7 easy steps to buying a home if you’re self-employed
If you’re a self-employed borrower, you’ve no doubt worked hard to get where you are and you deserve to enjoy the fruits of your labour. Here are our best tips for buying a home when you’re self-employed – but be warned, you may feel tempted to break out a spontaneous “happy dance” when you secure your new digs. It’s that exciting!
1) Save the nest egg
If you’re considering buying property in the not-so-distant future, it’s a good idea to start saving and planning the purchase well in advance. Lenders like to see a solid savings history over several months when assessing home loan applications.
While you may be able to borrow up to 95% of the property’s value by using your personal and business tax returns from the last two years to verify your income, you will be subject to Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI) if you have less than 20% for your deposit. LMI protects lenders if you default on your home loan and it can be costly, so it’s a good idea to aim to save a deposit of 20% or more.
2) Be fastidious about financials
As a self-employed borrower, one of the best ways to maximise your chances of approval is to make sure your financial records are up-to-date and accurate. Lenders are typically more careful about granting home loans to self-employed borrowers, as your income streams fluctuate more than PAYG applicants and it’s more difficult for lenders to gauge whether you can meet repayments into the future. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) also requires lenders and mortgage brokers to ensure you are able to repay your loan without suffering financial hardship.
Lenders like to see consistency of income, and if your financial record-keeping is top-notch, it will be easier to illustrate your earnings and ultimately have your loan application approved. If you’re self-employed and thinking about buying a home, it’s a good idea to have your last two years’ financial statements, income tax returns and notices of assessment ready to go.
3) Get your accountant on the job
One challenge self-employed borrowers may face is not being able to prove they can service a loan because their accountant has been clever about reducing their taxable income. While you may save money on your tax bill, reducing your taxable income can also affect your ability to apply for credit and invest in property. It’s important to talk to a qualified accountant about your home buying aspirations and the tax implications. We have some great contacts, so let us know if you need a referral.
Often there are business expenses that can be added back to your taxable income to work out your borrowing capacity. These “add-backs” include larger stand-alone costs, non-cash expenses like depreciation, additional super contributions, and interest on loans being refinanced. Talk to us about whether “add-backs” could improve your chances of being approved.
4) Provide the necessary documentation
If you’ve been self-employed for more than two years, you can verify your income by providing two years of personal tax returns and the correlating ATO notices of assessment, two years of tax returns for all entities (company, trust, Self-Managed Super Fund), and two years of profit and loss statements (if applicable).
If you’ve been self-employed for less than two years, the income requirements on Alternative Documentation loans include: six months of Business Activity Statements, six months of business account statements, six months of personal bank account statements, confirmation of ABN and confirmation of GST registration. You will also need a letter from your accountant confirming your full legal name, trading name, how long the accountant has serviced you, gross taxable income for the past three years and any relevant deductions.
5) Talk to us about pre-approval
Organising pre-approval before you begin looking for a property will make the process a whole lot easier, as it will give you a realistic idea of how much you can afford to borrow, so that you can put a budget on your search and find the home you want sooner. We can help you establish your borrowing power and determine your eligibility for finance. We’ll explain the merits of each lender and which loans could work for you.
As part of the pre-approval process, we will approach your lender of choice, who will check your credit history and verify your income. Pre-approval gives you an assurance from the lender that you can take out a loan up to a certain amount – handy ammunition when trying to convince real estate agents and vendors you’re serious about buying.
6) Find your property
Once you’ve organised pre-approval, it’s time to find the right property. Remember, this is one of the biggest decisions of your life, so it pays to do plenty of research before choosing ‘the one’. Make sure you get a building inspection done to check for issues such as structural movement or plumbing problems, as well as pest inspections for termites and other unwanted guests. A solicitor or conveyancer will be able to take care of the legalities involved in buying the property.
7) Apply for your home loan
As your mortgage broker, we will find the right home loan to suit your financial situation and future objectives. As a self-employed borrower, we can help you find ways to make your cash flow work harder. If you are a contractor or sub-contractor, you may be considered ‘an employee’ rather than self-employed by some lenders, so it’s worth asking us to check.
If you’re self-employed and looking to buy a home, it’s a good idea to consult a mortgage broker like us to discuss your options. Lenders’ policies vary widely when it comes to self-employed applicants, but we know which ones will view your application most favourably. We’ll explain your buying capacity, provide advice about which application method would work best (given your income and documentation), and help maximise your chances of approval. Best of all, you’ll feel confident in the knowledge your home loan is structured correctly from day one, so that it works for you.
PS. We won’t judge you if the “happy dance” happens in our office. We may even capture it on video and post it on our Facebook page!