Pausing your mortgage payments could cost you $17,000


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Taking a repayment pause from your mortgage will help save the finances of many Australians in hardship. But it will also cost them on the other side of the coronavirus crisis.

How much more you pay depends on the pausing policy of your bank.

If your bank extends the loan period after the mortgage freeze, your repayments won't go up, but you will be repaying your loan for longer. If there is no extension to the 30-year mortgage, expect to pay a higher mortgage.

coronavirus cost of pausing mortgage payments

Clearing the debt on the other side of a repayment pause will be an uphill battle for many families and comes at a cost, according to modelling from research house RateCity.

RateCity's research shows that a mortgage holder could end up paying over $17,000 extra if the loan period is extended after a six-month. It will also take 15 months more to pay off the home loan.

This is modelled on a person who is five years into a 30-year loan with a balance of $400,000.

The cost of a six month pause on a $400,000 loan balance with 25 years remaining:

Sally Tindall, RateCity's research director, says that while the banks are to be congratulated for helping people who can't meet their mortgage repayments, it is important for customers to understand the long-term implications of a repayment pause and think about how they can minimise the fallout.

"A lot of people will have to resort to putting their mortgage on hold during this crisis. That's the cold hard reality for many families," says Tindall.

What can people do?

"If that's you, try to come up with a plan to pay the money back as quickly as possible after the pause to get your mortgage back on track," says Tindall.

She stresses that repayment pauses should only be used when other avenues have been exhausted.

"Talk to your bank about what other options you might have, including a rate reduction or reduced repayments for a limited time," says Tindall.

"When it comes to paying off your mortgage, every dollar makes a difference."

How the Big 4 Banks are pausing mortgage payments

Commonwealth Bank - home loan repayments remain the same as before the pause, but the loan term is extended. CBA will also make a one-time payment intended to offset the interest-on-interest charged to customers receiving a home loan deferral for six months.

Westpac - home loan repayments increase after the pause, but the loan term remains the same. Westpac is currently offering a 3-month pause with the option for a further 3 months after review.

NAB - home loan repayments increase after the pause, but the loan term remains the same.

ANZ - gives customers the option of keeping the loan term the same or extending it by six months (with a review at three months). Either option is likely to see mortgage repayments increase after the pause.

Source: RateCity.

Tips for reducing the impact of a repayment pause

  • Try and pay off some of your loan during the pause.
  • When the pause finishes, see if you can make extra repayments to catch up.
  • Negotiate a lower interest rate with your bank and if possible, try and put any savings from the rate reduction back into your mortgage.
  • Call an independent financial advisor or a financial counsellor for advice. The National Debt Hotline is: 1800 007 007.

Potential alternatives to pausing mortgage repayments

  • Switch to minimum repayments: customers making higher repayments on their loan can ask their bank to adjust their repayments to the minimum to free up cash.
  • Use your redraw facility: if you are ahead on your repayments you can access them via redraw (fees may be charged).
  • Request a rate cut: variable rate customers can ask their bank to lower their home loan rate. While banks typically don't allow rate changes for fixed rate customers if you are in financial stress, it's still worth asking.
  • Switch to interest-only repayments: many lenders will let you only pay the interest on your loan for a period of time. While it will reduce your monthly repayments in the short term, your interest rate is likely to increase and by not paying down your debt, you will pay more in interest charges the longer term.
  • Reduce repayments temporarily: instead of going on a full repayment pause, see if you can reduce your repayments. While this can potentially add thousands to your mortgage, it's likely to be better than going on a full repayment holiday.

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Susan has been a finance journalist for more than 30 years, beginning at the Australian Financial Review before moving to the Sydney Morning Herald. She edited a superannuation magazine, Superfunds, for the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, and writes regularly on superannuation and managed funds. She's also author of the best-selling book Women and Money.
John Whittam
February 6, 2021 11.45am

My daughter who a mortgage with Westpac went onto Jobkeeper as did her husband. They arranged a loan deferral with Westpac, they continued on Jobkeeper until November. Wespac have written to her and are now demanding $20,000 backlog of deferred mortgage payments claiming that she agreed to this during a phone call last August. She only recommenced work last December and certainly is not in a position to come up with $20,000 to meet the bank's demands. What course of action should she take ?

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