How can I trim my energy bill this summer?

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

February, 2017 by

Research released recently by energy expert iSelect suggests that over 2.8 million Australian households plan to cut back on their spending to pay their summer energy bill this year.

Furthermore, 48% said the cost of energy will affect how long they use the air conditioner this summer. For what it’s worth, entertainment and dining are the expenses most Australian households were prepared to chop. This is a bit depressing frankly, as summer is the time for eating out, and having fun.

According to iSelect, most of us are prepared for large winter bills but during the warmer months, keeping air-conditioners running around the clock and the extra energy consumed by kids at home during the summer holidays using TVs and computers can result in summer energy bill shock.

Surprisingly, reducing the use of air-conditioners won’t slash your bill significantly advises iSelect. This is because large portions of our energy bills are made up of network charges and other mysterious variables expenses – that only the electricity companies understand, and more significantly are not associated with how often you use the air-conditioner, dishwasher or clothes dryer.

The survey also found that almost half of all Australians homes will use fans to reduce costs, however just 10% of householders are planning to search for a better energy deal. While reducing your energy use is important, shopping around for the most cost-effective plans can create some significant savings, according to iSelect. This is because tariff rates and pay-on-time discounts can differ extensively from provider to provider, and even from plan to plan with the same provider. In a similar vein, increased competition means some retailers are offering generous introductory offers or rebates to entice new customers to switch to their services. These carrots can save some cash.

iSelect also warns homeowners about flexible payment options offered by the energy companies. Rather, the comparison website, recommends that householders pay bills weekly, fortnightly or monthly, or sign up for bill smoothing which will divide your annual usage into even monthly installments, avoiding bill shock.

What is the value of a building and pest inspection?

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

February, 2017 by

Buying a home is a significant investment for all of us. For that reason the last thing you want to do is be forced to fork out extra cash to get rid of a nest of unwelcome termites or to repay some defective construction work left behind by the preceding owner.

That said, most contracts will be subject to a buyer obtaining a building and pest report. This condition allows you to terminate the contract if a building or pest report identifies that termites have white-anted the floorboards, or the house has wobbly foundation footings.

A pre-purchase building inspection by a licensed building inspector will reveal any potentially costly structural or safety issues within a property. It will also outline what work needs to be completed to return a home to a safe and comfortable standard – as well as the estimated cost for completing the repairs. For a buyer, it can give you some understanding of whether it’s a good buy or a lemon. It’s a little similar to buying a used car from private seller. It’s always advisable to get a mechanic to take a look under the bonnet before you hand over your hard earned. Likewise, when before you buy a house, be sure to get a building inspector to run his or her eye over the property. For this service, you can expect to pay between $250 and $450 for a pre-purchase building inspection.

Similarly for a few hundred dollars, a pest inspection can identify whether pests such as termites or white ants have been dining out on the property’s structures – as well as the expense involved in eradicating these pests and fixing the damage.

In most states and territories, it’s the buyers who must foot the bill for building and pest inspections. That said, if you’re a vendor looking for a way to put your property front and centre with buyers, it might be worth commissioning your own pest and building reports – moreover it will help you detect any problems before the buyers arrive to inspect your property

The age-old question: will updating the kitchen get a better price?

January, 2017 by

Absolutely, without question, the most impressive internal part of any house is the kitchen. It is the main ‘gathering’ zone of the home, and its ability to satisfy prospective purchasers can be a deal maker or breaker. Which is why any experienced real estate agent will advise, this is the first area for sellers to sink their improvement dollars.

However, before you race off ordering Calacatta marble bench tops, Gaggenau appliances and premium tap fittings, the essential issue is: how do I add value while not over-capitalising for my area? Yes, it is generally considered that in inner city areas, prices are usually influenced by purchasers that will pay for convenience; and to some degree, the more impressive the ‘updating’ the deeper buyers will delve into their bank account… but what if your area is awash with developers?

Professionals vs Bulldozers

Julianne Sheffield from Raine & Horne Fullarton, an inner-southern suburb of Adelaide, offered some wise advice: “In our area, the 30- to 40-year-old professional buyer is quite dominant. As they were born around the 80s, they expect something more modern than they experienced when growing up — they don’t have time to start ‘doing up’ properties once they purchase.”

However, Julianne also acknowledged the other side of the coin, “No matter how attractive the home, be aware of the developer market,” adding, “don’t spend so much that you price yourself above the buyer intending to send in a bulldozer instead of furniture.”

Adrian Root from Raine & Horne Baulkham Hills, a north-western Sydney suburb, drilled down into the kitchen’s specifics, advising, “In our area, buyers are expecting to see a decent kitchen. However, if updating, never go for bold colours like fire-engine red, or an Elvis purple… light, neutral colours always appeal — and expect to pay around $20K to $30K for a good return.”

Priced for the market

Closer to the city, Youseff Chmait, from Raine & Horne’s southern Sydney office of Marrickville, was also specific with his advice: “In our area, sellers should question the idea of spending up to $50K on a new kitchen. Really, you’d be amazed just how impressive kitchens can look by adding a new bench top and splashback, while making sure appliances are stylish.”

Not only is Youseff sensitive to the market presence of developers, but he also points out the growing presence of ‘Frank Sinatras’, that is, buyers wanting to get into a home and ‘do it their way!’

What a woman (and a man) really wants

Many millions of kitchens to the west, Susan Pitts, from Raine & Horne Bunbury, a port city south of Perth, has dealt with many kitchen/buyer issues. “It’s simple,” she said, “here, if you update a kitchen it will deliver a better market presence, and higher return.” Further adding the kitchen should be priced for the area, “Not too expensive, but not too cheap either, and definitely designed for the space with thought for functionality.”

Susan also added, “In our area, the woman wants a nice kitchen, and the man wants a good shed… get those two things right and everybody’s happy.”

And getting things right is the key question for those considering updating their kitchen for a good return. Based on all the variables of location, buyer demographic and budget, it appears there is one strong answer that all the referred agents agreed: ask your agent what to do before you spend money — they’re the ones that know what your area’s buyers want.

After all, even though the kitchen is the heart of the house, make sure you use your head instead when considering how to prepare yourself for the marketplace.

Property market outlook for 2017

January, 2017 by

With the past few years delivering unprecedented sales results, those with an interest in property may be wondering what we will see in this new year? And, albeit very early, already there are important signs being revealed throughout the marketplace.

The last two months of 2016 saw renewed interest in the property market across the country. Sydney and Melbourne benefited from an increase in sales volumes, while the other capital cities benefited from stronger buyer enquiry from investors, as well as families looking at moving up the property tree.

Future prices

While some economists are predicting a dip in prices, we are confident that prices will again increase over the first six months of the year — however, we may not see double digit gains that Melbourne and Sydney achieved over the last 12 months. Nevertheless, we are now seeing some vendors taking advantage of the higher prices and looking to list their homes on the lead-up to Easter.

One of the main deterrents in listing has been the concern that there may be a lack of property to buy back into, and vendors want to make sure that they will be able to re-enter the market relatively quickly. Traditionally, the lead up to Easter is one of the strongest period to sell property. So if you are going to sell, we would recommend that you take advantage of the pent-up demand and speak to a professional agent now.

Lifestyle options

Over the holiday break, many regional centres have seen a renewed interest in property, particularly within three hours of the major capitals. Many families are taking advantage of new infrastructure projects that governments have implemented over the last two years, and new technologies which enable people to work from remote locations.

However, the fact remains that demand is outstripping demand and governments need to plan for better infrastructure, as well as speeding up the development process while also looking at ways to reduce the sale cost — especially stamp duty.

So don’t hesitate. With a steady economy predicted for the foreseeable future, property is a pretty safe investment. You can always be confident that, whether you are selling, buying, or engaging a professional managing agent, Raine & Horne are here to assist you with your particular property requirements.

What are some tips for keeping my property cool this summer?

November, 2016 by

The heat is well and truly here, but you don’t need to break the bank to keep your house or apartment cool this summer.

The most basic step you can take to keep your house cooler without air conditioning is to keep as much sunlight out as possible, and let cooler air in at night. During the day, shut the windows, and keep the blinds and curtains closed, especially on the southern and western sides of your home. If you have a verandah or balcony, use large plastic or bamboo shades to reduce the direct sunlight.

Thick curtains with block out backing or solid blinds (not Venetians) will make some difference to your summer cooling – and a much bigger difference in winter when you’re trying to keep heat inside the property. Also, if there are parts of the house or apartment that you just can’t keep cool, close the door to these areas. This will stop them adding to heat in other parts of your home.

If you feel you need some electrical assistance to keep cool this summer, a ceiling fan could be a reasonably cheap option. Ceiling fans start from $130 and they don’t cost a motza to run – about 3 cents per hour according to lighting specialist, Beacon Lighting.

If you are installing new windows, it is worth investigating ways of making them more thermally efficient. Double-glazing the windows will not only stop noise, they keep the heat at bay too.

If your home lacks shade, try planting deciduous trees in your garden. Deciduous trees have leaves that block the sunlight in the warmer months and lose their leaves in autumn and winter to allow the sunlight into your garden. Planting trees such as oak, maple or elm on the north side of the property can provide cooling shade over the house during summer.

When it’s stinking hot outside, many of us are inclined to set the thermostat of the air-conditioner to 21°C. But cooling to just 26° should keep your home or office comfortable and save you money — setting your thermostat just 1° cooler can increase your cooling bill by 15%, advises Environment Victoria. At the same time, if you have an air conditioner, keep the outdoor component shaded and its filters cleaned regularly.

How important is the streetscape to the value of my home?

House

November, 2016 by

Strong neighbourhood relations and an attractive streetscape have the potential to improve the value of a property, and slash the time it takes to sell a home considerably, according to Raine & Horne.

We all know the importance of presenting a property in its best light to potential sellers. However, a subtler element is how your street presents to potential buyers. The ‘streetscape’ is the first impression for potential buyers, even before they walk through the front gate.

The streetscape refers to the way houses, footpaths, gardens and landscaping along the length of a street, present collectively. It is the visual identity of a neighbourhood, and it plays an important part in facilitating the interaction between residents, and creating a community. It also contributes to building the value of the properties located on a street or road.

To be fair, it’s difficult for individual owners to influence the joint streetscape. However, the value of an attractive street, where all the gardens are well-tended, can have an impact on the saleability of a property. Also by communally maintaining the kerbside appeal of all properties in a street, owners can maintain and grow the values of their properties.

That said, it can be a very tricky situation if you have neighbours who refuse to play ball like the owners of the infamous “hoarders’ home” in Bondi, in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.  The problem is that most of us are fair-minded and don’t wish to cause tension or offence.

Your best bet for addressing issues that may impact your streetscape, is to try and create a sense of community among your neighbours before problems arise. With Christmas fast approaching, for example, street parties are a great way to develop neighbourly bonds. In some neighbourhoods, people also plant vegetable gardens in nature strips. It is about building a community so the neighbourhood feels part of a greater good, says Angus Raine, Executive Chairman of Raine & Horne.

Is an apartment a good option for retirees?

October, 2016 by

aptApartment living has come a long way in recent years, and far from being the chief domain of first home buyers, we are increasingly seeing families, and in particular, empty nesters, opting for apartments over houses.

Much of the appeal reflects the greater affordability of apartments and relatively lower maintenance costs.

However, there are different rules of engagement when it comes to apartment living. For starters, you’ll need to abide by the rules of your owners’ corporation. Likewise, keeping pets may be prohibited and you might need to seek the approval of the body corporate to make changes to your apartment, such as installing new flooring or air-conditioning.

On the other side of the coin, if you own a house, you are the master of your domain, meaning you can renovate when you want. However, as we get older, renovating a property may not exactly float your boat, while apartment living offers ease of maintenance, and the ability in many cases to live closer to city centres and lifestyle facilities such as cafes, restaurants, shopping centres and entertainment complexes. Apartment blocks may also offer gyms, pools and other facilities, access to shared gardens, playgrounds, roof terraces and more.

As for the maintenance costs associated with apartment living, you will typically be responsible for most repairs and maintenance within your apartment. In addition, you may pay an owners’ corporation fee to cover repairs and maintenance on ceilings, boundary walls, common areas and services. This fee should also cover building insurance – you will need to take our contents insurance separately. There are also administration costs and a sinking fund for future works. Owners’ corporation fees vary depending on the number of facilities in the development. For example, if the development has a pool, gym and lifts, the strata fees will often be higher than an older apartment block that doesn’t offer these features.

As with all property purchases, doing your due diligence is key and if you want to know more about a particular apartment market or the benefits of apartment living, contact your local Raine & Horne agent by visiting our website.

How can I bushfire proof my home this summer?

October, 2016 by

Bushfire fightersBushfires constantly create a serious risk to life, the environment and properties located in rural and urban areas.

The risk of bushfire increases as the mercury jumps in the warmer months, especially with the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) predicting a hotter than average summer for some parts of Australia, including Western Australia and Tasmania.

There is very little we can do about our harsh summer climate, however there is plenty we can do to ensure our homes are safe this bushfire season, whether we live on Sydney’s leafy North Shore or near a state forest in Tasmania.

For starters, be sure to clean out leaves and other garden flotsam and jetsam from gutters and other roof fittings. Garden waste is extremely flammable when it dries out and will prove a magnet for flying embers. If you have a woodpile left over from winter, be sure to locate it well away from the house, as it’s combustible source of fuel for a bushfire.

Trees with overhanging branches are potential fire hazards. If you can’t chop the trees back yourself, commission a gardener or arborist to prune them. It also pays to keep the lawn trimmed and to take a rake to any piles of leaves lying around. Dead leaves are a major fire hazard.

To help fight any potential fires, be sure you have at least one garden hose that reaches the perimeter of your property and that all hoses and tap fittings are in good working order.

While many homeowners are recycling newspapers and cardboard, these items need to be safely contained as they are highly combustible if a bushfire strikes at your property. Also have a look around your home for any recycling materials, such as flammable liquids or paint tins close to the house, as these items can also fuel a fire – and keep gas bottles in a safe place.

Encouraging your neighbours to take some precautions is another sensible prevention measure. Therefore, don’t be afraid to talk to your neighbours about their plans and precautions for bushfire season, as you may find yourselves in the firing line together.

Is a real estate agent best placed to sell my home this spring?

September, 2016 by

iStock_000002116286MediumYou might have read about some of the foreign companies trying to bring their DIY real estate services into Australia. Services such as these will appeal to those people who are prepared to have a crack at selling their own properties – and in most cases won’t really need these companies to help them anyway.

However, to be fair, not many Australians will have the sufficient time, knowledge or financial resources to pull off a successful property sale – and this is where a qualified real estate agent will continue to provide a valuable professional service.

A licensed real estate agent sells properties for a living, and their wealth of experience can be invaluable to owners. Additionally, using an agent gives you legal protection to ensure you come through the transaction without any hitches.

An agent will also provide a realistic indication of the value of your property – as they’re in the business of selling homes rather than letting them languish on the market for many months, which is what can occur if you take a DIY approach. Other services agents can provide include:

  • Helping you decide how to sell your property, whether by auction, private treaty or tender
  • Organising and liaising with potential buyers at any time of the day or night – and managing their enquiries
  • Providing access to more potential buyers by means of their own databases – through Raine & Horne, for example, your property will be marketed to a database of hundreds of thousands of buyers and investors in Australia and overseas
  • Negotiating the sale on your behalf and striving to achieve the best possible result

An agent will also prepare a professional advertising schedule designed to generate the most valuable exposure for your property and organise the marketing collateral for you, whether its signboards, flyers, floor plans and photography, as well as a digital campaign and some public relations. An agent is also well-placed to offer some guidance in respect to conveyancing, legal and financial services, and finalise the sale through a solicitor or conveyancer.

If you’re thinking about selling your biggest asset this spring, visit the Raine & Horne website today to find an agent in your suburb or town.

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