A financial adviser expects more homeowners will struggle with home loan payments this year due to high interest rates.

Mortgage arrears are at a four year high and Centrix says there are nearly 21,000 overdue mortgage accounts – up 21 percent on the year before.

Cranked up interest rates have meant home owners have missed payments or gone interest only.

Mortgage broker Glen McLeod from Edge Mortgage said a lot of customers were struggling with their home loan repayments.

“It was becoming more and more apparent in the later part of 2023 and I’m sure we’re going to see a lot more of it in 2024 as rates are still high and not retreating at a rapid rate of knots.”

Mortgage advisors tried to guard against rate shock, he said.

That was where someone took out a mortgage and put the whole amount to mature in say 12 months time, he said.

“If rates go up in that 12 month period all of a sudden you’ve got a big lift in what your repayments are.”

Splitting a loan into two or three smaller loans helped to avoid that, he said.

“What it does is it means not the whole lot is affected at the same time, so you might have a gradual increase in rates rather than one big lump.”

McLeod said putting a mortgage in one lump sum might be easier to manage but it was not always in the mortgage-holder’s best interest.

Interest only was one a way to reduce mortgage payments for a period of time, he said.

“However if you’re in a position where it’s starting to become hard to keep up with your mortgage and you’re going into arrears, you have to go through to one of the hardship teams from the banks.”

The banks had specialist teams for that and financial advisers were not allowed to work with their existing customers if they were getting to that point, he said.

“Whilst they’re [the banks] are as accommodating as they can be, it’s a lottery as to what sort of result you’re going to get.

“Interest only may be the option, the other option is that you may need to go on a mortgage holiday for a few months to give you time to sell if you’re at that position, or to find another stream of income.”

It was unfortunate if people had to dip into Kiwisaver to pay their mortgage since it was designed to help in retirement, he said.

“But if they’re having to dip in, it will be a limited amount of money and it will help for a period of time.”

But he warned it was not a panacea saying interest rates may not fall for some time and top-ups would chew through the Kiwisaver funds.

It would be worth consulting a financial adviser at that point, he said.