Home a loan to be reckoned with

HomePath, the Commonwealth Bank's home loan website, has broadened its capabilities beyond those of an online application "mailbox" to include a variety of new features.

Home buyers can now make changes over the life of the loan, carry out property searches, do "comparison shopping", and more.

According to HomePath director Bernadette Fifield, the site targets the growing number of home buyers who are comfortable with the internet and don't need face-to-face contact with bank staff. She quoted research estimating that within three to five years some 30 per cent of all home loans will be negotiated on the net.

Management of the HomePath loan still has a semi-human face: the site's messaging service through which customers can change account details, have payments transferred, modify repayment arrangements, and monitor their loan's status.

Some of these capabilities, said Fifield, are unique to HomePath, while others may be offered by some other online lenders. What sets HomePath apart, she said, is its flexibility, its "one-stop shop" character, and its interest rate, currently set at 6.7 per cent.

As with any online transaction (but more so because of the core nature of the financial information involved) privacy is an issue. HomePath won't divulge any security details, but says its safeguards meet accepted industry standards. The same applies to the confidentiality of the information held by the bank: it is only divulged according to the normal Commonwealth Bank credit reference procedures.

There's no guarantee that online mortgage rates will always and everywhere be lower than those obtainable from "bricks-and-mortar" institutions. The advantages to both bank and customer, Fifield believes, come from the cost savings through the use of the internet.

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