If the deposit doesn’t get you, the RBA might


As the Reserve Bank of Australia pledges to fight hard against inflation by raising interest rates, buyers are also facing record deposits to get a foot on the real estate ladder.

Even if you can manage to find the record high amount needed for a deposit on a new home, the threat of further interest rate hikes from 5 July might be the straw to break the property camel’s back.

New research by Finder found that the average deposit size used by first home buyers to get their foot on the market has grown to $119,560.

The 11 per cent increase over the past year means the deposit is 30 per cent more than Australia’s average full-time salary of $90,916.

And any discussions first-home buyers may have with their mortgage-holding friends will be unlikely to offer solace.

Economists are unanimous in predicting an RBA rate hike on the first Tuesday of July, with most expecting another double-whammy 0.5 per cent hike to match this month’s.

Lenders have been quick to pass these hikes on – to borrowers, if not savers.

The average variable interest rate for owner occupiers paying principal and interest is 3.34 per cent and the lowest variable rate is 1.99 per cent but rising rapidly.

Twenty-seven lenders have increased 304 variable rates by an average of 0.48 in the past week alone, while 16 lenders increased 378 fixed rates by an average of 0.47 per cent.

The average variable interest rate for investors paying principal and interest is 3.70 per cent and the lowest rate is 2.10 per cent, according to Canstar.

There are currently only six variable rates below 2 per cent, based on all loans in Canstar’s database.

RBA warpath

If interest rates and deposits don’t scare buyers away, inflation may just do the job instead.

RBA governor Philip Lowe this week made it clear borrowers faced more pain as they RBA tried to reign in rampant inflation.

The inflation is eating away at income and interest rates will do the same to expenditure.

If the RBA hikes by 0.25 percentage points in July, someone with a $500,000 loan could see their repayments rise by an additional $68 a month. If it lifts by 0.50 percentage points, that same borrower would see their monthly repayments rise by an extra $137.

Increase in repayments if the RBA hikes by 0.25% vs 0.50% in July
Calculations are for existing customers and based over 25 years

  0.25% 0.50%
Loan size Increase in repayments (July) Total increase May + June + July Increase in repayments (July) Total increase May + June + July
$500,000 $68 $264 $137 $333
$750,000 $102 $396 $205 $499
$1 million $136 $529 $273 $665

Source: RateCity.com.au. Based on an owner-occupier paying principal and interest with 25 years remaining. Starting rate is the RBA average existing owner-occupier variable rate of 2.86% and assumes banks pass the cash rate hikes on in full.

The RBA’s view is that inflation will peak in Australia at 7 per cent in December but that it will start to move down in 2023.

To wrestle that under control and avoid the fate of the US and Europe where inflation is much higher, Mr Lowe has indicated to markets that taking the cash rate from its current 0.85 per cent to around 2.5 per cent this year might do the trick.

“As we chart our way back to 2 to 3 per cent inflation, Australians should be prepared for more interest rate increases,” he said in a speech to the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia on Tuesday.

“The level of interest rates is still very low for an economy with low unemployment and that is experiencing high inflation.

“I want to emphasise though that we are not on a pre-set path and how fast we increase interest rates, and how far we need to go, will be guided by the incoming data and the Board’s assessment of the outlook for inflation and the labour market.”

Neither outlook is particularly promising, so borrowers should grit their teeth and prepare to set aside more for their mortgages.

Graham Cooke, head of consumer research at Finder, said many first-time buyers in particular will be doing it tough and needed to look at ways of supercharging their savings.

“Saving up to buy your first home has become a decade-long exercise for some people.

“Getting on the property ladder is becoming out of reach for many with affordability deteriorating.

“Ongoing savings rates have improved to as high as 2.00 per cent p.a. and term deposits are as high as 3.75 per cent if you are willing to lock up your money for 24 months.”


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