Posts Tagged ‘mortages’

Questioning the conventional wisdom on 50-yr loans

In Financial competency, Financial planning, Humour, Property on 17/08/2012 at 5:23 am

When netizens like Ryan Ong and the readers of TRE, the government, and the constructive, nation-building media agree that 50-yr mortgages are bad for the borrowers and S’pore, I had no alternative but to think about the issue. Surely, they can’t all be right. A waste of my time as I’m unlikely ever to want, or to get approved for such a loan: I’m past 55. But then, I got plenty of time.

Let’s start with the most blindly obvious fact. The very long period, more than half the average life span of a S’porean*.

– “Borrowers could easily get stuck … if the market crashes”. This was written by an apprentice of the Dark Side (which confusingly in the context of S’pore belongs to the the Men in White) in yesterday’s ST.

– Or that interest rates can go up beyond our wildest imaginations. Well according to the government, a 30-yr mortgage on a 99-yr lease is “affordable”. So waz another 20 yrs?

– Anything can happen (PAP loses power and Gerald Giam leader of WP becomes PM?).

Seriously, the deified Lord Keynes said the only reasonable response to the question “What will interest rates be in 20 years’ time?” is “We simply do not know”. And he was talking only about 20 yrs. The point I’m trying to make is that even the 20-yr standard mortgage is problematic and risky. So don’t over exaggerate the risk for 50-yr mortgages, when 20-yr mortgages are already risky.

(BTW, roughly 20 yrs after Keynes made that remark that, Britain was fighting the Third Reich: it was losing. Any intelligent nation would have surrendered. After all, the Fourth Reich rules the Eurozone on which Britain depends for its propsperity.)

Next, we are told that the interest payments are “humongous”. True. But has anyone done the sums to see if someone had bot a bungalow in the mid-1950s on a 50-yr mortgage (didn’t exist then: in fact mortgages were for very short periods only, and only available to rich people), would he or she have made money in the mid-2000s? Would the cost of repayments be worth it? I think, we know the answer.

I’m not saying that history will repeat itself. We are unlikely to have a competent PAP government bullying ruling us for another 50 yrs (And the PAP started getting incompetent 21 yrs ago). And anyway, men like Dr Goh Keng Swee are  dead, or retired like Ngiam Tong Dow and one LKY.

What about nothing left in the CPF account for old age? Seriously, does anyone think that the cash put aside in the account will be worth much?

What I’m not saying is that a 50-yr mortgage is good for borrowers, or S’pore. What I’m saying is that it’s juz the logical extension of a 20 or 30-yr mortgage. Its cons are equally applicable to a 20 or 30 yr mortgage. Does anyone who takes out these mortgages expect to continue financing the mortgage for said period? No, the plan always is to refinance on better terms a few yrs after taking out the mortgage. Same for 50-yr one too. The interest rate and other risks are similar, juz magnified.

The issue in taking out a mortgage is not affordability but one’s risk profile, reasonably and rationally considered. But thinking rationally and reasonably is not easy.

Interesting post: Some useful number crunching


*82.2 for a male S’porean and 85.6 for a female.


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