Wimmera residents are being urged to review their credit card interest rates and where their money is being spent.
It comes as new data from research and advisory firm Digital Finance Analytics shows nearly 35 per cent of all borrowing households in Horsham are under mortgage stress.
In Ararat this number is 54.5 per cent and in Stawell 43 per cent. The data shows the Wimmera region has the third highest proportion of borrowing households in stress of anywhere in Australia.
Principal Martin North said the firm looked at money coming into households and total costs going out to calculate mortgage stress.
"Typically we find once people are in mortgage stress within two or three years they have sold the property or fallen into default, refinance or do something else, so cashflow is a good way to get an early warning of the problem," he said.
"We're finding in regional areas there has been no income growth over 10 years, and that's partly because of the economic climate in regional areas and the nature of employment changing. The second is the cost of living is continuing to accelerate, and I think that's partly to do with being more remote and it costing people more to get goods and services. In real terms, people are going backwards, that's the real problem"
Data from the 2016 census shows Horsham's median weekly household income rose by $286 compared to 2006. In the same 10 years, the median monthly mortgage repayment rose by $305.
In Ararat, the income rose by $21 more than mortgage repayments over the same timeframe, while in Stawell mortgage repayments rose by $8 more than income.
Mr North said a lot of people surveyed didn't think they had a financial problem.
"It's worth sitting down and looking at where your money's coming in and where it goes, because then you can prioritise," he said.
"A lot of people assume they will be fine and they might put it on credit cards ,but eventually it comes home to roost.
"Banks also have had a legal obligation - put on them about a decade - to help, so if you are in cashflow issues it's worth talking to them early instead of hoping it's going to sort itself out, because frankly these things don't tend to unless you actively manage it."
Ararat mortgage broker Cheryl Rapson said she saw families with other debts struggle to get home loans approved. She suggested people check the limits on their credit cards.
"People wanting to apply for a loan may have two credit card debts and two personal loans, all of which they pay per month and can be very high," she said.
"Even though they might have a $10,000 monthly balance on their credit card, lenders take into account the debt limit multiplied by 3.68 per cent, so an extra $368 has to be included in consideration of liabilities when people come in for a home loan. A lot of people don't know this so I tell them to reduce their limit."
Ms Rapson, who writes loans through Ray White Ararat, also said people's credit scores dropped the more inquiries they made to home loan providers.
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