22 March 2022

Added Interest: Advice for Homeowners

Submitted by Kaylin Van Der Vent
Added Interest: Advice for Homeowners

With interest rates likely to rise over the next few years, homeowners who haven’t looked over their bond commitments should do so, advise property experts Paul Stevens and Carl Coetzee.

"Interest rates are expected to rise gradually to 2024, so prospective bondholders should look at what they can afford beyond the current interest rates", says Paul Stevens, CEO of Just Property. Industry predictions suggest three or four hikes in 2022, “possibly to as high as 5%”, with the repo rate expected to return to its pre-pandemic (end-2019) level of 6.50% by the close of 2024.

Stevens and Carl Coetzee, CEO of BetterBond, addressed some of the frequently asked questions they’re hearing from bondholders and prospective homeowners.

Should you fix your rate now?

“Home loans are awarded by default on the basis of a variable interest rate. Only once your bond has been registered can you apply for a fixed interest rate and there is a strict time limit attached before the offer lapses,” notes Coetzee. “While market conditions are always a useful guide, the most important factor when deciding on whether to fix the interest rate or not should be affordability.”

Stevens notes that “right now, a fixed interest rate will almost certainly be higher than a variable rate so get indicative proposals from the lending institutions. If you are applying for a bond, comparing fixed vs variable interest rate options is a worthwhile exercise. From there, you can apply the options to your appetite for risk/ uncertainty and future prospects.”

Coetzee agrees: “Generally, a fixed interest rate is higher than a variable rate as it poses more of a risk to the bank. It is only negotiated at the time of bond registration and the rate offered is dependent on the going rate at that specific time.”

How can buyers work out the impact on payment plans?

“A rise in the prime lending rate will have an impact on your monthly bond payments, but the increases that have been forecast by the South African Reserve Bank for the next three years are gradual and the prime lending rate should only hit double digits in 2024. This means that there is still time to make the most of the accommodative lending environment,” says Coetzee.

Stevens suggests that home loan holders use a repayment calculator to see how their payments are likely to change and to prepare for increases. "Bond repayment calculators can help you practically understand what increases in interest rates will have on your affordability," he says.

The table below shows that the recent increase in the prime lending rate from 7.25% to 7.5% pushed up the bond payment on a R1 million home by only R152 per month. It also shows how monthly instalments and 20-year repayments will be impacted by the gradual increase in rates.

What is the outlook for the year?

Property data suggests that buyer activity remains strong, despite the gradual rate increase. The upward shift in rates is not unexpected, given that we have enjoyed more than a year of record-low interest rates.

“This lengthy period of low interest rates has done well to stabilise the housing property market. While buyer activity may have started to moderate, it is still above pre-pandemic levels, says Coetzee. “Deeds office registrations increased by a significant 11.47% for the six months ending in November 2021, up from the 8.43% growth recorded for the same period in 2020. Similarly, BetterBond’s home loan registrations for the six months ending in December last year increased by 9,85%.”

Buyers’ needs have also changed and we are seeing more people semigrating to the coast or smaller towns where they can work remotely and enjoy a better quality of life. This trend is expected to bolster buyer activity over the next few months notwithstanding the gradual rise in interest rates, he adds.

House price growth appears to have flattened, with FNB expecting house prices to average between 3% and 4% in 2022. But what is encouraging is that the time properties are staying on the market - a good indicator of the state of the property sector - has shortened from eight weeks and six days to seven weeks and six days, well below the global average of 14 weeks and one day reported after the global financial crisis of 2019.

“The outcome of holding the repo rate steady for so long is that we are dealing with a very different housing market from the one that slumped into 2009 when the property boom bubble burst,” says Coetzee.

Should pre-approved buyers get re-approved?

Stevens and Coetzee both agree that obtaining pre-approval if you are thinking of applying for a bond is always a good idea. It not only gives you a good idea of what you can afford, based on your household expenses, available deposit etc, but it also greatly improves your chances of bond approval when you do find your ideal home.

“If you got bond pre-approval before the recent repo rate increase, you should reapply as the terms of pre-approval are likely to have changed,” Stevens notes. “For example, you might have received pre-approved finance at a rate linked to the previous prime lending rate.”

Remember that your pre-approval certificate is only valid for 90 days from issue, irrespective of changes in the interest rate, adds Coetzee. “The certificate also includes a calculation of affordability options based on varying interest rates, so you will know what you will need to pay should the rate change during the 90 days.”

Although pre-approval does not mean that the bank has approved your bond application, it does give you an indication of what the big banks will be willing to offer you based on your affordability, says Coetzee.

“And it proves to the seller that you are a serious buyer with the financial means to buy the home,” Stevens concludes. “This can give you a competitive edge when the seller is considering other offers.”

Should I be looking at a larger deposit?

If you’re thinking of purchasing a home, paying a larger deposit, if you have the financial means to do so, will help buffer future rates increases.

Being able to offer some form of deposit will always positively affect your monthly bond repayments, irrespective of the current interest rate, says Coetzee. “BetterBond applies to more than one bank on a buyer’s behalf, to secure the most competitive lending rate. A deposit - even if just 10% - will also go a long way to securing a better interest rate. Banks certainly look more favourably at an applicant who appears to be a lower lending risk.”

“Remember, there is more to paying off a bond than the interest rate,” adds Stevens. “You can also mitigate the risk of an increase in rates by making extra bond repayments every month, thereby reducing the loan amount as quickly as possible and reducing the term of the loan too.”

Coetzee agrees: “Paying a bit more into your bond now, when the interest rate is still comparatively low, will reduce your monthly repayments and serve as a buffer when interest rates increase.  As an example, paying a 10% deposit on a R1 million home will reduce the monthly repayments from R8 056 to R7 250. It will also reduce the bond and transfer costs from R49 979 to R47 998.”

Stevens concludes: “Most property analysts predict that property prices are likely to increase along with interest rates. The best saving you can probably make is to buy now, if you’ve been considering it. Get pre-approved, link up with an excellent property professional, put down at least a 10% deposit, and use a good bond repayment calculator to weigh up the pros and cons of fixing the interest rate.”

For more information on Just Property, please visit www.just.property or call (087) 583 3333.

Paddington Station PR

Established in 2012, Paddington Station PR is an award-winning brand communications agency servicing client throughout South Africa. Led by a senior management team, the agency is driven headfirst and supported by a posse of forward-thinking individuals that represent the youthful essence of South Africa today. Our size and attitude allow us to be nimble and also pushes us to be the best we can be at all times to deliver strategies and campaigns that hit the mark and drive real impact. Backed by a 25-year knowledge base and a global network, we incorporate a proactive process that is designed to inspire and shift today's consumer to connect, collaborate and communicate. Proud member of Brand Council SA.