Home loan terms explained

Home loan terms

Taking out a home loan to purchase a property can be exciting, but what can often dampen your enthusiasm is all the complicated home loan jargon that gets thrown around in the process.

In fact, according to a survey by ME Bank, only 41% of Aussies are confident they know enough to find the right home loan for their situation.

So if you’re feeling a little frazzled by all the home loan mumbo jumbo, the below guide is for you. Read on as we run through all of the most common terms and meanings you'll want to know about.

Application fee

When you apply for a home loan, the lender may charge you a fee upfront for assessing you for the loan, which is usually dubbed an application or upfront fee.

Break fee

If you take out a home loan with a fixed interest rate attached, you may be charged a fee if you try to break the fixed rate term early by switching to a new provider or paying out the loan early.

Comparison rate

All home loan lenders in Australia are required to display a comparison rate next to the headline rate, which combines the interest rate with the common fees (e.g application and ongoing fees) to show you the “true” cost of the loan.

The whole purpose of a comparison rate is to make it easier for borrowers to compare apples with apples. But keep in mind comparison rates only use one scenario, for example a $150,000 loan over 25 years.

Conditional pre-approval

When you apply for a home loan and the lender has assessed that you meet their lending criteria they will provide you with conditional pre approval. This means you can go and make an offer on a property up to the amount specified by the lender.

Once you have made an offer, the lender will then value the property you have bought and if they are satisfied your financial conditions haven’t changed and you haven’t overpaid for the property they will provide you with formal approval.

Equity

This is the amount you own of the property’s value after the home loan is taken out of the equation. For instance if your property is worth $600,000 and you owe $400,000 on your loan, your equity will be $200,000.

If you take out a home loan with flexibility you may be able to draw upon the equity in your property through a home loan top up or line of credit facility for things like renovation.

Establishment fees

An establishment fee, also called an application fee, is a fee charged by some lenders to cover the costs of actually setting up your home loan.

Extra repayments facility

If you take out a home loan and just make the required monthly repayment, you will end up paying a large amount in interest. But if you’re savvy and decide to take out a loan that comes with the option of making additional payments on top of your regular payments at no extra cost, you will not only save yourself a pile in interest but also shorten the life of the loan too.

Fixed interest rate

With a locked in rate your home loan interest rate will remain the same over the fixed rate term (usually 1 to 5 years). Fixed rate loans are generally a great option for first home buyers who are getting used to making home loan repayments or other borrowers who are on a strict budget and need repayment consistency.

The downside of a loan with a fixed interest rate is they generally don’t come with the same flexibility as a variable rate loan and if you try to switch home loans or pay out your loan early, you may be hit up with a high break cost fee. 

Formal approval

When the lender removes the conditional approval of the loan and officially approves you for the home loan. Formal approval usually occurs after you have made an offer on a property and the bank has valued the property.

Green home loan

A green home loan is a loan that caters to borrowers who want to build or buy an environmentally friendly home. It offers special or discounted rates for property that meets a lender’s sustainable home conditions. To qualify for a green home loan you typically need a 7-star or higher Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme rating.

Guarantor

A guarantor is someone, generally a family member, who will provide security for another person’s home loan. For instance, parents will often act as guarantors for their children if they can’t come up with the necessary deposit themselves, by providing security against the loan in the form of another property.

Going guarantor is often used as an alternative to providing someone with cash as a gift for a deposit and is considered part of the bank of mum and dad.

Headline rate

The home loan lender needs to make a profit from lending to you and the main way they do this is by charging you interest on the loan principal daily. The interest rate that is charged is generally called the “headline rate”.

Home loan top up

Once you’ve built up a significant amount of equity in your home some home loan lenders will allow you to draw upon that equity to top up your loan i.e borrow more. A home loan top up can come in handy if you want to do things like renovate, buy a new family car or take an overseas trip but don’t want to take out another loan.

Honeymoon rate

Some home loan lenders will offer you a competitive honeymoon rate for the first few years, in order to entice you to take out a home loan through them. It’s important to remember that while the rate may be extremely low for an introductory term, often after the honeymoon period comes to an end the revert rate may be much higher.

Interest-only loan

With standard home loans you will pay both the principal (the home loan amount owing) and the interest charged by the lender for providing you with the loan. But if you go for an interest only loan for an agreed period (usually 1 to 5 years), you will only repay the interest on the loan.

This is a popular option for investors, who tend to rely on capital gains to make a profit and want to put any extra money they have towards purchasing their next investment property.

It’s also an option for first home buyers who want to decrease the size of their ongoing home loan repayments will be lower, at least temporarily. Just keep in mind that not paying off the principal will only result in you paying more interest over the life of the loan.

Lenders mortgage insurance (LMI)

If you have a deposit of less than 20% (so an LVR over 80%) most lenders in Australia will charge you the cost of lenders mortgage insurance. LMI is an insurance that the home loan lender takes out to protect themselves if you can’t repay the loan. The cost of lenders mortgage insurance will vary depending on your deposit and loan amount and can either be paid upfront or added to your loan amount.

Line of credit facility

Think of a line of credit facility just like an overdraft facility. It’s basically a revolving line of credit that you can draw on up to an agreed amount whenever you wish. If you’re signed up to a standard home loan, usually you’ll need to refinance to a new loan to gain this flexible feature.

Loan drawdown

Not to be confused with a home loan redraw (see redraw facility further below), loan drawdown is a term used by lenders to describe when your loan is actually paid to you.

Loan to value ratio (LVR)

When assessing you for a home loan, the lender will look at your loan to value ratio, which is basically the lender asking, “what percentage of the property value do you need to borrow?”

For instance if the property’s value is $500,000 and you have a deposit of $50,000 this will mean you will need to borrow $450,000 (90% of the property’s value). And voila, your LVR will be 90%.

Low doc home loan

If you’re a sole trader or own your own business, an alternative option if you can’t provide the standard documentation is a low doc home loan. While less paperwork is required making it easier for you to get approved for a loan, low doc home loans usually come with higher rates and fees.

Offset account

An alternative option to making extra repayment on your loan is stashing any cash you have in an offset account. In many ways, this is just like a bank account, in that you can have your salary deposited there and receive a debit card for everyday purchases.

The key difference is the balance in your offset account is offset daily against your home loan principal. A quick example: if you’ve got a home loan of $300,000 and have $10,000 in an offset account, you’ll only be charged interest on $290,000

Portability

If you think you might be moving homes down the track and don’t want to have to bother taking out a new loan, you could consider looking for a home loan that comes with home loan portability. So when you sell your old home and move to the new one you can keep your existing loan.

Principal

When you’re approved for a home loan and start making repayments you will pay back both the principal and the interest. The principal is the amount owing on your loan, while the interest is the rate that is charged to you on a daily basis by the lender.

Progress payments

When you take out a construction loan, your lender will release funds at key intervals as your home is being built. These are known as progress payments (or progressive drawdowns), and are paid directly to your builder, not to you.

Redraw facility

A handy feature if you’ve made additional payments on your loan and then need to access that extra cash due to an unexpected expense like a new family car or home upgrade. It’s worth noting that redraw facilities are usually only available with variable rate loans.

Refinance

When a home loan borrower decides to switch from one provider to another, usually due to the new provider offering a lower interest rate and/or more flexible features. Just keep in mind if you go for a fixed rate loan, if you try to refinance to a new provider you may incur a break cost fee.

Repayment holiday

Making ongoing home loan repayment over a 25 year period can become tiresome and you may need a little holiday at one time or another. With a home loan that comes with a repayment holiday feature, the lender will allow you to take a break for an agreed amount of time. But this is generally only if you’ve gotten ahead on your repayments.

Reverse mortgage

Typically available to older people, a reverse mortgage is a way for home owners to access any equity they’ve built up in their home. These loans can often be taken in the form of a lump sum or as regular payments, but don’t forget that interest will still apply on any outstanding balance.

Serviceability

Serviceability in this context is basically your ability to pay off your mortgage. When a lender assesses your home loan serviceability there’s a few elements that come into play, but it essentially boils down to your income and your expenses.

Settlement

After you’ve made an offer on a property and the lender has provided you with final approval, settlement will occur where the lender makes the final payment to the seller and the property is officially yours.

Split rate loan

Do you like the sound of a loan with both a fixed and variable interest rate? Then a split rate loan could be just the answer. What this means is a portion of your home loan will have a fixed interest rate giving you some peace of mind against rate rises, while the remainder will be left variable allowing you to use flexible features like an offset account.

Valuation fee

A fee charged by the lender for valuing how much a property is worth. Valuation usually occurs when you’re buying a property or looking to sell your current property.

Variable interest rate

The most popular type of home loan rate in Australia is a variable interest rate, which tends to move in line with the cash rate. So if rates go down you’ll benefit from lower repayments, but by the same token if rates increase your repayments will too. 

You might call variable rate loans a bit of a gamble but generally they come with some great features like fee free extra repayments, a redraw facility and an offset account.

Now that you’ve had a rundown of the relevant terms, kick off your home loan search over at our home loan comparison page, or browse the selection below.

Home loan comparisons on Mozo - rates updated daily

Search promoted home loans below or do a full Mozo database search. Advertiser disclosure.
  • placeholder
    Mozo Experts Choice 2021
    Smart Booster Home Loan

    2 Year Discounted Variable Rate, Owner Occupier, Principal & Interest, <80% LVR

    interest rate
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    Initial monthly repayment
    1.85% p.a.variable for 24 months and then 2.25% p.a. variable
    2.21% p.a.
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    Details
  • placeholder
    Mozo Experts Choice 2021
    UHomeLoan - Discount Offer

    Owner Occupier, Principal & Interest

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    Initial monthly repayment
    2.19% p.a. variable
    2.19% p.a.
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  • placeholder
    Mozo Experts Choice 2021
    Celebrate Variable Home Loan

    <60% LVR, Owner Occupier, Principal & Interest

    interest rate
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    Initial monthly repayment
    1.99% p.a. variable
    1.99% p.a.
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    Details
  • placeholder
    Variable Home Loan

    Owner Occupier, Principal & Interest

    interest rate
    comparison rate
    Initial monthly repayment
    1.99% p.a. variable
    1.99% p.a.
    Go to site
    Details
  • placeholder
    Basic Home Loan

    Owner Occupier, LVR<60%, Principal & Interest

    interest rate
    comparison rate
    Initial monthly repayment
    2.14% p.a. variable
    2.14% p.a.
    Go to site
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* WARNING: This comparison rate applies only to the example or examples given. Different amounts and terms will result in different comparison rates. Costs such as redraw fees or early repayment fees, and cost savings such as fee waivers, are not included in the comparison rate but may influence the cost of the loan. The comparison rate displayed is for a secured loan with monthly principal and interest repayments for $150,000 over 25 years.

** Initial monthly repayment figures are estimates only, based on the advertised rate, loan amount and term entered. Rates, fees and charges and therefore the total cost of the loan may vary depending on your loan amount, loan term, and credit history. Actual repayments will depend on your individual circumstances and interest rate changes.

^See information about the Mozo Experts Choice Home Loan Awards

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