So, you’ve decided to buy a house. Choosing between polished floors and carpet is one thing. Getting your head around the logistics of financing your house is a whole other ball game.

To give you a head start, we’ll take you through some key mortgage terms.

Mortgage terms


Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is a mortgage?

A mortgage is a legal agreement between the property owner and the lender, such as a bank or building society, where the property owner gives the lender the power to sell the property if the borrower defaults. The agreement is void when the loan is paid back in full.

Fixed-rate mortgage

A fixed-rate is when the interest rate is fixed (unchanging) for the term of the agreement. A two-year fixed rate will be fixed at a certain rate for two years, for example. The advantage of a fixed rate is that you know how much interest you will be expected to pay. The downside is that rates can go up and down, so you take the risk that you will miss out on interest rates falling. Usually, you weigh up the security of knowing your interest rate against the risk of paying more in interest.

Variable interest rate

A variable interest rate is flexible, meaning it is subject to change. Your interest rate may vary depending on market and economic factors. The rate is set by your lender, and can either go up or down. The risk is that your interest repayments can increase beyond your means, so make sure you’ve considered this possibility.


The deposit is the amount you put down to secure your property. A typical deposit is 20 per cent of the value of the house, although there are ways of making a smaller deposit, such as taking out lender’s mortgage insurance or using a guarantor. The deposit amount can vary from lender to lender, and might be dependent on your financial situation.

Lender’s mortgage insurance

Lender’s mortgage insurance (LMI) is not your personal insurance on the house. LMI is insurance taken out by the lender to protect them against you defaulting on the loan. LMI is often required if you take out a mortgage that is more than 80 per cent of the value of the house. You will be charged LMI, which will bring your repayments up.


The principal is the amount of your loan, without interest.

RBA cash rate

The RBA cash rate is a monthly target that is set by the Reserve Bank of Australia. It provides a benchmark for Australian financial institutions, and reflects the inter-lender rate banks use to borrow funds from other banks. The cash rate can be affected by national debt levels, employment rates and inflation. If the cash rate increases, your variable interest rate might also increase.

Book a chat with your Smartline Adviser if you’d like more clarification about any of these terms, or to discuss how to move forward with your mortgage.

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DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is correct at the time of publishing and is subject to change. It is intended to be of a general nature only. It has been prepared without taking into account any person’s objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this information, Smartline recommends that you consider whether it is appropriate for your circumstances. Smartline recommends that you seek independent legal, financial, and taxation advice before acting on any information in this article.