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Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) and How It Affects Your Loans

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Ryan Ong

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It’s always a risk letting people manage their own money. Some will save and invest, others will spend their last borrowed cent gold plating the family chihuahua. And the government seems convinced we’re the latter, because Singaporean borrowers now face TDSR:

 

What Is The TDSR Framework?

The Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) framework is to ensure borrowers aren’t overleveraged (i.e. borrowing like a broke alcoholic in a liquor store). It’s a standard that applies to property loans granted by all financial institutions (FIs)*.

*FIs are not always banks.

TDSR calculates the percentage of your income that can go into servicing your loan. At present, the highest TDSR that FIs are meant to allow is 60%.

That means your housing loan repayments, after adding all your repayment obligations (student loans, credit card debts, car loans, personal loans, etc.), cannot exceed 60% of your income.

 

 How Is It Different from DSR and MSR?

You may know the terms Debt Servicing Ratio (DSR) and Mortgage Servicing Ratio (MSR), which seem similar to TDSR. They’re not.

MSR only takes into account your housing loan repayments. So a MSR of 30% means 30% of your monthly income can go into home loan repayments, regardless of what your other repayment obligations are.

Then we have the old standard, DSR. And this is where a lot of you will yell (1) “But DSR already factored in all my debts”, and (2) “Wait a second, 60% TDSR is even more relaxed than the old 50% DSR”.

Wrong on both counts.

(1) DSR didn’t factor in certain unsecured loans, such as credit card debt, and

(2) TDSR is more restrictive than DSR. The method for determining your monthly income and loan repayments are different, as we’ll describe below. Also, the range of debts factored into TDSR are much wider.

There’s more to it than that. I’ll explain these effects as we go along:

  • Property Investing Becomes a Lot Harder
  • You Can’t Borrow as Much, Even Without Other Debts
  • Increased Refinancing Risk
  • If You Have Variable Income, You’ll Have to Borrow Less
  • It’s Harder to Stretch the Loan Tenure
  • Take Up Zen Meditation Before Attempting the Paperwork

 

1. Property Investing Becomes a Lot Harder

If you already have an outstanding home loan (or two), it’s unlikely you can take on another without breaking the 60% TDSR.

Of course, it depends on how high your outstanding home loans are. The point is not so much to prevent you buying (although that’s a partial goal), but to ensure you buy only within your means. We will be exploring other property investment avenues soon, so follow us on Facebook to stay tuned!

 

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That hard earned loose change collection may come in handy now. Or… not.

 

2. You Can’t Borrow as Much, Even Without Other Debts

Home loans are subject to changing interest rates. So when you take such a loan, the bank doesn’t just use the current rate; they implement a “stress test”, to see if you can handle sudden spikes in interest.

This “stress test” is now standardized at 3.5% for residential properties, and 4.5% for commercial properties.

In other words, home buyers must maintain a TDSR of 60% or under, even if interest rates were to rise to 3.5% (currently, it hovers around 1.7%).

This significantly affects the loan quantum (i.e. the total amount that can be borrowed), even if there’s no outstanding debts.

 

3. Increased Financing Risk

This is the risk that you won’t be able to refinance into a cheaper loan.

Most home loan interest rates are low for three years, and then go bonkers on the fourth. It’s not impossible to see hikes of one full percent.

At this point, it is (or was) standard practice to switch to another home loan package, with a lower interest rate.

The problem is, a lot of home buyers took their loan packages before the TDSR framework. It was easier to get bigger loans back then.

Should they try to refinance now, they might find they don’t meet the 60% TDSR. These unfortunate people are stuck with their overpriced home loans.

UPDATE Feb 2014: MAS has tweaked the TDSR requirement. You can now refinance your home loan if you took out the loan before TDSR was introduced in 2013 even if you don’t meet the 60% TDSR. However, this only applies to owner-occupied property.

UPDATE Sept 2016: MAS has tweaked the TDSR requirement again. You can now refinance your home loan as long as you are the owner-occupier, regardless of when the loan was taken out.

 

4. If You Have Variable Income, You’ll Have to Borrow Less

Okay, so TDSR is 60% of your income. But how do you define that income? Not everyone gets a fixed paycheck.

A businessman takes out variable sums from his business, landlords get rent, and salesmen have commissions.

Under the new TDSR framework, that’s lumped under variable income. And FIs are to treat that variable income as though it’s 30% less than it actually is.

So if you’re a business owner making $5,000 a month, your income when calculating your TDSR is just $3,500. That, in turn, means a much lower loan quantum.

 

5. It’s Harder to Stretch the Loan Tenure

Previously, you could stretch your loan tenure by making a joint application with a younger borrower (say, your son).

FIs would just use the age of the youngest applicant. That helped, because a 25 year old can get a 30 year loan tenure, which a 55 year old obviously can’t.

But now, the average age of the borrowers will be used; so a 25 year old and a 55 year old would count as having the collective age of 40.

Also, FIs will only count borrowers with an income. So you can’t be earning nothing, but list yourself as a co-borrower with mum or dad to lower the average age.

 

6. Take Up Zen Meditation Before Attempting the Paperwork

What statements do the banks need now? All the statements.

Credit card debts, commissions, student loans, gym memberships, the personal loan you took out to buy a decent Magic deck, all of it. And if you have variable income, you need documentary proof of rent you collect, commissions, fees from clients, etc.

This causes severe complications (e.g. if your clients are in arrears but have collateral, do their fees still count toward your variable income? What about credit cards, if you purposely just pay $50 and not $500 a month?)

Expect interaction with the banks to feel like a marathon Ping Pong tournament from now on.

If you don’t feel like listening to a million bankers telling you different things about which home loan to choose, you can always save yourself the hassle by using MoneySmart’s Home Loan Wizard and speaking to one of their mortgage specialists. You’ll come to a much more informed decision faster, and it’s free so you’re saving both time and money (that you would have otherwise spent transporting yourself to different banks).

 

Have you had a difficult experience with the new loan measures? Share it with us here!

Image Credits:
Jane | Shipwrecks and Sharks, Down Under Photography, G Michael Salon,

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.

  • Radical Rhombus

    Hi Ryan,

    Great article!

    If I am an existing guarantor for my brother’s car loan, does it count towards my loan obligations?

    Cheers!

  • Shazam

    Is TDSR applicable to guarantor of educational loan?