Loan to value ratio: What does LVR mean?

Child weighing fruit on scales to represent the meaning of loan to value ratio (LVR).

When taking out a home loan in Australia, one term you're sure to come across regularly in your research is “LVR". But what does LVR mean? And why is it so important when it comes to mortgage costs?

Read our LVR guide for answers to this essential mortgage question and more.

LVR meaning

LVR stands for loan-to-value ratio, and is expressed as a percentage. It's an important part of determining your home loan serviceability, which is a calculation lenders make to assess how much of a risk you pose when applying for a home loan (i.e. if it's relatively safe to say you can pay back the what you borrow).

If you have a high LVR, this means you will be borrowing a larger proportion of the value of the property you plan to purchase. Or inversely, you'll have a smaller home loan deposit when looking at it as a percentage of that property's value.

If you were comparing mortgage repayments of two people who've bought properties of the same value, repayments will be higher for someone with a smaller deposit (and thus a higher LVR).

Let’s use the example of first home buyer Hannah who has saved a deposit of $80,000 and is looking to purchase a property with a value of $500,000.

To figure out her LVR, Hannah will have to conduct some simple maths. Let's get cracking.

LVR calculator

Hannah can calculate her “home loan amount” by deducting her deposit from the overall property value.

$500,000 - $80,000 = $420,000

Next she’ll need to use the above LVR calculation to see what her loan to value ratio is:

$420,000 (home loan amount) ÷ $500,000 (property value) = 0.84

The last LVR calculation she’ll need to do is times 0.84 by 100 to find the percentage figure.

0.84 x 100 = 84% LVR

Voila! Hannah’s LVR is 84%. But since she has a deposit of less than 20% and will be borrowing more than 80% of the value of the property, she will have to pay lenders mortgage insurance, which is an insurance home loan lenders take out as protection in case the borrower fails to repay the loan.

How to avoid paying lenders mortgage insurance

Lenders mortgage insurance is often mistakenly thought to protect the borrower, but that's not the case. If you're looking for financial protection in case you became unwell or injured and are unable to work, you would need to look at mortgage protection insurance. This covers the cost of your home loan repayments for a set period of time specified in the policy.

Back to our case study Hannah. There are several ways she can avoid the cost of paying lenders mortgage insurance. This includes:

  • Save a larger deposit: While Hannah currently has a deposit of 16%, if she could hold off purchasing her first home and save up an extra $20,000 this would bring her LVR to 80% and she would avoid LMI.
  • Use a parental guarantor: Hannah could ask her parents to go guarantor on her home loan by putting their own property up as a guarantee. While this will save her thousands on LMI, if Hannah was unable to repay the loan the lender has the right to seize her parents' asset and sell it to recover their loss. So if you’re thinking of asking your parents or another family member to be a guarantor, make sure they know the risks involved beforehand.
  • Apply for the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme: This is like a parent guarantor, except it's the government that's backing you up via the FHLDS. If you're a first home buyer with at least a 5% you can apply for this government guarantee, although there are limited spaces available through the scheme.
  • Add the cost to the home loan. Another option for Hannah is to add the cost of lenders mortgage insurance to her home loan and ensure her mortgage has the option of fee free extra repayments so when she comes into extra cash down the track she can pay off this amount quick smart to avoid the additional interest the LMI will cost her over the life of the loan.

What are the LVR traps to watch out for?

Lenders mortgage insurance isn’t the only factor to consider when it comes to your LVR. Here are a few more potential considerations to keep top of mind... 

1. Higher interest rates for low deposit loans

You might be eager to get a foot in the property door but there are some benefits in waiting until you have a sizeable deposit. One of the main pros is a better interest rate. Many lenders use a tier based interest rate system, which means the lower your LVR and higher your deposit, the better the rate you’ll receive

2. Stricter lending requirements for investor loans

While there are low deposit home loans available, we should mention that LVR requirements are different for property investors. Let’s use another example but this time look at first time buyer George, who is aiming to purchase an investment property which he will rent out to tenants to cover the majority of his mortgage repayments.

Unlike Hannah, who will be able to borrow up to 95% of the property value as an owner occupier, George will have to adhere to stricter investor lending requirements, which generally will only allow him to borrow up to 80% of the property value.

The reason investors face stricter LVR requirements is largely due to pressure from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), which says lenders shouldn’t be increasing their investor home loan portfolios by more than 10% in a year.

3. Cost of switching home loans with a high LVR

As you’ve probably heard, once you’re signed up with a home loan it’s important to keep an eye on the mortgage market and make the switch every few years or so if you find a better deal. However, there's one major gotcha when it comes to refinancing that could cost you big bucks – repaying lenders mortgage insurance.

So, if you want to switch providers down the track, make sure you get a professional valuation from your bank, so that you know exactly what your loan to value ratio is. If you have an LVR over 80%, this could negate the savings made by refinancing, as you may have to pay lenders mortgage insurance again.

What is a good LVR?

Generally, a lower LVR will be preferable because it means you have less to pay off and are therefore closer to owning your home. You’ll also have more equity in your property (the market value of your home minus the amount of the loan still owed) from the get-go. 

Having a deposit of at least 20% of a property’s value saved up will also allow you to avoid having to pay LMI, which is required on higher LVR mortgaged to protect the lender in case you default. In the eyes of a lender, a lower LVR represents less risk, which is also why many lenders offer more attractive rates to borrowers with an LVR below 80%.

How can I decrease my LVR?

Your LVR reflects the amount borrowed as a percentage of the value of the property you’re buying, so if you want to lower your LVR, you can do so by saving up a larger deposit, or by looking at cheaper properties.

How does the bank value my property?

If you’re buying a property, refinancing or accessing the equity in your home, your bank will insist on conducting a property valuation. This is so the bank can be confident that if you’re unable to pay back the loan, they can sell the property and recover the amount owed.

The valuation itself isn’t usually done by the bank. Instead, it’s outsourced to an independent valuer, who might inspect the property in person and produce a report based on the location, size and condition of the building.

Others might rely on less time-consuming methods to appraise your property, such as a desktop valuation (comparing data from similar sales) or a restricted assessment (inspecting the property from the street).

Keep in mind that a bank’s valuation is not the same as the market valuation. The former is done for credit assessment purposes, and tends to be much more conservative than the amount the market might deem your property worth when listed.

Will I have a different LVR if I’m refinancing?

If you’re refinancing your mortgage, your LVR will look a little different compared to when you first took out a loan. For starters, depending on how far into the loan you are, the outstanding balance will have decreased. On top of that, your property’s current market value might have changed since you bought it. All of this can amount to a different LVR.

If you'd like to consider rates offered to borrowers with different LVRs, compare home loans with Mozo (starting with some of the mortgage details below).

Compare home loans - last updated 7 July 2022

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* WARNING: This comparison rate applies only to the example or examples given. Different amounts and terms will result in different comparison rates. Costs such as redraw fees or early repayment fees, and cost savings such as fee waivers, are not included in the comparison rate but may influence the cost of the loan. The comparison rate displayed is for a secured loan with monthly principal and interest repayments for $150,000 over 25 years.

** Initial monthly repayment figures are estimates only, based on the advertised rate, loan amount and term entered. Rates, fees and charges and therefore the total cost of the loan may vary depending on your loan amount, loan term, and credit history. Actual repayments will depend on your individual circumstances and interest rate changes.

^See information about the Mozo Experts Choice Home Loan Awards

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