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Get your head around home loans

No tricky insurance lingo here. Just simple articles on complex topics.


13 July 2020
The bearish market has provided a silver lining – lower home loan interest rates. However, before you jump into refinancing your home loan, here are 3 things to consider.

Frequently asked questions

Q: What is a Home Loan?

Well, a home loan is exactly what it sounds like …. a loan so you can get a home!

When you see your dream home but you don’t have that kind of cash in your bank account, a bank or other financial provider will loan you the money to pay for it. Put simply it’s a loan, not a gift. In the end you’ll have to make repayments. Moreover, you’ll have to repay more than just the original home loan amount, which is known as the “principal” in banking terms. You’ll pay interest on that amount, and probably some bank fees as well. 

Q: How do I apply for a home loan?

Applying for the home loan is the easy part. It’s qualifying for the home loan that’s difficult. Anyone can apply for a mortgage loan, begin by comparing on GoBear, select the loan you want, and with a few clicks of a button your application can be underway. Easy peasy!

Regrettably, that doesn’t necessarily mean the bank will give you the loan. The bank needs to make sure you can afford to repay your loan before they’ll give it to you. The mortgage broker, financial institution, or bank will look at your income, what type of work you do, how stable your employment is, and your credit history.

They might also assess if you have collateral for a home equity loan. They’ll take into account type of property, where it is, and its current market value. Then they’ll do some calculations to see if you qualify according to their rules. Every bank, mortgage broker or financial institution has slightly different rules so don’t be discouraged if one bank does not give you a home loan. Here’s a list of providers you can compare on GoBear.

Q: How to choose a Home Loan?

The factor that will most influence the amount you repay which, to most people, is the most important thing is in fact the home loan interest rates. High or low interest rates can really affect your repayments, so you’ll want to plug some numbers into a mortgage payment calculator before you sign on the dotted line. If you compare on GoBear you can save yourself the trouble of going to multiple different bank websites to find a mortgage calculator – just use ours to see how much you’ll be repaying each month.

Depending on the home loan provider, you’ll be able to choose whether you want a fixed interest rate, a variable rate or a board rate. Which type of interest rate you choose is up to you and the level of risk you wish to take. In a nutshell, fixed interest rates stay the same for a certain number of years regardless of what happens in the market. A variable rate changes based on the market conditions – so it could go down (yay!) but it could also go up (boooo) - and whether it changes is up to your bank. 

Moreover, a board rate is a whole new level of risk – the numbers may seem attractive, but your bank can choose to change the interest rate at any time for any reason. Like we said earlier, it’s totally up to you which level of risk you are comfortable with. 

Q: How long can I take to repay the loan (called “loan tenure” in banking jargon)?

Well, you’re in luck! No need to rush to pay off that loan, you can take up to 30 years for HDB apartments and up to 35 years for private properties. Bear in mind, the amount of time the bank will give you to repay the loan is different from bear to bear - the bank will take your age (and other factors) into account when working out how long you can take.

Q: What else should I know?

1st year interest 
This is the rate you’ll pay on your home loan for the first year. This interest rate might be different to the following years, depending on the package you choose. 

Rate type 
You have three flavours to choose from: fixed, variable and board. Bear in mind the fixed rate will eventually become a variable or board rate.

  • Fixed rate: Your interest rate is locked in so you’ll pay the same interest rate over a certain amount of time
  • Variable rate: You’ll pay a lower interest rate for the first few years of your loan, and after that the rate will adjust to be in line with market interest rates. 
  • Board rate: The Board rate is determined by the bank at any given time. These might seem like a great deal, but they can change at any time for any reason. 

Lock in period 
This is an amount of time where you can’t switch banks, mortgage brokers or other home loan providers without paying a fee. You’ll usually get a special interest rate during your lock in period. If you want to sell your property or refinance during the lock in period, make sure you take into account, the fee you’ll pay. 

Total repayment 
This is the full amount you’ll repay over the lifetime of your mortgage loan, including the loan amount and the interest you’ll pay. We’re pretty smart bears over here at GoBear but even we can’t predict the future! What we’re saying is that your total repayment is based on current rates but these rates may change over time. 

Legal subsidy 
When refinancing your home loan, your new bank might pay for your legal fees associated with switching providers. All bears have claws, but we’re always wary of clawbacks - so be careful if you switch loan providers again because you might have to pay this legal subsidy back.

Valuation fee
You’ll pay this fee when the bank appoints a professional to assess your den’s market value. Depending on the size or the value of your property this fee ranges between $150 and $700. 

Late payment fee
Yuh oh, did you forget to repay your home loan on time? If so, the bank might charge you a late payment fee. This fee isn’t chump change – it can be a percentage of your loan amount – make sure to put your due date in your calendar so that you don’t miss it! 

Early repayment fee
If your loan is for 25 years, but you repay it in 10, the bank will charge you an early repayment fee. This might be a fixed amount or a percentage of your home loan amount, depending on the bank. You should take this fee into consideration if you decide to pay off your loan early, because sometimes it may not make financial sense to pay off your home loan sooner than planned. 

Partial repayment fee
When you make extra payments on top of your agreed monthly repayments, the bank might charge you a fee. This can be a fixed amount or a percentage of your loan amount. 

Cancellation fee
This is the fee you’ll have to pay when you cancel your home loan before the bank has transferred the money to you. Point noted is if you see a worthwhile deal at another bank and want to switch, make sure to take this fee into account. 

Administrative fee to use 3rd party fire insurer
Most banks have a preferred fire insurer. You’ll have to pay this fee if you choose your own insurer.