Questions to Ask about Home Loans

A home loan represents a major financial commitment, sometimes the largest financial commitment a home buyer like you may take on during your lifetime. Given the significance it is important that you stay prepared when about to take on a home loan. These questions will hopefully help you gauge your preparedness:

Are you Ready?

We are talking about financial preparedness here. You can measure your financial readiness through the following measures:

TDSR

The Total Debt Servicing Ratio is the ratio of your income and liabilities. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) had, in June 2013, capped TDSR on property loans to 60% to encourage prudent borrowing. Your consolidated debt repayments including your home loan repayment, car loans, renovation loans, study loans, credit card loans and other secured or unsecured loans cannot exceed 60%. And, incomes that include variable components are subject to prescribed haircuts before TDSR is applied.

LTV

The Loan-to-Value ratio is the amount of loan taken out on a property in relation to its value expressed as a percentage. Since the introduction of the TDSR framework for property loans by the MAS, which came into effect from the 29th of June 2013, the maximum Loan to Value (LTV) that can be borrowed is 90%. LTV will vary based on different scenarios.

Credit Score

Get to know your credit score by applying for it along with the relevant fee. The higher your score the better the chances of your getting that housing loan. There are only two bureaus gazetted by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS): the Credit Bureau (Singapore) Pte Ltd and the DP Credit Bureau Pte Ltd.

Do I Need to Know about Refinancing?

Yes. Refinancing, when smartly used, comes with a number of benefits that can help you deal with your current financial situation better. Refinancing refers to switching your existing home loan to a different financial institution usually to benefit from lower interest rates.

But before you refinance check out Notice 632 penalties; these can be levied if you are still in the lock-in or claw-back period. Try and refinance only if you get a rate that is low enough to offset the penalties imposed or sit tight and wait out your lock-in period.

In September 2016, the MAS fine-tuned* the TDSR Rules especially with regard to refinancing to allow borrowers more flexibility in managing their debt obligations. As per this new measure, the MAS has exempted the refinancing of owner-occupied housing loans and investment property loans from the TDSR framework subject to certain financial prudence-related conditions.

Do you need Expert Advice?

It sometimes happens that the sheer amount of detailing and fine print associated with housing loans and the whole process of selecting a home and getting a loan can overwhelm even the best of us. In such a case try taking the help of an expert. Just make sure that they are suitably certified; if, for instance, you are approaching a financial adviser make sure that s/he is qualified under the Financial Advisers Act.

What we’ve covered here merely represents a microcosm of the home loan universe. Use these tips as a starting point and dive in, start exploring and take every possible opportunity to expand your knowledge.

* Data source: Monetary Authority of Singapore – TDSR Rules on Refinancing Fine-tuned.

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