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Softening the rate hike blow

Ways to reduce your monthly home loan repayments and other costs

Cost-cutting is on many people’s minds, as prices rise, and affordability becomes stretched.  While potential homeowners continue to benefit from attractive interest rates due to heightened competition between the banks, what are the cost-saving options available to existing homeowners?

The reality is that the succession of interest rate hikes has had a big impact on existing homeowners, who are now paying more on their home loan than they have in the past three years.

In search of some much-needed reprieve, there are however several ways for existing homeowners to reduce the financial burden of a home loan in tough economic times.

Renegotiate the interest rate:

First and foremost, homeowners have the option to renegotiate the interest rate on their existing home loan.

An existing homeowner can approach their bank to renegotiate the interest rate that they are currently being charged on their home loan.  This, of course, is provided that your home loan is in good standing (paid on time each month).

The bank will also be more inclined to agree to a lower interest rate if the value of your property (compared to the original loan amount borrowed) has increased, meaning that the bank’s loan-to-value (LTV) ratio and the associated risk has reduced.

Renegotiate the repayment term:

Homeowners can also approach their bank to apply for an extension on the remaining term of their home loan to reduce their monthly bond repayments.

For instance, if you initially applied for a home loan over 20 years, you could request that the home loan term be reset back to 20 years—or even extended over a longer period of up to 30 years.  However, you will need to agree to the updated terms and conditions and will be subject to a higher total interest charged over the extended loan term.

Apply for a payment holiday:

Payment holidays were widely requested during the COVID-19 pandemic—and while they have their financial drawbacks in the long term, it is an avenue that homeowners can take for short-term relief.

In this case, homeowners should contact their banks to request a payment holiday or to pay a reduced loan instalment for a short period of time.  These payments, and the interest accumulated, will need to be repaid over an agreed number of months following the expiry of the payment holiday period.

Take advantage of FLISP:

Introduced in 2012, the Finance Linked Individual Subsidy Programme (FLISP) is a government project that works to close the gap in the home-buying market.  South African first-time homebuyers with either a single or joint gross monthly household income of between R3 501 and R22 000 can qualify for FLISP.

Subsidies available range from R30 000 to R130 505.

Existing homeowners who meet the criteria, but have never previously applied or received the subsidy, are still eligible to receive it retrospectively—provided that the application is made within 12 months of bond registration.

Upon approval, the subsidy is paid to your home loan account; it reduces the bank’s risk and enables you to re-negotiate the interest rate on your home loan.

Homeowners can work with ooba Home Loans to determine their eligibility through a prequalification.  We make sure that your paperwork is in order, and determine the finance amount that you will be approved for prior to submitting the paperwork to the National Housing Finance Corporation (NHFC).

Use savings to soften the blow:

Those who have money set aside may consider taking a percentage of emergency savings, and depositing these into their bond.

Paying more than your regular monthly home loan repayment each month will reduce the total interest charged in the long term.  This is also a great way to enjoy tax-free savings.

Other ways to cut back:

Another key area where one could cut back is in the home maintenance area.  It’s advised that you look at your home maintenance expenditure to determine key areas where you could reduce spending.

These could include shopping around for more competitive homeowners’ insurance, armed response services, home fibre and internet services providers, garden services, etc.

There are also various financing options available to homeowners.  Hope is not lost, and it’s important that you educate yourself and work with a reputable team of experts in making your final decision.

WRITTEN BY Rhys Dyer

Rhys Dyer is the chief executive officer of ooba Home Loans.

While every reasonable effort is taken to ensure the accuracy and soundness of the contents of this publication, neither writers of articles nor the publisher will bear any responsibility for the consequences of any actions based on information or recommendations contained herein.  Our material is for informational purposes and should not be construed as financial advice.

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