Quick Summary of Interest Rates and lenders fees and charges

At its simplest level, there are 2 types of interest rate products available for the housing loan market in Australia – Variable Interest Rate products Vs Fixed Interest Rate products.

But this is just the start!  Many lenders, for example, offer Fixed Rate products with different terms ranging from 1 year all the way through to 5 years.

And, there are 2 ways you can pay back the amount you borrow – gradually over time (referred to as Principal and Interest repayments) or in a lump sum (referred to as Interest Only repayments).  Within the home loan lending environment, Interest Only products don’t tend to get repaid but rather, they revert to a Principal & Interest product after the Interest Only term expires.  Interest Only terms are typically somewhere between 1 to 5 years while the remaining Principal & Interest term might be a further 25+ years on a 30-year term loan.

And if you take out a 30 year loan with a 5 year Interest Only option, your Principal repayments for the remaining 25 years and which kick in after the expiry of your 5 year interest only period will be proportionately higher than if you started off repaying your Principal at the commencement of your 30 year loan.

Plus, there are some lenders who offer a Variable Rate Line of Credit and there are some who allow you to prepay your interest a year in advance (which can be handy when you have a higher taxable income in a year which you can offset with the prepayment of interest when the interest is tax deductible).

All home loan products essentially take into account a mix of these 4 options.  Each option combination has a different risk profile for the lender and is likely to have a different interest rate (or price) being charged to the borrower.  There are no ‘set rules’ or even ‘rule of thumbs’ you can use to assess the perceived risk as risk profiles can change over time and lenders are continually updating their risk profiles.  Below are some current risk profiles as identified in recent RBA data (as at October 2020).

There are a number of additional reasons the interest rate charged by a lender might vary in addition to the mix of products selected by the borrower – plus some of these factors might even result in particular lenders saying ‘no’ to providing finance:

– The borrower’s profile (including income, expenses, assets, liabilities, credit history, profession).

– The purpose for borrowing (typically either home (owner occupier (OO) Vs investment (IN); or established Vs off the plan Vs land & construction).

– The borrower’s identity (a natural person (like you and me!), company, trust, partnership or super fund).

– The amount being required to be borrowed (the total amount as well as the amount compared to the borrower’s income).

– The loan to value ratio (LVR) and whether the LVR is above the lender’s LVR limit resulting in the lender requiring the borrower to pay lenders mortgage insurance (LMI).


And finally, here are some other things to be aware of:

– Additional features provided by a lender may result in a higher interest rate as compensation for the lender for providing these features.  For example, a loan without an interest offset account and redraw facility may have a cheaper interest rate.  Additional features like an offset account can be very useful as they can reduce your total interest cost – and they may even be useful to have ‘in reserve’ in case you do need them – but as with all things, make sure you have thought this through otherwise you might be paying for something you never were likely to use.

– Interest rates vary between lenders as well as between a lender’s products.  So, it is wise to do your homework and review the market.  Nevertheless, not all lenders are going to be on ‘Page 1 of Google’.  That is why it is prudent to consider using a great broker.  Great brokers know far more lenders and lending options than could ever fit on Google’s page 1.

– No matter how attractive a lender’s interest rates appear in the marketing and advertising blurb, not all lenders’ products are available for all borrowers.  As noted above, some lenders have quite tight restrictions on the criteria they use when considering whether to offer an applicant funding – and so you might not qualify for their ‘low rate’ product.  Unwary borrowers can waste a lot of time preparing loan applications for loans they were never going to get or at a rate they were not going to be offered because they were not made aware of all the lender’s restrictions.  Again, this is why applicants should consider using a great broker – because great brokers know more about each lender’s products than consumers and they know who and what to ask if there is a potential issue with a particular assessment criteria used by a particular lender.

– Beware ‘limited time’ offers with low interest rates – or honeymoon rates as they are often called.  These rates expire and at the end of that time, your loan will revert to the lender’s then current interest rate.

– Fees and charges can vary for each loan.  When considering fees and charges, Choice 1 suggests you need to take these into account under the heading ‘Watch the fees.’  Choice lists the following fees for consideration (I have regrouped them so it is easier to read:

– Upfront charges: LMI

– Ongoing fees: monthly or annual fees.

– Discharge fees & Break costs


I agree. However, be careful of not over-estimating the impact of fees and charges.  For example, on a $500K loan, an interest rate differential of 0.1% pa equates to $500 pa. At present, most annual fees charged by lenders are less than $500 pa – so an interest differential saving of 0.1% pa when paying an annual fee of (say), $400 pa would mean you are ‘ahead’ by $100 pa.  And even then, when we are looking at the overall cost of interest, this is not a great deal and in many cases, would not be considered material to your decision.

[1] Choice: