Is RLLR the long lost saviour?

Before we get into the topic lets know what repo rate is. It is the rate at which the central bank of a country (RBI) lends money to the commercial banks in event of any shortfall of funds.

Now people are excited about the new repo linked lending rate (RLLR) which has come into the market but let’s just roll back a few months back to December 2018. RBI in its fifth bi-monthly monetary policy review on December 5th made a big announcement (by N.S. Vishwanathan – Deputy Governor) that many bank customers were waiting for and that retailed loans will be linked to external benchmarks instead of various internal benchmarks produced by banks.RBI had instructed the banks to start the process the linking the new repo rates from 1st April 2019.

By adopting a single benchmark, the home loans for example which are linked to the marginal cost of funds will now be linked to the repo rates. This makes the banks bound to revise the rates of the home loans instantly as and when there is a change in the RBI repo rate. These changes are welcomed by the customers because it has been long sought out as RBI reduced the repo rates to control the inflation but the benefit never reaches the consumers but now because of this, the consumers will get the benefit of at least some lower interest rate to be paid. The benefit of Repo-rate linked home loan scheme is that it is transparent compared to existing loans linked to marginal-cost-of-fund based lending rate (MCLR). The interest rates on loans will change upwards or downwards in line with the movement of the repo rate announced by RBI.

The RBI had stated that banks should benchmark the rates to either the RBI policy repo rate or Government of India’s 91 or 182 days Treasury bill yields as developed by the Financial Benchmarks India Private Ltd (FBIL) or any other external benchmark developed by the FBIL but still several banks opposed the decision of linking lending rates to an external benchmark, indicating that their cost of funds was not linked to those external benchmarks and delayed the implementation indefinitely.

By March 2019 the only bank to realize this directive was SBI, the largest public sector bank but it too took some time and made it effective from July 2019. Following the same footsteps, Bank of Baroda too introduced RLLR home loan scheme from 12th August 2019 and Syndicate Bank. Allahabad Bank, Canara Bank & Union Bank of India and other banks will announce their plans to launch RLLR soon.

To be eligible for the SBI repo rate linked home loan scheme, the borrower should have a minimum annual income of Rs 6 lakhs and tenure of the loan is up to 33 years. In the case of under-construction projects, the maximum moratorium period up to two years is offered over and above maximum loan tenor of 33 years. So, in such cases, the total loan tenure cannot exceed 35 years.

In this home loan scheme, the borrower needs to repay a minimum of 3 per cent of the principal loan amount every year in equated monthly instalments. If you take a home loan of Rs 50 lakhs, you need to repay a minimum of Rs 1.50 lakhs as principal plus the interest cost every year.

The interest rates in this scheme are not directly linked with the repo rate figure announced by the RBI. The interest on the loan is 2.25% points more than the repo rate. On July 1, the repo rate was 5.75 per cent, so the repo-linked lending rate is 8 per cent. But, the repo-linked lending rate may change effectively from September 1 as we had a repo rate cut of 35 basis points (bps) announced by the RBI in August.

Currently, RLLR is at 8 per cent. Banks will maintain a spread over and above RLLR of 40 to 55 bps. So, the effective rate for home loans up to Rs. 75 lakhs range from 8.4 per cent to 8.55 per cent. For home loans above Rs 75 lakhs, the effective rate is 8.95 per cent to 9.10 per cent (i.e. spread of 95 to 110 bps on RLLR of 8 per cent). With effect from 10th August, the home loan rates linked to MCLR would be 8.6 per cent to 8.85 per cent at SBI, which is more than RLLR.

Similarly, for Bank of Baroda MCLR linked home loan rate starts at 8.45 per cent, while the repo-linked rate starts at 8.35 per cent. At present its 5 bps cheaper than SBI’s repo-linked home loan scheme. Repo rate linked home loan scheme will be beneficial to borrowers with immediate savings when the interest rate goes down.” For instance, with a further 50 bps rate cut as expected in the next year, there will be further savings for borrowers on interest.

Let aside the interest rates alone, if you choose to switch for an RLLR home loan there are more added costs to be noticed, for instance, SBI levy’s transfer and processing charges of 0.35% on the amount of loan plus GST. The minimum fees shall be Rs 2,000 and the maximum can go up to Rs 10,000 plus GST. These charges may vary from bank to bank

One should wait a bit longer as other banks are also coming up with this scheme so one can choose a home loan from the bank of his choice and preference but also take into consideration the charges and extra paperwork, hassle and time to keep a tab on both accounts one home loan and other accounts (savings, joint etc). One has to take into consideration the fact that if you choose another bank apart from your savings bank look at the spread (margin) the bank is charging over and above RLLR. Check the impact of the spread between RLLR and the final rate of interest offered. Stick to the ones which offer the least spread as it reflects RBI’s repo rate policy correctly.

It’s also to be noted that the RLLR is effective from the following month after RBI monetary policy announcement. But, the borrowers also need to be aware and prepared that RBI can increase the repo rate due to the economic factors.

As far as the private banks are concerned; from Axis Bank, Mr Rajiv Anand, executive director for corporate lending said, “It’s not necessary to use only external benchmarks; there are multiple avenues to meet the requirement that the RBI wants us to do… What RBI is essentially looking at is that the rates are being cut and there should be better transmission”. More details on this weren’t revealed whether Axis bank is planning to offer RLLR but he did mention “Axis Bank’s asset-liability committee will take a call on the same.”

Hence, this scheme is to target customers & borrowers who reside in Tier 1 or Tier 2 cities and having an annual steady income of Rs.6 lakh. So before switching your home loan take note of the above points as to charges, the spread between RLLR and final interest rate and also if the central bank may increase the repo rate due to economic scenario.

Author
Rishi Khanna
Team Member- Equity Research & Valuation
(MSc Finance, NMIMS Mumbai. Batch 2019-21)

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