for Owner Occupiers, Variable P&I Rate

Take advantage of a low-fee mortgage with a special interest rate of just 2.49% p.a. and a 2.49% p.a. comparison rate.

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6 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    EEJune 13, 2019

    If I have owned already 2 properties(houses)with zero home loan overseas (total worth 250000 Australian dollars may be more now, but currently I am a full-time student and not employed, am I eligible to get a home loan?

    • Default Gravatar
      BellaJune 15, 2019

      Hi Ee,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      Your eligibility for a loan would depend on the lender’s requirements and discretion. You may check out our article written above on this page for guidelines regarding the criteria for home loans.

      I hope this helps.

      Kind regards,
      Bella

  2. Default Gravatar
    FredApril 12, 2018

    Hi. How does the lenders view the existing home loan balance. Doest it impact the borrowing power.? Monthly income is sufficent to repay the loan instalment amount and monthly expenses.. Thanks

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JoshuaApril 12, 2018Staff

      Hi Fred,

      Thanks for getting in touch with finder.

      Lenders will want is a detailed view of your financial history, habits and overall position. In order to get that, they’ll look at a few different factors. This may include any existing home loan balance. A lender can use different approach or method to determine your ability to pay them back even if you have a current home loan.

      The best way to determine your eligibility is still to directly get in touch with your chosen lender. Discuss your situation and they will most likely give you a more personalised advice.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Joshua

  3. Default Gravatar
    ChrisMay 2, 2016

    Hi, am looking for info on borrowing for over 55’s communities. If there is any special criteria. Also asking if at age 57 and bring employed full time do any lenders still lend for 30 years for full doc home loans. Thanks

    • Default Gravatar
      JodieMay 3, 2016

      Hi there,

      Thank you for contacting finder.com.au we are a financial comparison website and general information service.

      There are loans called reverse mortgages that will allow you to access equity in any current property to help you relocate to an over 55’s community. Alternatively, you can contact a mortgage broker who can offer you personalised advice on lenders they will offer you lending for this purpose also.

      Regards
      Jodie

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