You have chosen your dream home and the project is approved by both banks and Housing Finance Companies (HFC). You need a Home Loan. Which lender should you go for? Are HFCs genuine? Are HFCs well regulated? Do they have fair loan practices? Will they provide standard services? All these questions might be playing in your mind. Here, we try to answer some of those questions for you.
Who supervises HFCs?
Unlike popular perception, HFCs are not unregulated. They are regulated by the National Housing Bank (NHB). HFCs need to register with NHB and the latter regulates and supervises them. There have been talks about the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) taking over but nothing is on the ground till now. However, NHB has been quite proactive in ensuring that Home Loan borrowers rest easy. These include steps like abolishing prepayment charges for floating rate loans, putting a cap on Loan To Value (LTV) ratio and making sure that HFCs have done proper provisioning for their bad loans. So, it is not right to say that HFCs are unregulated and are free to fix their own interest rates. They are well regulated and have standard industry practices when it comes to services.
What about their interest rates?
HFCs follow what is known as ‘Benchmark Prime Lending Rate (BPLR)’ model. They will fix an interest rate based on their average cost of funds. The loan rate that is fixed by HFCs will be at a discount to the BPLR.
There are two issues here. The BPLR is based on past cost of funds/interest rates and is not forward looking. Therefore, HFCs might be slow in passing on interest rate cuts to customers. Another point is that some of the HFCs might not be transparent with their BPLR.
Now, do banks offer better interest rates than HFCs? Sometimes, they do. This is because banks follow the Marginal Cost of Lending Rate (MCLR). Here, RBI ensures that the interest rate cuts made by the central bank are passed on to bank customers through the bank’s MCLR as quickly as possible.
Additional Reading: MCLR Linked Loans – More Affordable Loans For You.
However, note that there are HFCs that are competitive and do offer interest rates comparable to banks. Consider this: HDFC limited, one of the most popular HFCs, offers Home Loans starting at 8.5% while State Bank of India, the most popular bank, provides Home Loans that start at 8.65% unless you’re a woman. For women, SBI offers loans at 8.5%. HDFC has a standard loan process and the interest rates are transparent too.
So, HFC or bank?
You might think that at the end of the day, what matters is how quickly the firm/bank is able to pass on interest rate cuts as we are now on a downward interest rate cycle. Dies that mean you should choose a bank? Wrong!
Understand Home Loan is a long tenure loan. Most Home Loans stretch beyond 10 years. Given this scenario, when interest rates start increasing some years down the line, both banks and HFCs will pass on interest rate hikes quickly. Also, you might have to pay a heavy conversion fee for getting the lower rates now. Some HFCs actually charge a lower conversion fee than a bank.
Another important point that you need to understand is that interest rate cuts are passed on more quickly to new borrowers rather than existing ones. In case there are interest rate hikes, these will be passed on quickly to both new as well as old borrowers. So, passing on interest rates won’t matter as much in the long run. Then?
How expensive is that loan?
It doesn’t matter whether you take a loan from a HFC or a bank as long as you get competitive interest rates and terms. What would matter are the processing fees, prepayment fees and the foreclosure fees.
Typically Home Loans are taken by people in their 30s and are closed within 10 to 12 years. There are hardly a handful of people who let their Home Loan run till 20 years. This is because as people grow in their career, their salaries go up over a period of time and the EMIs seem smaller. So, they would rather repay the loan quickly then have a higher outgo in the form of interest. That is precisely why you need to check the prepayment and foreclosure fee. Heavy prepayment fees will mean an expensive loan. Same goes for foreclosure. There are several HFCs and banks that don’t charge fees for prepayment or foreclosure, even for a fixed rate loan. Consider this factor before zeroing in on a Home Loan provider. Some lenders have a waiting period before which you cannot prepay. Check this too, in case you want to use your yearly bonuses to prepay your Home Loan.
Most of the times, fixed rate loans become floating rate loans after a period of time. You have to go through the terms and conditions of the loan to see how interest rates might change. Another important point to note is whether a top up loan facility is available. Since a Home Loan is with collateral and the value of your home tends to go up over time, it is easy to get a top up loan on your Home Loan. They work out cheaper than Personal Loans. If your Home Loan provider is able to give you a top up loan on your Home Loan, it will be very useful if you need funds many years down the line.
Additional Reading: How To Plan Home Loan Prepayment
So, there are multiple factors that you need to consider before choosing a Home Loan provider. Here’s a list:
- Interest rate offered
- Fixed or floating
- Processing fee
- Part-payment charges
- Foreclosure fee
- Conversion fee
- Top-up loan facility
- Service standards
Convinced? Always compare across lenders before choosing that Home Loan. And the best place to do that? You already know!