BY SARAH MILLS, NINEMSN MONEY
When you take out a loan, you are basically buying money. Money is a very simple commodity, which means you should be able to compare the price of loans (money) at a glance, in the same way you might compare a litre of fuel. In reality, this rarely happens.
Lenders understand that it is not in their interest (excuse the pun) to embark on a rate war with each other for market share and have instead opted to attach any number of bells and whistles to loans that ultimately obscure the true cost to the borrower.
Some of these bells and whistles, such as redraw facilities, can be very convenient, even desirable. What the borrower needs to know, however, is how much they are paying for that convenience.
The financial industry has largely resisted efforts to publish the “real” interest rate on a loan and the average borrower today is pretty much confounded by the thousands of home loans on the market offered by hundreds of lenders. Not even a rocket scientist could easily calculate the best home loan in the market today without a fairly sophisticated software package or strong industry knowledge.
This obfuscation, along with reduction in branch networks and strong competition for home loans, has in part been responsible for the mushrooming of the mortgage broker industry. Virtually non-existent 15 years ago, mortgage brokers now write at least 30 percent of all loans in Australia.
In theory, the mortgage broker’s job is to be familiar with all the loans on the market so that when you enlist their services, they can find a loan that matches your circumstances and offer the best deal for you. They can save you time and money, help explain loan documents, costs and disbursements and even negotiate with the lender on your behalf.
Not all mortgage brokers, however, are working for you. Mortgage brokers make their money by receiving commissions from the lenders, which can affect their impartiality. Some have relationships with only a few lenders, which means you don’t have access to all loans on the market. Others may only offer the products of one bank. Others may simply suggest to you the loan that pays them the highest commission, not the one that gives you the best deal.
Alas, the borrower is now like the old woman who swallowed the fly and then has to swallow a spider to catch the fly: it may have been difficult calculating the cheapest interest rate, but it can be even more difficult calculating the independence or honesty of a broker.
Tips for getting the best deal from mortgage brokers
A written agreement with a mortgage broker should cover the following:
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