How to be a great landlord

April, 2018 by

How can I be a great landlord?

Being a great landlord is far more involved than just collecting rent from a tenant every week or fortnight. There are reference checks to be completed, lease agreements to sign, a property inspection to be carried out and bond to collect – and that’s after you’ve sorted through a mountain of applications to find the right tenant for your property. Oh, and have you read your state’s Residential Tenancy Act in full? So, in truth being a great landlord will mean working with a great property manager such as Raine & Horne, who will know all of the rules and regulations that govern tenant-landlord relationships in your area. It is also imperative to acquire the appropriate insurance policy to cover deliberate or accidental damage before entering any lease agreement, which again an expert property manager will tell you.

Once you hand over the keys – hopefully to the perfect tenant at the right rental price – the work doesn’t stop. Inevitably, issues will arise over the course of any landlord-tenant relationship. From repair requests, both reasonable and unreasonable, to possible disputes over missed rental payments, or even early termination of the lease by either party. Whatever the issue, a great landlord will at all times maintain a professional and respectful relationship with a tenant, while also protecting his or her rights. Whether you have one investment property or multiple assets, treat your landlord responsibilities like a business to ensure the best outcome for both parties.

We can’t stress enough that building up goodwill with the tenant will usually be achieved by hiring the right professional to make all reasonable repairs and maintenance promptly. Typically, your Raine & Horne property manager will have a database of the best tradies in your area, and better still will be able to negotiate competitive prices on your behalf. Your Raine & Horne property manager will carry out regular inspections, within the rules of the lease regarding your rights to visit the property, to avoid any nasty surprises in the future. They will take photos where possible, to document the condition of your property.

While some landlords decide to go it alone, the best decision usually involves contacting your local Raine & Horne office and enlisting one of our expert property managers. Take the first step towards becoming a great landlord by calling us today.

Presenting your rental property to attract the right tenant

April, 2018 by

How can I present my rental property to attract the right tenant?

Aside from the initial choice of which investment property to purchase, picking the best possible tenant is arguably the next most crucial decision any landlord will make. You see, choosing the wrong tenant has the potential to turn the best investment property into a headache, so spend a little extra time and money to tempt the best possible applicants.

With so much at stake, in tandem with a Raine & Horne property manager, it is worth going the extra mile to highlight your property’s best attributes. A valued tenant will expect the best rental properties, so get in the game and make yours stand out. If you can afford to make improvements, a coat of paint, new carpet or flooring, and modern appliances could combine to increase your rental return, as well as the quality of the tenant you’ll attract.

Once your rental is looking its best, it is time for a photo shoot. Unless you are a whiz with a camera or smartphone, it is well worth investing in a professional photographer to snap some quality images. Your Raine & Horne property manager will be able to organise a photographer for you. Professionally taken photos that enhance your property’s best features, inside and out, are a must to attract a suitable tenant.

As your property manager will concur, other factors including location, safety, access to public transport, proximity to shops and restaurants, popular attractions and excellent schools will also appeal to quality tenants, so be sure to highlight these features in the listing. Including floorplans and engaging a professional copywriter as part of your marketing strategy is also highly recommended, and again a property manager can organise this for you. Setting a fair and accurate rent amount is another critical consideration. Avoid scaring off viable candidates with unrealistic rental demands by researching recent trends in similar properties in your local area.

And once you have found the perfect tenant by following the steps above, keep them! A tenant who pays the rent on time and treats your property like it is their own is every landlord’s dream.

Questions and answers for owner-occupiers, first home buyers, upgraders and downsizers.

March, 2018 by

Is it possible for tenants with a pet to secure a rental property?

The short answer is yes but finding a rental home for Kitty or Fido does present some additional challenges. Concerns over damage caused to the property by a pet, as well as added wear and tear, are common fears among landlords. Type, size and breed of your pet are all factors that an owner may weigh up before deciding whether to allow your best friend to move in.

Before you go to the trouble of applying, it is advisable to investigate the strata by-laws of the unit or townhouse you are interested in. Even the most pet-friendly landlord will be forced to turn you down if animals are not allowed under the by-laws.

What are some handy hints for securing a pet-friendly rental home?

Be sure to stack the odds in your favour once you locate a landlord who is open to allowing pets. Overall tenancy history is a major factor in the success or failure of any application, however, your prospective landlord may need more convincing due to your four-legged friend. Get ahead of the pack by submitting relevant details about your pet including age, breed and even vaccination details. And you never know, a cute photo could be the difference between signing a lease and another Saturday on the hunt for an apartment.

Is there anything else I can do to ease a landlord’s concerns about allowing my pet to move in?

For tenants in Western Australia, a pet bond is an option worth considering. Paying an agreed amount of money in addition to the standard bond might just be enough to convince a hesitant landlord to take a chance on you. Pet bonds are not permitted in the other states.

How can I secure a rental property before university starts?

Summer is almost in the rear-view mirror, and it is time to get back to reality for university students. If you are yet to secure your accommodation for the upcoming semester, you are not alone, but it is time to get moving. There’s no escaping the fact you’ll have to wear out some shoe leather and inspect as many rental homes as you can.

Rental availability will vary from state to state, however the annual February flood of students rushing to find a rental will put the squeeze on vacancy rates in university towns and cities across the country. With increased demand and fewer properties available by the day, there is no time to waste. But with the use of the strategies mentioned below, along with some quality last-minute cramming, it is still possible to put a roof over your head before the first class of 2018.

Start by swapping your beach clothes for something more presentable. Treat an open house like a job interview. If you are unable to arrange a private viewing, be sure to arrive at the open house on time and well prepared. In areas of high demand and low supply, it is advisable to attend the first open home scheduled for each property, as it may be your only chance to view it, and hopefully secure the home. You might not score any cool points with your friends with this next suggestion, but taking your parents along could also boost your chances, especially if mum or dad are willing and able to offer a rental guarantee.

You should take a valid passport and/or a current motor vehicle licence to all viewings, in case your application is accepted. Recent bank statements, references from previous property managers and landlords, university lecturers, school teachers, and employers will all strengthen an application.

If you choose to nominate a referee to vouch for you, it is a good idea to remind them to keep their phone handy, just in case the property manager calls. And be ready to pounce if you are offered the rental property. There are no extensions for this assignment, so it is imperative you can pay the bond and sign the lease before the agent or owner change their mind. Good luck!

Investor Guide for November 2017

December, 2017 by

Maria Milillo, Business Support & Development Manager (Property Management) Raine & Horne Group, answers questions to guide investors approaching the end of the year.

Q1: What are some valuable investment property apps?

This is a great question, and there are four property apps that I would urge investors to review next time you visit the app store.

  1. Property Calculator Australia

This app is free and is available for iOS and Android devices, and it demonstrates what it will cost to buy a property, including mortgage repayment estimates, stamp duty and lenders mortgage insurance (LMI). The size of your deposit is the starting point for these calculations, and it also allows you to adjust the interest rate and customise your loan term. The app also provides for principal-and-interest or interest-only repayments. Every prediction can be saved enabling you to compare the results with other properties that you’ve put under the microscope.

  1. CommBank Property

Another free app, the CommBank Property app is iOS and Android compatible. Powered by Domain, it has a user-friendly property search function which also allows you to view properties currently for sale and previously sold properties.

The CommBank app offers three calculators labelled “What would my repayments be”; “How much can I borrow”; and “What would my upfront costs be.” The app also allows you to search suburb profiles and offers information such as median house prices, 12-month growth values, median weekly rents, annual rental yields and much more.

  1. Evernote

Once again Evernote can be accessed free of charge and is compatible with iOS and Android devices.

During property searches using Evernote, it’s easy to forget the specifics of every property you’ve inspected. That’s until now. Evernote enables investors to make notes about a house or apartment using voice to text or their keyboard. The app also lets you attach a photo and hyperlinks to the note for later reference. Evernote is a valuable place to store documents relating to your property such as manuals, appliance serial numbers, tenancy agreements and so on.

  1. BMT Tax Calculator

BMT Tax Depreciation offers a free, iOS and Android app, and is a must for investors, eager to maximise the tax benefits of owning a rental property. Moreover, with the Federal Government making some significant changes via the Treasury Laws Amendment (Housing Tax Integrity) Bill 2017, it’s more critical than ever to understand the depreciation benefits you can claim from a property investment.

Please note that this app uses estimates only to provide a guide to the depreciation write-offs you can claim. However, it does allow you to enter relevant statistics such as the property’s construction date, its condition, and size. With this information, the BMT app can provide a schedule of rates based on the minimum and the maximum estimated depreciation allowances. The BMT app also takes into consideration your marginal tax rate and projects the depreciation over a 5-year period.

 

Q2: How has depreciation changed with the passing into law of the Treasury Laws Amendment (Housing Tax Integrity) Bill 2017?

It’s a mouthful. However, the Treasury Laws Amendment (Housing Tax Integrity) Bill 2017 will impact the travel expenses investors currently claim, as well as plant and equipment deprecation.

Under the new law, which passed on 15 November, individual investors will be unable to claim the costs involved in visiting an investment property as a deduction. At the same time, investors will be unable to claim the depreciation of plant and equipment in an established apartment or house purchased after 7.30 pm on 9 May 2017. Moreover, these amendments come into effect retrospectively from 1 July 2017. Meanwhile, the depreciation of any new improvements you make to an established property you acquire after 9 May can still be claimed as before.

For investors who purchased established properties before 7.30 pm on 9 May 2017, there will be no change to the way you currently claim plant and equipment depreciation.

The amendment is a significant change to the tax laws relating to the depreciation of a residential property. However, it is not the end of the road for residential real estate as a tax-effective investment class. There are still thousands of dollars that can be claimed by investors. The changes mean that investors need an up-to-date depreciation schedule to ensure no claims are missed. If you don’t have a depreciation schedule, or feel you need a revision in light of the new amendments, be sure to talk to your accountant or a quantity surveying specialist such as BMT Tax Depreciation.

What questions should I ask my accountant before buying an investment property?

November, 2017 by

Successful property investing is a fantastic way to grow wealth. Yet, buying a rental property is not a licence to print money and success typically involves running the investment like a small business. Therefore, before you embark on property investing, it’s usually smart business to consult with your accountant first.

What is negative gearing?

Negative gearing, in simple terms, is when you borrow money to buy an investment asset. If that asset fails to generate enough income to cover mortgage expenses and other costs, these “losses” can be written off against the income tax you owe at the end of the financial year. You need to ask your accountant whether there are any tax advantages from negative gearing based on your income level or whether you are better off trying to buy a ‘positively geared’ investment, where the tenant pays the mortgage for you.

What ownership structure should I choose for an investment property?

Whether you buy an investment property in your own name, using a company name, by means of a self-managed super fund or in a family trust will depend on your financial situation. This is a discussion you should have with your accountant.

While taxation should not be the sole motivator in buying an investment property. Nonetheless, the failure to consider taxation could cost you plenty. A tax efficient structure ensures the overall taxation position of your property investment is maximised.

Am I better off buying a brand new or older property?

The answer to this lies in the tax law relating to ‘depreciation’ which refers to the declining value of an asset, such as a house or apartment with the passage of time, due to wear and tear. As a rule, the newer the property, the more an investor can claim, making purchasing a near-new house or apartment potentially more worthwhile, in a taxation sense, than an established home, at least for the first five or so years of ownership. That said, the renovation costs involved in refurbishing an older property may be depreciated over a set period.

Do I need a depreciation schedule?

Almost 50% of landlords fail to make depreciation claims against their investment property, potentially missing out on thousands of dollars come tax time. So, the answer is a resounding yes. But ask your accountant anyway.

Yet many landlords either aren’t aware of the benefits associated with depreciation. Or they don’t have an up-to-date depreciation schedule enabling them to claim against the reduction in the value of items such as carpets, curtains, stove cook tops, some light fixtures, shower heads and so on. Better still the costs associated with a depreciation schedule, which can be between $650 and $700 per report, are tax deductible.

Landlords can claim between 10% and 20% against the values of a variety of depreciable items, and sometimes more, and in many cases, 2.5% of the building cost of the investment home on an annual basis.

Can you help me with my budget?

From time to time, carpets, stoves and ovens might need repairs or replacements, while a coat of paint or some new blinds maybe required every 5-10 years. It’s often best to keep some money in the kitty for these costs, so that your investment property continues to look its very best. A well-maintained property will keep quality tenants happy and committed. To ensure you have this financial war chest in place, talk to you accountant about the value of budgeting.

Is it better to sell an investment property with a tenant or vacant?

November, 2017 by

Landlords can sell their properties with a renter in place, even if a fixed term tenancy agreement exists.

However, if you can wait for the tenant to leave, you could potentially increase the market for your property. Don’t forget the majority of buyers are usually owner-occupiers. If there is a lease in place, buyers seeking a place to live, will look elsewhere. Although, a longer-term tenancy agreement might be just the tonic for yield-hungry investors and self-managed super funds.

Moreover, there will be more restrictions about when potential buyers can inspect the property, because tenants must be given sufficient warning about possible open homes or private inspections. At the same time, some tenants may be less worried about how the property presents to potential buyers.

On the flipside, empty properties seem smaller, and as an investor, you’ll take a financial loss if you’re selling a property tenant-free. To address this challenge, professional staging can help present a vacant property in its best light.

You can discuss the benefits and costs of staging your vacant investment property with your Raine & Horne sales agent.

How does positive gearing work?

October, 2017 by

Are you buying a rental property, but haven’t yet settled on an investment approach? Maybe it might be worth considering a positive cash flow strategy over the more popular ‘negative gearing’ approach.

A positive cashflow strategy (more commonly called positive gearing) is where the rental returns are greater than the outgoings (including interest on the loan, strata levies and insurance). However, positive gearing will only work if a rental home is fully let year in, year out. Also, the main disadvantage with positive gearing is that because you’re receiving extra income, you’ll have to pay more tax.

Negative gearing, in simple terms, is when you borrow money to buy an asset, but that asset fails to generate enough income to cover mortgage expenses and other costs. Any “losses” can then be written off against the income tax you owe at the end of the financial year. However, you must cover the losses yourself. This means you’ll need enough cash flow to tide you over. Plus, running properties at a loss can make wealth creation a slower process.

How to buy a positive geared property?

The easiest way to achieve positive gearing is to buy a property at the lower end of your price range. Then with the help of your Raine & Horne property manager, determine a market rent that covers the interest on your borrowings and other expenses.

To find a positively geared property will involve plenty of research into the suburb or town under consideration. If it is in a city or regional town that your unfamiliar with, check that it has all the essential amenities such as schools, hospitals, shops and leisure facilities that will appeal to tenants. Make sure you consider the health of economy of the area too and the type of tenant that the property will attract to ensure a consistent cashflow.

Before choosing an investment strategy it’s probably best to talk to an accountant about whether you should positively or negatively gear the property.

What can a tenant expect from a property manager?

October, 2017 by

Property managers lease and manage an apartment or house on behalf of landlords. The property manager’s duties include selecting tenants, collecting rent, arranging repairs, negotiating leases and rent reviews and so on.

When a tenant finds a suitable property to rent, they must contact the property manager to arrange a viewing. The property manager will be best placed to answer questions about the property and start the application process.

As part of the application process, the property manager will host an ‘open house’, which is an opportunity for prospective tenants to examine the property. For what it’s worth, it’s best for tenants to treat a meeting with a property manager like a job interview. This means wearing smart casual attire and clean shoes, rather than shorts and thongs.

Property managers may take multiple application for a property. Hence, expats must be sure to submit the correct information to give their application a winning chance. Typical applications require:

  • Proof of identity (passport and drivers license)
  • Proof of income, bank statements for the last three months
  • References from employers, university lecturers, school teachers, a family doctor or solicitor – and especially past property managers or landlords – are essential.

Once your references have been checked by the property manager, your application will be presented to the landlord for approval.

If you win the landlords approval, you’ll be required to pay a bond upfront, which is normally equivalent to a month’s rent. The bond is used as financial protection for the landlord in case a tenant breaks the terms of the lease agreement, damages the property and so on. Your Raine & Horne property manager can explain bond terms to you in more detail.

As the tenant is bound to the bond, be sure to inspect the rental property for damage before moving in. If there is some damage, bring it to the attention of the property manager. If it’s a furnished rental property, an inventory list should be written up. At the end of your lease, the cost of any items lost or damaged will be deducted from the bond.

Finally, ask your property manager about Raine & Horne Assist.  This free service takes the hassle and stress out of moving into a rental property, by offering you all your utility needs such as electricity and gas connections in one place.

How do I enhance my returns on my investment property?

September, 2017 by

It is impossible for individual investors to influence interest rates, employment trends and consumer confidence. However, there are several factors you can control to ensure good capital returns for your property.

Start by paying a fair price for a property that is in a good position and in a suburb or town that has enjoyed long term buyer demand. An investment home should have aesthetic appeal (or the potential for) and unique and positive features such as a desirable view, be close to public transport, have flat, manageable gardens and yards. Floor boards and tiles rather than carpet can also make an investment home more popular with tenants and less costly to maintain.

Consider buying an investment property in an area you are familiar with as it will involve potentially less research time on your part. Start your research by visiting www.rh.com.au. If you prefer a more direct approach, check recent sale prices with a Raine & Horne agent in the area. This will give you an idea of what you can expect to pay for local properties.

While you’re at it, ask the Raine & Horne agent about the suburb or town’s rental yield and vacancy rates. A high vacancy rate may indicate a less desirable area, which could make it harder to find a tenant. That said, the prevailing rate could be quickly influenced by new infrastructure, more jobs and consumer confidence finding their way into the region you’re interested in buying into. This information will be available from your Raine & Horne agent.

Note any proposed changes in the suburb or town that may affect future property prices. Issues such as new developments or zoning changes can affect the future value of a property. Your local council will be able to provide this advice.

To enhance ongoing rental returns, be sure to secure good tenants on long-term leases with the help of a Raine & Horne property manager. Also commit to regular maintenance to ensure small repairs don’t morph into major expenses. For example, it will prove a worthwhile exercise to pay a handyman to regularly oil a sun deck. Avoid this cost and a rotten deck – which will prove a major expense to replace – not only reduces the value of your investment home but also presents a potentially expensive public liability issue.

As such, protecting the value of your rental home also involves having adequate landlord insurance cover, planning for taxes and understanding your eligibility for depreciation allowances. It also means keeping good records to control costs.

How can I increase the sale price of my investment property with a renovation?

September, 2017 by

Thanks to television series such as The Block, revamping a property has become as Australian as kangaroos, meat pies and Scotty Cam. Yet, investors could be burning a massive hole in their bank balances by failing to strategically plan and stage a home renovation.

We’ve all heard the nightmare stories about renovation budgets that have blown out by tens of thousands of dollars in additional building costs, causing financial hardship and stress. However, an investment property renovated in a slap-dash fashion can costs an investor a small fortune when the time comes to sell.

With any renovation or addition, an investor must ensure that it will appeal to future tenants and buyers. Otherwise a poorly considered short-term fix can end up costing a landlord significant money in lost rents or capital gains in the long-term.

As the top value-adding rooms, kitchens and bathrooms are known to sell houses. Pay extra attention to these rooms by replacing flooring or investing in new cupboards for the kitchen, and basins for the bathroom. Moreover, if you own a rental property, you may be able to claim a deduction for the construction costs of alterations, such as adding an internal wall, a kitchen renovation or bathroom makeover, according to the Australian Tax Office. It’s also possible to claim extensions such as a garage or patio, or structural improvements – such as a gazebo, carport, sealed driveway, retaining wall or fence are also tax deductible.

Typically, a kitchen or bathroom renovation prior to a sale will help remove possible buyer concerns that could substantively reduce the property’s sale price. As a rule of thumb, if a kitchen needs, say, $5,000 worth of work, many buyers will take their money elsewhere or seek a substantial discount as much as 10 times this amount. If you agree to the discount, it will take a massive chunk out of your profits.

That said, before renovating your investment property, be sure to talk to your local Raine & Horne agent. Better still invite them to the property so that they can provide bespoke renovation advice with a future, financially successful sale as the goal.

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