Last night I left my office at 6pm after a fairly intense day dealing with multiple offers on a listing of mine which was being sold under fairly stressful conditions on the Seller’s part.  I was close to securing a contract but the deal was still not completed and it was playing on my mind. As I hurried out the back door a male colleague said “good bye”. I said my goodbyes in return and then quickly added “off to my other job now”. As a working mum, I was heading straight to the supermarket to grab some groceries before going home to cook dinner for my family, followed by doing the dishes, cleaning up around the house, reading with my primary school aged son, making lunches for the next day, doing a load of washing and then finally getting back on to my computer to respond to more emails and complete some other work tasks that had to be dealt with before the following day.

I often wonder how nice it would be to get home and have all of the domestic jobs taken care of.   However, when faced with the decision about whether to return to work after having my son, I soon realised that for me, the positives of juggling motherhood and paid work outweigh the negatives. Sure, being a working mum means little time for housework and R’n’R, but having a professional position is an important part of my identity and the challenges it presents help me to continue to learn and grow as a person.

Part of what originally attracted me to my job as a sales agent is the flexibility it offers with where and when work is performed. This allows me to juggle everything in my life to suit and is certainly not possible in most other types of employment.  The other big plus is that there is no ceiling to what one can achieve as each individual is responsible for the amount of business that they write. As a real estate sales representative I only get paid commission when I successfully sell properties for clients, but this also means I can take charge as to what income I earn.

I am thankful that society has changed since I was a kid growing up in the 1970s, which was still a time when traditionally women stepped down from their jobs once the time came to raise a family.  My generation has indeed seen a big shift in expectations and experienced the benefit of many women being able to complete tertiary education beyond high school and maintain professional careers for as long as they choose to after having children.

Despite women having equal education opportunities to men these days, if you look at the Gender Gap statistics on the Australian Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency website it shows that in Australia women earn on average $242.90 per week less than men, based on a comparison of full-time average weekly earnings between the two sexes.  In fact, WA has the highest gender gap by state and territory in Australia, being at 22.1% (ie women in WA earn 22.1% less than men in WA, based on the full-time average weekly earnings).

There are many contributing reasons as to why the gender gap is the way it is.  What I find interesting is that despite these factors still applying, in the majority of Albany real estate offices the top performing sales representatives, and so therefore the highest income earners, are females. There are significantly more males working as sales representatives in real estate than females in Albany, however it appears as though the women are leading the way, at least in my local community.

This proves that real estate sales is certainly a career path available to women where the playing field is about as level as it can be. Despite the responsibilities that women and men both have outside of the workplace, the sky is the limit as to what can be achieved in this particular industry.

Whether you’re looking to sell, be the best looking house in the street or you have an upcoming baby shower to prepare for, it is important to keep onto the things that makes your house a home and for it to stand out (in the right way). Although they may seem obvious, you can be sure that not everyone does these things, and some may have never thought of them. Not all of us are as keen on “The Block” or “Selling Houses Australia” as I am.

1.) Curb appeal; how often do you walk out onto the road and stand back and take a good look at your house – I know I don’t! After a long day at work (sometimes getting home after sunset) the last thing I want to be doing is looking for more work. I cannot, however, stress how important this one is.
Do it. Stand back and look. Are the gardens overgrown and blocking windows? Do cobwebs hang from the eves and window frames like old Halloween decorations? Is your letterbox all rusted out and in desperate need of a facelift?
If so then it might be time to give the hedges a prune, mulch the gardens, give it a quick once over and for goodness sake replace the letterbox and you’ll be the best-looking house on the street in no time.

2.) Blinds and carpets; I recently renovated my house and after getting a couple of quotes for window treatments and floor coverings it was pretty clear that there is a huge difference in price between companies, brands and products.
Shop around. You might find that replacing the old tatty & frayed verticals or the curtains from when ABBA was cool could be just the thing your place needs to bring it into the 21st century.
Same goes with carpets. High traffic areas can become noticeably old and worn. Look into what products should go where. Carpet in hallways can easily be replaced with vinyl planks or even just vinyl, at quite often, not a huge expense. With a few YouTube tutorials and chat with the attendant at the hardware store, you might even want to give it a go yourself.

3.) Paint; This one is pretty obvious, however I would say it’s one of the most important things when preparing your home for sale. Take your time. Prepare the area first. Patch. Sand. Mask up. Painting is all in the preparation. Once there is already paint on the walls it is then just a matter of changing the colour or putting on another coat on to freshen it up. Most local paint stores or hardware shops are always keen to give out free advice.
Go on. Give it a go and you might just surprise yourself.

4.) Presentation; It’s no good having the newest, modern, on-trend, spacious home in the street if you are going to fill it to the ceiling with furniture, plaster every wall with photos of your kids and doggos and have “stuff” laying around everywhere. Presentation is one of the three “P’s” of selling Real Estate and this one can cost you just about nothing (unless you want to visit your local discount department store ending in “-Mart” for a nice vase, plant pot, throw or cushion for the bed). If you’re not sure – ASK! Any decent Real Estate Agent should be able to give you advice on how to best present your home or at very least refer you to a professional who can.

5.) Clean it; Once again this one is pretty obvious to most. I won’t say to much here except for things like windows, eves, wet areas and high traffic areas are extremely important in my opinion. There’s nothing worse walking into a bathroom and the shower screen is covered in calcium and there is soap scum all over the vanity. Savvy buyers will even do things like open the oven or dishwasher to see the overall cleanliness of the appliances. Stay on top of these things and it won’t be such an issue when you go to sell (or host that baby shower).

Hopefully this has given you some confidence to go out and try some of these things yourself or given you an idea for something to spruce the place up a bit. I think the key is just to be always chipping away at something. I personally find it therapeutic slowly ticking things off the list and adding new things as I find them. It also gives you a great sense of pride and just makes you feel good. Before you know it, it will be Spring, but why not use Winter when we are all stuck at home to make a start.

Recently for the first time in a long time, I’ve had a bit more spare time on my hands having had to change my work habits due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This allowed me the opportunity to read the book “Neale Daniher, When All is Said & Done“. This is about the ex AFL footballer and Melbourne coach who was diagnosed with the terminal illness MND (Motor Neuron Disease) and how he approached knowing that his days on this planet were limited, his thoughts, beliefs, feelings and his unwavering positive attitude.

Apart from being just an amazing, down to earth, relatable read, this book had one particular chapter called “Success is never final, failure never fatal“ which captured my attention mainly because it was about self-belief. And right now you’re probably wondering what relevance does this have to property? Well you see, when something as negative as COVID-19 is 24/7 in the mainstream media it can be very easy to think the world is going to end and start believing all these headlines. Maybe it is going to end, maybe it isn’t, but right now when compared with seeing out your last days it puts things into perspective.

I’ve heard everything from predictions of market collapses from all kinds of keyboard economists to buyers thinking they will purchasing properties at discounted prices as seller’s are desperate to sell. But let’s put things into some perspective here. People will still need a roof over their head, people will move from town to town, city to city, country to country (once travel bans are lifted), people pass away, people age and need to downsize, people graduate and people move out of home to buy or rent their first home. So property will always be in people’s discussions in some capacity, no matter what is going on in the world. Once all this has been and gone, yes things will be done a bit differently and yes the market will, as it always has, be determined by supply and demand, consumer confidence, lending policies and job security. There has always been influences to push the market up and down, we can see these very influences here now, pushing and pulling the market for better or for worse.

So what I have learned out of reading this book is yes we may succeed, yes we may fail, make mistakes etc. but when all is said and done can we also ‘learn’. And my learnings are that if history is anything to go by, then the property market will bounce back. There may be many changes such as policy changes, a change in government and planning policy changes which will shape the world we live in but these are primarily out of our control. So I say control the controllable and know that everything that is happening is all part of the bigger picture and that if you decide to buy or sell right now, that’s great, if you don’t, that’s ok. There is one thing you can always count on, and that is that property will always be here in one shape or another and I am thankful for that.

In addition to the Purchase Price of the property you wish to buy there are other costs involved with purchasing a home. These all add up to a significant amount, so should be considered at the outset of your property purchase journey and factored in to your budgeting for this exciting decision.

Here are the main costs that you mustn’t forget about:

  1. Property Inspection and Due Diligence Costs
    Unless the home is brand spanking new, it is usually prudent to have it checked over by suitably qualified professionals to ensure you are not buying a lemon. If problems are discovered, at least you know what you are getting yourself in to, so I believe these up front costs are a wise investment for your long term peace of mind. Examples are a timber pest inspection and a building inspection. Discuss your due diligence concerns with your sales representative and they will help you to decide whether you should have these inspections performed ahead of making an offer, or instead, include special conditions with your offer that entitle you to the benefit of these inspections after your offer has been accepted by the Seller.
  2. Finance Costs
    Each bank or lender charges fees for various reasons when setting up a home loan. Make sure you ask your bank or mortgage broker about these charges as it may help you to decide which is the best lander and home loan product for you. If you are borrowing more than 80% of the Purchase Price of the property, then Lenders Mortgage Insurance will apply. This is a one-off cost that is usually added to the loan so you will be effectively paying this cost off over time, as part of your home loan.
  3. Conveyancing Costs
    You will need to engage the services of a qualified settlement agent (conveyancer) to make all of the necessary arrangements on your behalf to transfer ownership of the property over to you and to liaise with your lender to ensure that sufficient funds are available for the day of settlement. The Seller will also appoint (and pay for) a Settlement Agent to represent them in the same manner. Real Estate Agents in Albany do not offer this service in-house, however, they can offer recommendations of Settlement Agents who operate locally. These costs depend on the property you are buying so should be discussed directly with the conveyancer of your choosing.
  4. Government Charges & Taxes
    The WA Government charges Stamp Duty (like a GST) on all property transfers in the state. There are currently concessions available to First Home Buyers that may mean you don’t have to pay this Duty on top of the Purchase Price of your property. Your mortgage broker or bank will factor Stamp Duty in to your borrowing calculations and your Settlement Agent will ensure the Stamp Duty is paid at Settlement.
  5. Insurance Costs
    Don’t forget that you need to insure both your new home, and your contents, from the time of settlement, just in case something unforeseen happens. It is wise to set up a policy with the insurer of your choice well ahead of the settlement date to ensure this doesn’t slip your mind in the craziness of moving house.
  6. Moving Costs
    While it is nice to have friends and family to help with your big move, it is well worth considering getting a moving company do the ‘heavy lifting’ for you. In the very least, you may need to allow some money for hiring a truck/trailer to assist, if you are more of a do-it-yourself kind of person.
  7. Utility Connection Fees
    Companies such as Synergy (for electricity) and Alinta Gas (for town gas) typically charge account set up fees when you connect these services at your new address. These charges will be added to your first consumption bill from each provider, but when setting these accounts up you can find out what the associated fees will be, so it doesn’t come as such a surprise when you get sent your first lot of bills.
    The Settlement Agents take care of your initial outlay for City of Albany rates and Water Corporation service charges. Your settlement statement should detail what periods they have paid up front for you, on your behalf.
  8. Renovations and Repairs
    If you can’t move in to your new home without doing some improvements first (such as installing new carpet or painting), don’t forget to add these costs to your budgeting.
  9. Indirect Costs
    These are usually only minor, and may be paid for well in advance of you making a property purchase. For example, fees to seek advice from an accountant or financial advisor. Others include more general costs such as that for travel (fuel, upkeep of a vehicle or pubic transport) and of course, your time and energy (not a monetary cost).

You will notice that one expense which is NOT listed above is a fee to your real estate agent. As a home buyer, you are NOT required to pay a sales representative to help you with your purchase. Sellers pays real estate agents a commission to sell their property, but a Buyer does not pay a sales representative to assist in a real estate transaction.

Please note that the information outlined in this article is very general advice and I have not provided specific costs. This is because these expenses usually depend on the size and type of property that you are buying. If you wish to establish the actual dollar value of these costs of buying a property, please contact one of the friendly sales representatives at Merrifield Real Estate and they will be happy to break down each of these fees and charges to assist with budgeting and forward planning.

When buying an investment property as opposed to a home to live in, most of the costs outlined above still apply, so again, you need to factor these in to your budgeting ahead of making a purchase. Before making the decision to buy an investment property I recommend you seek individual advice from an accountant to find out which of the purchasing costs may be tax deductable and how to maximise your benefits.

Happy home buying!

We’ve all heard it before that first impressions count the most. Which is why, when having your home open or preparing your home for a private viewing, you only get one chance to make that first impression. So make it count.

So where do you start, I hear you ask. Start at the front of the home. Street appeal and the entrance to the property are either going to get the buyers in the door or turn them off. From photos used for marketing to attract online enquiry to prospective purchasers doing a drive by, this is a key area that needs attention. Hot summers means dry lawns so get those sprinklers to work and get the grass looking nice and green. Gardens, mulch and nicely trimmed plants and shrubs, along with de-cobwebbing are key factors.

Then entering the house, make sure all the lights are on in the property, curtains and blinds are open and even open some windows to allow a fresh breeze through. There is nothing like a smelly odour to send someone rushing out the door. I once remember entering a home for an inspection to find food had gone off in the fridge because the power had been out for a while. The buyer was driving off before I could shut the front door and you guessed it, they certainly didn’t buy the house. A useful tip is to use air refreshers, candles, flowers or scents – but don’t make them too overpowering.

You want to be able to move through the house and not feel like you’re in a jungle. So de-clutter, pack up toys and create as much space as possible. Of course, people and their kids have to live, but consider packing some items away in boxes or hiring a storage unit to store them. On the flip side, if your house is empty, consider hiring some furniture and staging – we’ve sold numerous properties thanks to some clever staging. Kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms are key areas, so make sure beds are made, ovens cleaned, dishes away and bathrooms and toilets are clean, neat and tidy.

And what should you do if you have pets? The answer is simple. Make sure they are not at the property when buyers are inspecting. And clean up animal waste. No one wants to be dodging the landmines in the backyard, not even the lawnmower man. Not everyone is a dog or a cat person so arrange for them to be somewhere else for an hour. It can really make a difference between a buyer being comfortable and you not getting a sale.

So while the above may seem like common sense, I can tell you from experience that if you don’t do the above, you won’t get top market price and the likelihood is that you’ll be on the market a lot longer. So for a bit of time, energy and elbow grease it’s well worth going to the effort! For further tips and advice, feel free to contact the Merrifield team.

Your agent has just presented you with an offer. After several ‘tos and fros’ and negotiating the terms of the contract, you agree on price and terms.

So it’s time to celebrate! Right? Wrong.

Although this is a massive hurdle in the buying and selling process, there are many things that still need to happen before the property can go through to settlement and you can break out the Moët.

By this stage you should have well and truly employed or at very least engaged with a settlement agent (in WA), conveyancer or solicitor, depending on what state or territory you live in. Let’s just assume for the rest of this article that you live in Western Australia and you’ve hired a settlement agent or conveyancer.

Settlement agents and conveyancers have such an important job. They need to obtain a valid authority to act from their clients, arrange the Transfer of Land document, arrange the change of rates, deal with the banks, make sure the property settles on time and protect their clients from the legal pitfalls of property sales. I even know of really good settlement agents who do things like arrange the Home Buyers Assistance Account (HBAA) for their first home buyer clients, giving them a rebate of up to $2000 after settlement, which isn’t really their job but it’s a nice thing for them to be doing.

The first thing I discuss with my clients at this point is to make sure that they are communicating with their real estate professional and their settlement agent or conveyancer. If you aren’t going to get finance approved by the finance due date, it is better to know this a week or two beforehand than on the finance due date, so you can talk everyone through the process and ease any anxiety. After all, the seller doesn’t usually want to go back to market and find another potential buyer and 99.9% of the time the buyer doesn’t want to miss out on the property, so it’s almost always better to work with a deal than to terminate a contract and start again. Which is why clear communication throughout is so important.

The next thing I explain to both the buyer and the seller is to do everything that needs to be done, when it needs doing. If your mortgage broker or banker needs you to sign mortgage documents, don’t wait two weeks and then go in and sign, get it done straight away. If you’re the seller and you have a mortgage on the title (even if there is no debt), you will need to fill out and sign a Release of Security  form or Discharge Authority  form (they all call it something slightly different but it’s the same thing) with your bank. The banks then usually have a 10-15 working-day turnaround to process this form – so good luck trying to settle on time if you haven’t done this form within the first week of having an unconditional contract.

It’s also really important to remember that signing a contract isn’t just about getting finance approved (although you could be forgiven if you celebrate when you get it through). There are normally other conditions under the contract that need to be met, too. Things such as the Timber Pest Pre-Purchase Inspection Report and the Australian Standard Pre-Purchase Building Inspection Report. Sometimes carpets need cleaning, light globes replacing and the list goes on. Remember when I mentioned clear communication earlier on? Imagine if all this had to take place and no one was speaking to each other!

Once finance is approved and everything else on the contract has been ticked off, it’s time to complete the final inspection or the pre-settlement inspection. This is the only opportunity the buyer has to inspect the property after signing an Offer and Acceptance or Contract of Sale before settlement. It is to make sure that the property is as it was when they inspected it last and that everything that should be working is working. Under the changes in the 2018 Joint Form of General Conditions for the Sale of Land in WA, the buyer actually has the right to re-inspect something if it isn’t working or if something isn’t how it was when they last inspected it. This is why I always explain to my sellers to keep the lawns mowed, check everything in the house is working themselves, which then sometimes means they need to call in a plumber, electrician or other qualified tradesperson.

So now you’ve got an unconditional contract (all conditions of the contract are met), the final inspection has been completed, the banks and financial institutions on both sides are ready, the settlement agents are ready and it’s settlement day. If you’re the buyer at this point, I sincerely hope you haven’t booked a removalist truck for 15 minutes after settlement. The seller, after all, has until midday the following day to move out and hand over keys if it is owner-occupied. Things can go wrong. Banks can say they are ready right up until settlement day and then turn around and say they lost the title! The point I am making here is plan for the worst and listen to the advice you are getting from your real estate professional and your settlement agent.

Once settlement has taken place and the property is vacant and you’ve either handed over the keys or received the keys, by all means, pop the Champagne bottle and celebrate like it’s 1999. But until then, communicate, act quickly and listen to the advice of the professionals. If you do this, it should be all smooth sailing.

The market in Albany has certainly taken a turn for the better over the last few months. More people are making offers on properties so the number of transactions has increased. Those living locally should have noticed more SOLD stickers appearing on signboards lately, which is reflective of the change in market conditions I’ve described. I’ve been writing multiple offers on some of my new listings and have experienced fierce competition between buyers recently, which is great news for sellers as it results in them achieving premium sale prices.

One of the most common things I hear people say when talking about real estate is “If only I’d bought that house at ……… (such and such a street)”. There are many people that live with the regret of not buying a property when the opportunity presented itself earlier in their lives, whether it was a home to live in or an investment property.

For those who have been contemplating a property purchase in Albany this year but not done anything about it, please give these facts some serious consideration. Property prices in Albany are as low as they have been for at least 10 years, and interest rates for those people needing to borrow money are at historically low levels. The increase in the volume of sales that we have been experiencing is suggestive that the Albany market is moving on to the next phase of the property cycle where we will see property prices stabilise before they start to increase again.

My advice to those who are procrastinating is that now is as good a time as any to take the plunge and make a property purchase. In the last 6 months we have sold properties to a lot of people are fed up with not earning any significant interest from their cash sitting in their bank. We expect that more people will follow suit over the coming months and this will add to the demand for properties. In other words, if you don’t get in on the action now, you may miss out on the property you have had your eye on or be forced in to paying more for it in the future.

Franklin D Roosevelt once said: “Real Estate can not be lost or stolen nor can it be carried away. Purchased with common sense, paid for in full, and managed with reasonable care it is about the safest investment in the world.” Give yourself the present of a new investment this festive season and contact the friendly staff at Merrifield Real Estate to help make it happen. As this year draws to a close, don’t be another person left thinking “if only I had bought that property”.

As soon as the term super-regional is mentioned most folks memories switch to the 2011 Government Super Towns Intuitive that involved 9 regional towns in WA that were focused at the time on economic development, industry projects and town centre revitalisations. During a recent conversation with a prominent WA property developer the word super-regional got brought up which sparked my attention in discussing my home town Albany.

For those that don’t know, Albany is currently in a phase of some amazing projects and maybe one of the reasons we’re seeing higher transactions of sales in the last 3 months. The $17 million Waterfront Hotel Development is leading the way with a proposed 108 room hotel being built by Pindan and will be a Hilton branded Hotel. It is expected to be completed by mid – late 2020 and will certainly create plenty of accommodation for incoming tourists and of course opportunities for locals.

The Student Housing Accommodation project in the CBD is a $16 million project due to be completed towards the end of 2020 and is well underway supported by local contractors and being built by Wauters Enterprises. And those that have travelled to places like Liverpool, Christchurch, Cairns and the likes know the impact students can make to the local economy through jobs and spending along with developing infrastructure in these towns & cities.

Other projects include the $4 million Albany Town Hall upgrade with follow on effects will benefit the cultural & arts sector. Continuing the town CBD upgrades is the former Premier Hotel Redevelopment with millions of dollars being poured into this. And believe me who doesn’t want a good pub!

Now let’s not forget the $30 million aged care facility that Juniper opened earlier this year in Lockyer that provides an important service to our community and provides many more beds then were previously available, the proposed $15 million plus move of Bunnings out to Chester Pass Mall which will create a workforce of over 120 staff, the multimillion dollar MS Society project in Spencer Park tackling an important issue, proposed $170 million ring road project, $500,000 plus commitment to the Albany Health Campus in particular focusing on Mental Health, Great Southern Motorplex & Middleton Beach Surf Reef projects, $2.7 million maintenance & improvements projects in the schools of Yakamia Primary, North Albany Senior High School & Albany Senior High School along with a variety of other private projects that are on the drawing board.

With over 25 plus jobs per week advertised on Seek, many other jobs available locally that are advertised in papers or shop front windows, improvement in the job market, construction & building approval numbers starting to turn and a climate of renewed hope through increased transactions, in my opinion then this all leads to Albany leading the way and being “The” Super Regional town in Western Australia in 2020. Time will tell but all the indicators are heading in the right direction.

There are many sayings in Real Estate, I’m not going to sit here and recite them all as I think you know what I’m talking about, just have a look at the title of this blog. One of them is that there are three things that are required to get you the best possible outcome – Price, Presentation and Marketing. But what about location? How important are schools, shops, cafés, sporting venues and so on to the overall outcome of the sale of your property? Are there ways that you can leverage the location in your marketing to your target audience?

One simple answer, of course you can. That doesn’t mean that Real Estate Agents get this right every time, however, when done well it can make all the difference to the campaign.

What I am not talking about here is mentioning that it is “near shops” or “close to public transport” in the editorial write up and just leaving it there – this couldn’t be further from what I am saying. I’m talking about “selling the sizzle, not the steak” (oops! There’s another one of those sayings). If done well, the overall marketing of the property will take into consideration the buyer’s senses, emotions and feelings and will get the buyer thinking of the lifestyle and benefits of living in that particular property/street/suburb.

I recently read an article (or maybe I saw it on TV?) where the agent actually shot a video of her and her husband “living” in the home for a day! They slept in the bed, got up and brushed their teeth at the glamorous double vanity in the ensuite of the enormous master bedroom and enjoyed cups of coffee in the matching bathrobes on the deck overlooking the ocean – paints a pretty good picture, right?

There are many tricks of the trade that can be used to showcase the location of the property. Photos are the obvious one. This can be from the standard shot of the park down the road, to a series of shots from the house to the local park or CBD (I’ve done this recently with some great results), to drone shots which can show multiple different areas of interest in one photo. The editorial writing is also extremely important when you want to sell the lifestyle of the home. This needs to appeal to the buyer’s emotions and be informative at the same time – too long and the buyer will switch off, too boring and you’ll lose them and if it doesn’t actually tell them anything about the property then you risk them not going any further with their inquiry. In addition to photos and the editorial, I’ve also already touched on video being one of the most recent and effective ways real estate professionals have decided to show off their new listings. Do yourself a favour and Google “Dan Lee Real Estate” – then call me and tell me you didn’t want to buy one his properties.

What does the future hold for marketing location? 3D tours of homes are already a thing and will continue to grow as technology advances and becomes more accessible. Virtual Reality is also something that we are already talking about too. Imagine being able to view the whole property from the comfort of your own loungeroom? I then can’t see why you couldn’t then “attach” to that listing a virtual tour of the beach or bushwalk down the road, the local café or anything else which might excite the buyer in regards to location.

One thing is certain – nothing will stay the same and we will always be looking for the next best thing to market your property and achieve the best possible outcome for our clients.

I’ll leave you with one more saying in Real Estate that you would have all heard before; “buy the worst house in the best street – location, location, location”.

One of the things I’ve noticed over my 15 years of working in real estate is how the expectations of people have changed. It is mostly the first home buyer market I am referring to with this observation. When I was growing up in Albany most of the people I knew lived in a 3 bedroom house, regardless of the number of children that were part of the family. Some of my friends grew up in smaller, two bedroom homes and it was common practice for siblings to share bedrooms. If you were fortunate enough to have a second bathroom/ensuite in your home then that was considered pretty flash living in the 1970s/80s.

Many first home buyers I deal with these days expect that their first home includes 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, multiple living areas, an outdoor entertaining area, double garaging, and the list goes on. They also often gravitate towards brand new or near new homes that come with all of the latest bells and whistles. Many of this young cohort of buyers are making their first home purchase a property of the same caliber that their own parents worked all of their lives to be able to afford, or may never be able to afford.

It makes me wonder why there has been such a change in the expectations of the first home buyer market. In my early days in real estate I remember the time when large land subdivisions started to hit the market, mainly around the McKail area, and residential blocks could be purchased for not much more than $50,000 a pop. This coincided with a lot of project home building companies offering attractive deals to people wanting to have a new home constructed. To add to this, a lot of young people in Albany took the up newly created, highly paid FIFO jobs that became available around this time so suddenly a large number of FHB could afford to buy and invest in large, lavish houses with the latest gadgets and gimmicks. I feel this “era” was a turning point where expectations of first home buyers suddenly changed. As developers continued to release more residential lots to the open market many more people, including FHB, were lured by the appeal of owning a shiny new home, as an alternative to buying an older, established dwelling. This was despite the fact that the rather sudden increase in demand for housing in Albany contributed to land values doubling in only a few years, and then doubling again by the time the WA property boom hit Albany the hardest around 2008.

While the appeal of a new home is attractive to many, the shine of a freshly constructed home only lasts for a limited time as trends change and new products become available to fit houses out with. In other words, all new homes eventually become ‘old’, or at least dated compared to the latest and greatest versions that continue to become available in to the future.

My advice to those starting out in the housing market is to start off with a modest purchase of an older home with a cheaper price tag, but in an area that is close to either the CBD or other popular attractions such as the beach or sought-after schools. You would be wise to even consider buying a unit or duplex half, as they are often more affordable because they come with less land. Buying the worst house in the best street is a classic way to make the most of your investment as more of the purchase price is tied up in the value of the land (which will appreciate over time) and less in the value of the dwelling (which will only depreciate over time, unless you keep spending money on renovating it regularly).

After you have taken the plunge and bought your first property, you should then work hard at paying down the mortgage so in turn, you build up equity in your property. One of the good things about not having a massive mortgage with a first home purchase is that you may still be able to afford to go on holidays and enjoy a few luxuries because the financial pressure of your mortgage is not sucking your finances dry, and if your situation unexpectedly changes, you don’t have the huge financial burden of a large amount of debt weighing over your head.

Once you are more financially secure you can then look to upgrade. People who make money in real estate generally do so not by selling their properties, but rather by holding on to them over time. Treat your first home purchase like a stepping stone, and when you are ready to move on, keep it as an investment property where the future tenants help pay off the remainder of the mortgage, and use the equity you have built up over time to help secure a larger or more modern property when it’s feasible.

Building a property portfolio is not something that you can expect to achieve quickly. However, if you can resist the temptation of buying or building a large, new home with all of the trimmings first up, and instead start off with a small first home purchase as early as you can afford to get in to the market, you will be on your way to setting yourself up for financial stability in the future.
The friendly team at Merrifield Real Estate are always happy to chat to FHB and help guide them through the often daunting process of buying their very first property.

It’s amazing how an election result can change people’s confidence in the real estate market. Weeks leading up to the election, enquiry had slowed considerably. Maybe more so this time as one of the major policies was going to have a direct impact on the market, being Labor’s push to have negative gearing and capital gains reform. The slowing of enquiry is a normal trend and having been in real estate for over 16 years, this pattern happens each and every election. However what’s happened since then is an increase in activity. I have read that enquiry for home loans in the week after the election result is up and buyer inspections have improved. Maybe it’s just timing with expectations on interest rates to reduce and other policy changes that will allow more relaxation on borrowing. Only time will tell on that.

What all this shows is that confidence is such a big thing when it comes to taking action. Interestingly there are some articles from some so called experts out in the media saying that markets have hit the bottom and that capital growth will soon return. I can only say to be very careful in believing this. Personally, I don’t think this is correct, based on supply and demand, business confidence, employment figures and seeing that the Reserve Bank has no option but to move interest rates to get inflation to the target it needs too be. There are just too many factors to prove this and while I am happy to be proven wrong, I doubt this will happen.

The reality is that there are markets within markets. You have a national market made up of big cities, then broken down to markets in different suburbs, markets within different regional areas, market’s within different property types, the list goes on. All have different driver’s that either make the market good, bad or otherwise.

One thing is for sure, I wouldn’t believe everything in the media. If the polls are anything to go by in the latest election, then you can’t believe anything the media puts out. Plus remember, they are there to sell papers and get clicks online, whether the information is credible or not. So if you want to know what’s really happening on the ground, talk to the people in the industry, the people that are living and breathing the trends. If governments, media and the like do that, maybe they’d get a better understanding of what matters to people most.

With so many properties flooding the Albany rental market recently we are seeing a dramatic change in rents being gained across the board and changes in tenants requirements when searching for that perfect rental home.

In the past many people were happy to simply have a roof over their head; however with ever growing tenant knowledge and increased expectations on Lessors simply having a roof over your head is not something tenant will settle for.

More than ever we are finding that Tenants are searching for a property with more, more, more! Having lawn mowing included, easy care gardens/yards, allowance of pets or neutral interior colour schemes. With so many newer builds around the older style properties are in some circumstances less attractive to tenants and experience trouble in gaining longer term quality tenants.

As Property Managers we are noticing that Tenants are demanding properties to be kept in excellent condition and repairs are expected to be carried out in a timely manner. When these items are not done by Lessors the rents start to fall as the property falls into disrepair and tenants move on.

To ensure that your property is always tenanted to quality, long term tenants we recommend you complete the following;

–          Complete regular maintenance and general upkeep as required;

–          Complete larger repairs as soon as they become apparent so the job doesn’t become that large that it is out of reach to complete;

–          In older style properties install insulation to help with heating/cooling costs;

–          Look to value add with good quality heating/cooling systems (ie. airconditioners, fireplaces, gas heating etc);

–          Consider painting, flooring & window treatment upgrades every 10 – 15 years – these are tax deductible and can be used as depreciation for 10 years;

It is always advisable to have a ‘repair fund’ available to use in the event of emergency maintenance needing to be completed. Items such as hot water systems and water leaks will always occur when you least expect it and cannot be put on hold till you have funds available.

By keeping your investment in good repair you are ensuring that the property is presented in its best possible condition which in turn will attract quality tenants wanting a long term property. When the property is not kept in good condition you open yourself up to issues surrounding ‘wear and tear’, may have less desirable tenants and a higher vacancy rate overall.

This is a question that anyone working in finance, real estate, building or any other industry that involves housing would get asked regularly – I know that I do.

“We were thinking we would just renovate and possibly extend the house, that way we will get some more room and we would all fit.”

“My parents are getting old, so rather than them going into a village or care we were thinking of converting the back area of the house into a Granny Flat.”

I’ve recently completed, well, almost completed, a full renovation of my home. The reason for the renovation was due to a maintenance issue in a wet area. Rather than just try to fix the issue and “match” all of the tiles and so forth in with the rest of the home, I decided to start from scratch and upgrade whilst I was at it.

No matter the reason, people are always going to want to weigh up their options when it comes to renovating or selling. Here are some things you should consider before taking the next step.

COST.

I know this seems obvious, however, sitting down and carefully construction a budget and pricing everything up at the start can potentially save you thousands of dollars. There are many things that you will need to consider before starting a renovation;

–          What materials will you use?

–          What trades will you require?

–          What will you renovate and what will you retain?

–          Are you capable of DIY or will you need to get registered tradespeople in?

–          Where will all of your personal belongings go whilst you complete the work?

–          Where will you live whilst the renovation is going on?

All of the above will impact on cost and until you have answers to these questions it will be extremely challenging to come up with a carefully constructed budget.

There is obviously a lot to consider.

TIME.

Renovating or extending can take months and even years depending on how organised you are and if you have enough money to complete the work required. I often go into client’s homes that have started renovations “years ago” and are still working on them. Even if you outsource the work, you still need to have your finger on the pulse. Furniture will need moving and it may not fit on the property which means moving it somewhere else. Trades may cancel on you or they may not “line-up” and alternative arrangements may be required. Products may not be available. Unforeseen hiccups may appear during the destruction/construction process – and these are just to name a few.

Even at the quoting stage, this is an extremely time-consuming process. Let’s just take the example of flooring. There are so many different options for flooring now it is mind boggling – carpet, timber boards, tiles, vinyl, vinyl planking, floating floors, parquetry, polished concrete and the list goes on! So where would you even start?

My renovation, just on the inside of the home, took roughly 12 months and this was working after hours and on the weekends, practically every chance I got. So be prepared for long hours and hard work if you are going to try and tackle it yourself.

KNOW HOW.

I’ve touched on this already, however, if you have zero experience in the building industry and you are starting from scratch when it comes to renovating, well, it will probably end up costing you more time and money than say if a carpenter or an electrician decided to renovate their own home.

Sure, you can learn and there are thousands of YouTube videos and tutorials on the internet machine that can get you started, but at the end of the day, we often learn through making mistakes and learning from those mistakes – unfortunately in this case though, mistakes can be very costly.

RESALE.

At the start of this article I talked about your reason to renovate. Even though you may not be renovating to sell the property for a profit like all of the reality TV shows, resale should be something that you keep in the back of your mind.

It is so easy to overcapitalise when you are doing a renovation or extension and as a Real Estate Salesperson, I see this all of the time – I may have even done it myself! This also comes back to planning and cost as I eluded to earlier.

I also think it is important that you create something that other people will like so that when you do go to sell the property at a later date, you are going to maximise your profit. There are many ways to get inspiration and ideas when choosing design, products, materials, colours and styling (just to name a few). Things like Pinterest, Instagram and other social media platforms are great for inspiration and can be helpful when looking for the latest trends in styling. You could also consult with builders, interior designer and other real estate professionals.

One thing is clear in my mind though, whether you decide to consult the expects, go it alone or a bit both, you should always have one eye on the future.

TO SELL.

Whether you decide to renovate or sell, my suggestion would be to get expert advice from professionals in their respective industries.

Real Estate Agents are experts in property and the current marketplace. Real Estate Agents can provide you with up to date advice and data from properties that have sold in your area that are similar to your property or that would be similar after say, a renovation. Real Estate Agents see often hundreds of homes a year and should be keeping up to date with the latest building trends and products that are available. Real Estate Agents are often in communication with a big number of tradespeople and can suggest people for you to get into contact with. Real Estate Agents should be in the know when it comes to what buyers are looking for in certain areas.

So, whether you are thinking of renovating, extending or selling, call a Real Estate Agent that you can trust and that has the experience to guide you through the process or suggest people that can. After all, we are taking about your money, time, and probably your single biggest asset, please don’t leave it to chance.

The new school year has kicked off for 2019 across the country, and for those out there who are parents to school aged children, I’m sure you heard the collective sigh as all the children found their way to their new classrooms and settled in for the first day of the first week. We’d all made it through the chaos leading up to this first school day of the year and are now back in to a routine again.

While I was dropping my son off to school for his first full week of primary school (he’s just entered pre-primary) I was reminded how fortunate I am to have a personally fulfilling and financially rewarding career that still offers flexibility in the hours that I work. I did not have to push my son out of the car at the school gate and rush off to be in the office for an 8.30am to 5pm work day. Instead I was able to accompany my son to his classroom and wait our turn to meet his new teacher. I was then able to stay around and help him settle in to his new environment and meet some of his peers and the other parents who were also lucky enough not to have to rush off.

As a real estate salesperson, I am in control of my own “business”, as I can generally plan my working hours around my personal commitments.  If there is a meeting for parents at my son’s school or a sports carnival or a fund raising activity happening, I can juggle my work appointments to attend these various activities and have the best of both worlds.  Considering the large number of working mums and dads there are in the workforce these days, there are very few jobs that offer this flexibility that the real estate industry does.

Don’t get me wrong – to be successful in the industry you must be prepared to put in the hours, use a lot of initiative and be intrinsically self motivated. However, if you are organized and careful with time management then you can have a very satisfying career in real estate and still be very much a part of your children’s day-to-day lives.

Even though I am my own “boss” and ultimately responsible for my own success in the industry, unlike being self-employed, I still work for an agency who takes away a lot of the responsibility that I would otherwise have to bear if I worked for myself. For example, the agency provides me with an office and unlimited access to associated facilities such as printing, scanning, IT and postal services. The agency also provides extensive support in a variety of different areas (eg administrative and marketing), professional insurances and administers staff leave entitlements and superannuation.  Being part of an agency within the real estate industry also provides a sense of comradery and lots of moral support – plus there are the annual Christmas Parties, staff birthday celebrations, footy tipping competitions and other various social activities that come with being part of a group of people all working for a common cause.

If you are ever a client or associate of Merrifield Real Estate I hope you notice that we are a happy bunch of workmates who strive for success in all that we do, while still enjoying a laugh whenever the opportunity arises (mostly at the expense of each other!).

With 2018 now done and dusted we now look forward to 2019. So what does 2019 hold in the real estate world? Well we know in February we can expect the Banking Royal Commission findings to be fully released with a number of recommendations. It’s pretty obvious what some of these will be as we are already seeing tighter lending criteria’s and brokers/banks put under the microscope. With less money being lent then there is going to be less buyers in the market place and the amount they can access will be less meaning the higher end of markets will start to decline first. Downturn markets in Sydney & Melbourne will continue as the cost of a home being 9 times the average income which is unsustainable and we may see buyers focus on other markets like Western Australia and regional Western Australia where prices are more affordable.

The reserve bank has it’s hands full with declining property markets, oversupply of units/apartments, developers funding limits and off the plan sales on the east coast are just some of the issues it will face. Furthermore with interest rates already the lowest they have been since the mid 1900’s, I would expect things to remain the same in the first half of the year. With some pressure on banks as to the cost of money then we may see an increase in rates later in the year and this could be out of cycle like 2018.

Of course we have a Federal election in 2019 due in the first half of the year with much commentary towards a change in government. One of the major potential policies is around negative gearing and removing the benefit of this which 2.1 million Australian’s get and of which 1.5 million of these are mum and dad investors which only own 1 investment property. What impact will this have if it does happen? We can only be guided by history when this was tried in the late 1980’s which was a disaster and reinstalled 18 months after it was abolished. So hopefully things are left as is and a better focus would be on the multi nationals paying their fair share of tax is a better alternative.

Then we have the US President, Donald Trump, and what decisions he makes and how that impacts on Australia and property. Being that Australia has a major trading relationship with China I expect there to be some impact at some stage from the US/China tariffs but what these will be is anyone’s guess. As announcements get made on Twitter on the run, who knows what we are in for. I doubt even the President knows.

Locally in WA, we will finally have a better share of the GST which should allow for more investment into the State, though from my understanding, this money will be used to pay down debt and put into infrastructure projects in Perth rather than regional WA. I am biased when it comes to regional WA as I believe that without mining, agriculture, tourism and other industries in the regions that Perth would have the opportunities it gets.

And within the industry we are going to have challenges such as the strata reform that’s on its way and how that is implemented. The strata titles act hasn’t changed since 1985 so it will be interesting to see the outcome of these changes. Stamp Duty reform needs attention in my opinion, as it’s just a tax for the sake of having a tax. There has to be a better model! And I’d like to see our over 55’s purchasing or selling property given incentives especially war veterans that have served our country and deserve to be looked after better. We look after first home buyers but how about we look after the people that have worked hard all their life, paid their taxes and contributed to our country for so long.

It’s going to be an interesting year that’s for sure. There’s never a dull moment in real estate (that part will never change) and I am looking forward to 2019.