How can I trim the costs of heating my home this winter?

Manage your heating costs

July, 2017 by

Energy costs are soaring this winter, with the electricity companies blaming a range of issues such as rising wholesale, network and retail costs.

Despite the electricity hikes, there are many ways to warm your home without breaking the budget. For starters, it’s worth heeding the advice of one of the energy companies that a heated room should sit between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius – and that every degree programmed into a heater above 21 degrees will add roughly 10% to your energy bill. If the room is 21 degrees, and you’re still chilly, the general consensus is that another jumper or jersey might be a sensible way to save on energy costs.

It’s old-style, but hot water bottles and extra blankets can keep you snug at night – and are easy on the wallet. If you prefer an electric blanket, turn it on for a short time before hitting the sack and then switch it off immediately.

If you have kids — encourage them to do their homework together in the living room rather than their bedrooms – this will trim down the expense of heating extra rooms.

Closing doors to rooms you’re not using and opening curtains during the day to let in the sunlight can reduce energy costs. Just be sure to close the curtains at night, and by sealing any draughts around windows or doors, you can maximise the heat created by an air conditioners or heaters.

Wood is an excellent fuel because it is a renewable resource if sustainably harvested, according to yourhome.gov.au. That said, only 10% of homes use wood for heating. Also be careful that the wood is not from unsustainable sources and don’t use treated timbers, which may give off toxic pollutants when burned.

Likewise yourhome.gov.au advises homeowners to burn wood only in an airtight, slow combustion heater. Slow combustion heaters have the highest energy efficiency of wood heaters, and use the least amount of wood and cost the least to run. Careful operation of wood heaters is also critical for limiting air pollution. Use seasoned wood and don’t add large loads of wood just before turning the flue right down.

Ultimately, if you feel you’re paying too much for energy this winter, there’s nothing stopping you from shopping around. To help you find a suitable energy provider, why not contact Raine & Horne Assist today on 1800 960 230.

What are some tactics for managing the toy-clutter in my home?

July, 2017 by

If you have children, the odds are your living areas are breeding grounds for Lego bricks, puzzles, oversized Fnaf Plushies, Nerf Guns, dolls, remote control cars and Pokémon trading cards.

What is more, the clutter of playthings could be a major problem if you’re trying to sell the property. If you’re having regular open homes, constantly tidying the chaos can be tedious. Fortunately, there are actions you can take to manage the mess such as choosing toy-friendly furniture, which can help you reclaim some space and make your home ready for the next open for inspection.

A chest is a practical way for storing away toys. Consider adding dividers to the chest to create separate sections for building blocks, puzzles, teddy bears, trucks and dolls to enable the children to find their toys fast. Another option is to line a wall with bookshelves. Add a few drawers and cupboards to help conceal some of the kid’s knick-knacks. Shelves are also useful for books, board games and puzzles – just be sure to stack board games on their side to make them easier to find for the children.

Another trick is to add some bins that can fit into the shelving. Be sure to label each bin with the category of toy they are storing. This makes playthings easier to find, while the children can take the bins to other parts of a home such as their bedrooms for playtime.

Once there are good toy storage options in place, it’s time to encourage the children to help with regular cleanup times. Creating routines and clear expectations about how children should take care of their toys will help reduce the clutter. It might be that there are some rewards such as pocket money that are align to the children’s responsibilities for keeping their own toys in order.

At the end of the day, keeping the toy jumble under control will not only make life easier, but you’ll be able to make your home ready for prospective buyers. Some buyers might see beyond the clutter. But why give them a reason to put a cross against your home. Besides, once the toys are in order, you can focus on other areas of your home where clutter has taken hold.

Why should I consider a winter sale?

July, 2017 by

Fewer properties for sale combined with robust buyer demand, make the winter months a terrific time to sell a property, writes Angus Raine, Executive Chairman, Raine & Horne.

  • The colder months are a great time to sell a property
  • Fewer properties on the market in winter means that June, July and August are excellent months for a real estate sale
  • Give the property a spruce up to ensure it shapes up well for committed winter buyers

The real estate market shifts into hibernation for the winter months with many vendors preferring to wait for spring to sell their properties. However, for many vendors, ignoring a winter sale is a lost opportunity.

It’s a simple case of supply and demand. With the number of homes for sale (supply) dipping in winter, it doesn’t necessarily mean buyer demand falls too. Remember, many buyers are driven to make a purchasing decision because they’ve changed jobs, have a growing family, are moving schools, or have decided to downsize. These buying decisions are made regardless of whether its winter or spring, and as a result there are buyers and investors seeking property year round.

Consequently, with less competition than in spring, the colder months will work in favour of vendors who sensibly price their homes to sell according to market expectations. If vendors wish to truly turbo-charge the sale, then talk to your Raine & Horne agent about the value of taking the property to auction.

While slimmer numbers of properties for sale can potentially deliver more motivated buyers to your door, a friendly and inviting interior will grab their interest. If your property has a fireplace, for example, or central heating, make sure it is decent working order for home inspections. Not only is a roaring fire a comforting sight for wannabe buyers, a cozy home will create an tempting ambiance.

Be sure to check the hour of the day when the winter sun shines brightly on your property, and arrange open for inspections for aspiring buyers accordingly. Open the curtains and let the natural light filter through your property. If it lacks natural light, ensure that you turn on all the lights and lamps.

Musty smells can also be an issue during the colder months. To combat this obstacle, add some pleasant scents such as perfumed candles, or brew a fresh pot of coffee to countermand the stuffy, winter odours.

It’s worth inspecting the exterior of your property prior to selling to ensure there are no issues, which might encourage buyers to look elsewhere. Start with the roof and search for cracks, broken tiles and blocked drains. Look for mould and cracks to walls, as well as damaged window seals.

A winter sale can be challenging, but given that often you’ll have fewer homes on the market to contend with, it can be the best time for a sale. Cold weather won’t stop committed buyers, so contact your Raine & Horne agent today for an obligation-free appraisal.

Why should I consider a winter check-up for my home?

July, 2017 by

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology is predicting a mild winter in most of the country, yet many Australians can still expect a fair serve of cold and blustery days, causing wear and tear on their homes, as well as fire hazards, writes Angus Raine, Executive Chairman, Raine & Horne.

  • Batteries in smoke alarms should be changed annually, and even those that are wired into mains electricity need regular checkups.
  • Faulty gas heaters can cause fires and dangerous fumes, so they should be checked.
  • To avoid leaks, gutters and downpipes should be cleared of leaves, and roofs inspected

Magazines are filled with health tips for beating the winter blues, but a winter health check on your home is just as important for protecting your investment and ensuring your family’s safety.

Even though temperatures are forecast to be warmer this winter in the southern part of Australia, if you have a fireplace in your home, chances are you will want to enjoy a roaring fire.

If you’re using a wood fire, then you should arrange to have the chimney swept annually to ensure it is not blocked with soot. For gas fires, make sure the flue outlet is not clogged as this can prevent dangerous carbon monoxide from escaping your home. Depending on your location, maintenance by a professional chimney sweep will cost around $220.

No matter what type of heating you use, now is the time to check that smoke alarms are in good working order. The smoke alarms in many new homes are wired into the mains electricity; however, this doesn’t exempt them from the need for regular checkups. Many older homes in Australia have battery-operated devices. These batteries should be replaced a minimum of once a year, while the smoke alarm sensors can tend to fail from about the ten-year mark. Expect to pay around $100 for a smoke alarm inspection.

Also from a safety standpoint, if you have gas heating, you should get your appliances regularly and before winter heating season grips, according to Better Health Victoria.

It’s important to care for your home’s exterior in winter. A leaky roof is certainly not something you want to deal with in chilly winter weather, so check gutters and downpipes, which may be blocked with leaves, leading to leaks. At the same time, look for any slipped or broken tiles on the roof, as that will let water seep into your ceilings and your home’s interior. A roofing specialist can check everything for you for a few hundred dollars – a good annual investment that can head off bigger problems, which can be expensive to repair.

Exterior paintwork, particularly on eaves, also should be checked annually to see if it’s time to repaint. To protect your home year-round against the cold and heat, aim to apply a fresh coat of paint at least every four to five years. If you’re near the ocean, you should be painting even more often.

Is it time to fix my home loan rate?

Close-up hand using remote control of air condition, selective focus

May, 2017 by

Recently some lenders hiked interest rates without waiting for the Reserve Bank to officially raise rates, prompting some borrowers to consider switching to a fixed-rate mortgage. If you think a 0.5% or 1% increase could hurt you financially, it might indeed be time to fix your mortgage at the current low rate.

Fixing your rate makes it easier to control your budget because you know what your payments are going to be every month for the fixed period – usually 1, 3 or 5 years. Because your rate can’t go up during this time, it’s a good option if you think you would struggle to make payments if lenders raise rates. (But don’t forget, with a fixed-rate loan, you need to be prepared that if rates fall, you will keep paying the higher rate.)

Variable-rate loans may be more appealing if your goal is to own your home sooner by making extra payments, which isn’t always an option with most fixed-rate loans. Also, if you’ve made extra payments and think you might need to redraw some of that cash, that’s usually not possible with fixed-rate loans.

There’s also more flexibility with variable-rate loans. For instance, if you find a better loan, it’s simpler and less expensive to switch than if you were on a fixed rate. Meanwhile, if you have a fixed-rate loan and sell your house and pay off the loan before the end of the fixed period, you may have to pay fees.

If you prefer to have a bet each way, you can choose a split loan, part fixed, part variable. Usually you can split it however you like, allowing you to balance the risks of a rate rise with the flexibility of a variable-rate loan.

It’s important you find the best loan to suit your circumstances, so it’s wise to get advice from a professional such as a Finance Specialist from Our Broker. They work for you as a borrower – not the lenders – to ensure you receive the best rates and products available.

Do you have any tips to help me prepare to buy a property at auction?

couple standing in front of house

May, 2017 by

There are a number of steps to help you get ready to buy a home under the hammer.

Step one when buying any property, whether or not it’s going to auction, is to do your research. Be sure to spend time getting to know recent prices for properties similar to the type you want, in the area where you want to buy.

If you’re a first-timer, the auction process itself might seem daunting. Make yourself familiar with it by attending at least a half a dozen auctions. That way, you’ll be a lot more comfortable when the day comes for you to make a bid.

When you’ve found a home you want to bid on, ask the agent for the name of the person who will be auctioning the property. Then find out which other homes the auctioneer is selling and go and watch him or her in action at another auction. Knowing the auctioneer’s style and what to expect will give you a head start on the other bidders on auction day.

As there is no cooling-off period for a property that sells under the hammer, you need to have a pest and building report completed prior to auction. Also get your solicitor to run his or her eye over the contract and complete the strata searches to ensure everything’s in order.

As auction day approaches, it’s a good idea to gauge the level of interest in the property so you have a sense of the number of likely bidders. You could do this by asking the agent how many contracts have been issued.

Finally, it’s wise to set yourself a spending limit to prevent over-committing yourself financially on auction day. Do the maths so you go in with a clear understanding of how much you are prepared to pay. Your limit might be predetermined by the amount your lender is prepared to give you, so it’s advisable to have a pre-approved mortgage finalised before the auction.

 

Why should I refinance my home loan?

April, 2017 by

The Reserve Bank hasn’t altered interest rates since August 2016, yet many mortgage lenders have started imposing out-of-cycle rate hikes on borrowers.  

The lenders will often argue that the out-of-cycle rate hikes are needed to protect their profits and to keep their shareholders happy. As a profit making institution, a bank will always rank shareholder returns above more competitive mortgage interest rates for its customers.

However, as a customer, there is nothing stopping you from shopping around for an improved home loan interest rate. In fact, if you are paying more than 4.5% in interest on your mortgage, then you’re probably paying too much. And if you decide you are paying excessively high interest rates, then it’s time to consider ‘refinancing’ with another lender. Simply put, refinancing lets you change your home loan to suit your new circumstances.

But before switching, be aware that our financial services division, Our Broker offers a complimentary home loan health check. As a mortgage broker, we have an obligation to check for more favourable rates with other lenders for you, and whether there are any mortgage break costs you might have to pay if you switch your mortgage away from your current lender.

Apart from cheaper interest rates, refinancing your mortgage can provide an opportunity to streamline multiple debts through the process of ‘debt consolidation’. By folding several high interest debts such as a credit card or personal loan into one lower rate debt – which could be your home loan, it’s possible to trim your total monthly debt repayments. Moreover, you might be able to use these additional savings to pay off your home loan faster.

As part of the refinancing process, be sure to compare the ‘comparison rate’ against the ‘advertised rate’. The comparison rate will give you the true cost of refinancing the loan, including fees and charges. A financial specialist from Our Broker will be able to walk you through the best way to compare home loans before you settle on a refinancing option.

To find out more about how to refinance your home loan or the benefits of a debt consolidation, contact Our Broker on 1800 913 677.

How can I find out about changes to first home buyer incentives?

April, 2017 by

The FHOG provides one-off grants to first-time home buyers. They are funded by the states and territories, who each have their own laws governing them. Many states and territories also give stamp duty concessions to first home buyers.

Over time, successive state and territory governments have changed the amounts of money available and the eligibility criteria. As a result, the grants and tax breaks vary depending on where you live. Most are now aimed squarely at people buying newly built houses, but there are exceptions. The Northern Territory, for example, offers up to $23,000 in stamp duty relief for first home buyers purchasing an established home valued at up to $650,000.

There can be variations even within a state or territory. For instance, the Victorian Government recently announced that they will be increasing the FHOG from $10,000 to $20,000 for newly built homes in regional Victoria that are valued up to $750,000. The changes will apply to contracts signed between 1 July 2017 and 30 June 2020. For eligible first home buyers in Melbourne, the FHOG will stay at $10,000.

Last year, the Queensland Government boosted the FHOG to $20,000 for people building or buying a new home for the first time. But after midnight on 30 June 2017, the grant reverts back to $15,000. In addition to the grant, first-time buyers in Queensland receive a full stamp-duty exemption on homes valued up to $500,000; on homes priced between $500,000 and $549,000 the exemption is calculated on a sliding scale.

For more details on the first home owner grants and stamp duty concessions available where you live, go to: www.firsthome.gov.au.

What does bidding at an auction involve?

March, 2017 by

An auction is an increasingly popular way for a buyer and seller of a property to achieve fair market value. In fact, in the middle of March, the combined capital city clearance rate was 80.8%, which is a strong clue to how this method of sale is being embraced across the nation.

The two largest auction markets, Melbourne and Sydney, saw their preliminary clearance rates rise, with Sydney at 83.1% and Melbourne at 84.3%, while the highest clearance rate was in Adelaide where 87.0% of auctions cleared in the middle of March, according to CoreLogic. One year ago, the combined capital city clearance rate was a lower 64.9%.

Focussing on the auction bidder, if you decide you are interested in buying a home under the hammer, let the real estate agent know, so that you can be kept abreast of any movements – such as an early offer for the home – prior to the auction.

Likewise, seek some legal advice, if you are seriously interested in a property. Ask your solicitor or conveyancer to inspect the ‘Agreement for Sale’, which will be held by the auctioneer. Your legal adviser may suggest making additions or variations to the agreement. These changes can be negotiated between the legal representatives of both parties and, if the amendments are agreed, the contracts can be revised.

As part of your own preparations, attend as many auctions as possible to get acquainted with the process. At the same time, don’t leave anything to chance and get a building and pest inspection report on a property you’re serious about buying.

It is essential you take the time to do your research and have a sense of the potential value of the property in your sights. It is possible to compare real estate values in the area by monitoring websites such as the industry leading www.rh.com.au. As part of your research regimen, ensure you know when the home is available for inspection – and whatever you do, don’t forget to pencil the auction date into your diary.

Before attending an auction, it’s critical that your finances are in place. The winning bid at an auction is a binding contract and, so if you are successful, your finances must be in order. To make sure you’re financially ready, contact your lending institution or a mortgage broker such as Our Broker for finance approval. This way you’ll know your borrowing capacity and you can set your financial limit for the auction accordingly. You will need a written loan approval before the day of the auction, as well as a deposit, which is usually 10% of the purchase price.

What is stamp duty?

Stamp Duty Feature Square

March, 2017 by

In March the Victorian State Government announced that first home buyers won’t need to pay ‘stamp duty’ on homes valued up to $600,000, which will provide significant savings for first timers.

Additionally, those buying a home valued between $600,000 and $750,000 will also be eligible for a concession, which will be applied on a sliding scale. Significantly, the exemption and concession will apply to established homes as well as new builds.

For those new to real estate, stamp duty is a government charge imposed on many types of financial transactions such as a property purchase or share transaction. The various state and territory governments, rather than the Federal Government, oversee stamp duty, and consequently the tax can be calculated differently whether you’re buying in Melbourne, Perth or Darwin.

To add a layer of confusion, there are two categories of stamp duty. The most significant impost is the duty charged against the purchase price of a home. However, should you borrow money to acquire the home – and let’s face it most of us do – then the state and territory governments will hit you with a stamp duty impost against the mortgage.

More significantly, the Victorian Government will also remove off-the-plan stamp duty concessions on investment properties. This legislative change means the off-the-plan stamp duty concession will now be available solely for those who intend to live in the property.

It will be interesting to see whether other state or territory governments follow the Victorian Government’s lead. In the meantime, to find out more about first home buyer concessions in your state or territory, contact your local office of state revenue or a Raine & Horne agent.

Top