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Aug 17, 2023 Buying your first home as an investment

Want to buy an investment property? From negative gearing to tax deductions, there’s a lot to learn. Find out the risks and rewards of property investment. 25 November 2022 4 minute read Freya Cormack Buying property is a popular investment choice for many Australians. A property is a physical asset that could help you earn extra income now and at the time of selling. But there’s a lot to learn. In this article, we’ll explain what an investment home loan is and how it differs from an owner occupier home loan. We’ll also go through some of the pros and cons of property investment, how to get started, positive vs negative gearing, interest only loans and other things to be aware of. What is an investment home loan?  An investment home loan is a specific home loan type used to help fund the purchase of an investment property. Investment home loans can offer many of the same features that a regular mortgage offers, including offset accounts, a redraw facility and fixed and variable interest rates. What’s the difference between a regular mortgage and an investment mortgage?  You can expect to experience some differences between a regular mortgage (i.e. owner-occupied) and an investment mortgage. If you intend to live in the home, you’ll need a regular owner-occupier home loan. If you plan to rent out or ‘flip’ the home, you’ll need an investment mortgage. Some of the key differences between the mortgage types are: Interest rates  With an investment mortgage, you can expect a higher interest rate. It’s extremely important to be honest when applying for a home loan. If you apply for an owner occupier home loan for an investment property you could land yourself in a lot of trouble. This is considered as occupancy fraud and is something that lenders readily look out for. Tax rules  Investment properties come with a number of tax benefits and expenses that you can claim as tax deductions, including interest costs. Owner-occupied properties don’t come with the same tax treatment. Investors should also be aware of capital gains tax (CGT) that may be charged when selling an investment property. It’s a tax charged on any profit you make after selling your investment property. However, if you wait at least 1 year before selling your investment property, you’ll get a 50% CGT discount. Loan to Value Ratio (LVR)  Some banks have stricter lending standards for investors. For example, they may require a minimum deposit of 20% (maximum 80% LVR). While lenders generally prefer that owner-occupier borrowers have a deposit of at least 20%, there is usually more flexibility. Remember that for both loan types, a higher LVR typically attracts a higher interest rate. You can learn more about saving and budgeting for an investment property here. What does an investor need to do to get a loan?  The application process for an investment loan is largely the same as for regular home loans. Here are the basic steps: Figure out what you need in an investment loan Save up a deposit Gather supporting documentation Research home loan options and lenders Speak to a mortgage broker to make the process smoother Decide on a home loan product Consider getting mortgage pre-approval Formally apply for the home loan Get approved and sign the mortgage documents. What are the potential rewards of property investment?  Property investment can come with many benefits which is why it remains such an attractive investment option. Here are some of the potential rewards of property investment: A less volatile investment  Unlike investing in shares, for example, which can be unpredictable and volatile, investing in property tends to be more stable. While property values often fluctuate, they tend to do so slowly, so you can plan your next move. Tax deductions  Most investment property expenses are tax deductible which can save investors a lot of money. Some tax deductions that property investors can claim include: Home loan interest payments Repairs and maintenance Costs of property management Council rates and land tax Body corporate and strata fees Insurance Administrative costs. Earn rental income  If you find tenants, you’ll earn rental income. This income can help you cover mortgage repayments and the costs of owning an investment property. Remember that having your property tenanted doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a profit. Property investing is typically less complicated than other investments  Investing in property tends to be less complex and require less specialised knowledge than other investment types. There is a lot of information available online about it, as well as many experts you can reach out to if you need help. For example, most mortgage brokers don’t charge fees for their services and can be immensely helpful in helping borrowers find and apply for home loans. On the flip side, however, property investment has a much higher entry price.  You don’t need a lot of money to start investing in the stock market, whereas you typically need tens of thousands of dollars – at minimum – to start investing in property. You have to cover the deposit and stamp duty somehow! Potential for capital growth  Properties have the potential to appreciate in value significantly over time. This means that you could purchase a property for a low price and sell it at a profit after a few years. If growing the value of your investment is a priority for you, look to buy in areas that are likely to experience future growth. Look for schools that are improving on rankings, as well as council plans for intended development and infrastructure (e.g. new public transport lines). Rentvest and get on the property ladder  If you want to get your foot on the property ladder but can’t yet afford to buy in the suburb you would like to live in, you could consider rentvesting. Rentvesting is where you continue to rent in your preferred location while purchasing an investment property in another area. This way, you start to earn rental income and get used to the ins and outs of owning a property while remaining in the suburb you love. What are the risks of property investment?  While property investment is generally considered to be a ‘safer’ investment type, it’s not without potential risks. These may include: The property decreases in value  Many investors purchase a rental property with the assumption that it will grow in value and that they’ll be able to sell it for a healthy profit after a few years. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Based on factors outside of your control – such as the ever-changing property market, infrastructure and development near the property and supply and demand – your property could decrease in value. Declining property values can have multiple negative impacts, including: It can reduce how much you can charge for rent If selling, you might not turn a profit You risk falling into negative equity You could have difficulty with refinancing if your equity is lower than 20%. A property is not a liquid asset  Properties can’t be converted into cash in an instant like you might be able to do with some other investments. Selling can take a lot of time and if you sell quickly out of necessity (e.g. needing access to a lot of cash), you might not get the best sale price. If liquidity is something you value in an asset, you might prefer to focus on other investments or create a diverse portfolio. Difficult tenants  Another risk of property investment is having bad tenants. Maybe they have damaged the property, are late with rent or refuse to pay, or perhaps they are disruptive to neighbours. Having difficult tenants like this could result in high costs and stress, but there are ways to prevent these issues: Using a property manager: when you hire a property manager, they take care of the day-to-day rental management. They’re experts in the local market and know how to select good tenants. Plus, if there are any issues, the tenants will contact them first. Get landlord insurance: having good landlord insurance can give you the assurance that your property will be taken care of if things go wrong. Landlord inspections: don’t go too long without inspecting the property during tenancy. Know your rights and responsibilities: know what your legal obligations are as a landlord, but also what your rights are. Choose your rental rate carefully:select a competitive rental price for your property as you are more likely to attract sensible, ordinary tenants, rather than those chasing unusually cheap rentals. Property vacancy  Simply owning an investment property won’t guarantee a line of potential tenants at your door. Some investors even go through long periods where their property is vacant. If you are going to be relying on rental income, select the type and location of your investment property carefully. Properties in lively areas with plenty of amenities, public transport and schools are likely to have higher rental demand. Not being able to find tenants could mean that your property becomes negatively geared. While this won’t suit the goals of all investors, it does mean you can write your losses off on your tax return. Unreliable cash flow  Owning a rental property does not guarantee you rental income. Owning a property comes with many expenses, including a mortgage in most cases. Mortgage repayments and associated costs can fluctuate and sometimes be greater than the rental income you receive. Risks to the physical property  All properties are at risk of physical damage, but the risk can be higher for an investment property since you are not the one living in it. Investors should be prepared to deal with any potential damage that may occur. Often major damage can be prevented, so listen to your tenants when they tell you there’s a problem. Delaying repairs and maintenance could cost you far more than undertaking minor repairs. Interest rate fluctuations  If you have a variable interest rate, you can expect your mortgage interest rate to fluctuate somewhat. If interest rates rise, this could negatively affect your cash flow. Investors who like stability regarding their home loan repayments might prefer to opt for a fixed interest rate. What should you consider when choosing to invest?   While property investing is a more straightforward way to invest your money, there’s still a lot to think about before getting started. Here are some things to consider when planning to invest in property: Capital growth:depending on your investment goals, it’s smart to consider the property's potential for growth. Properties in popular and trendy areas as well as family-friendly areas tend to draw rental demand and value growth. Rental demand: don’t forget to research vacancy rates in the area you’d like to buy in. Just because you like the area, it doesn’t guarantee a sufficient level of rental demand. Buying in a suburb with low rental demand could leave your investment property empty. Location:choose the location carefully and think about what would attract tenants. Proximity to public transportation services, shops, restaurants, bars, community facilities and parks can attract renters. Target market: this is the kind of tenant you would like to rent your property to. Would you prefer a family? A young professional? Property type: do you want to buy an apartment, townhouse or detached house? Consider your target market and what they would be attracted to, as well as what suburb they would prefer to rent in. Age of property: the age of a property can impact your role as a landlord. Some old properties may require a lot of upkeep that can be costly for you and annoying for your tenants. But a new property won’t necessarily be better quality either. It’s a good idea to get a thorough property inspection done before buying a property so you know what you’re getting yourself into. Property features: think about the property features you’d like to get and the ones you’d like to avoid. A home with a pool could attract families, but it could also be a source of irritation when negotiating maintenance and day-to-day upkeep. Can investors get interest only home loans?  Yes, interest only home loans tend to be most popular with property investors. An interest only home loan is where the borrower is only required to repay the interest that accumulates on top of the loan amount (principal). During the interest only period – which can typically last for 1-5 years – the borrower is not required to make any repayments on the principal. This means that you aren’t paying off your home loan balance – only the interest on top of the principal. Once the interest only period expires, the borrower will then have to make principal and interest repayments. Many investors will purchase an investment property with the goal of selling it at a gain after just a few years. An interest only loan can help maximise their profits. This is because interest repayments are tax deductible for property investors, so they can keep their property expenses very low. These investors can spend their extra money on other investments, while waiting for the optimal time to sell the investment property and make a profit. It’s important to note that this strategy won’t always be effective due to the unpredictable nature of the property market. That is; your property won’t necessarily increase in value as you expect it to. Positive and negative gearing the right property  Understanding positive and negative gearing is essential as a property investor. When a property is positively geared, your investment income surpasses your investment expenses. In this case, you have a positive cash flow. When a property is negatively geared, the opposite occurs. Your investment income is lower than your investment expenses, creating a negative cash flow. For many borrowers, a positively geared property is the goal. You’ll get extra money in your pocket to put towards other investments or spend however you like. However, negative gearing can actually be an investment strategy. The short-term losses you get with a negatively geared property can usually be written off as tax deductions. Additionally, if the investment property grows in value, these losses will be offset by significant future capital gains when the property is sold. For negative gearing to work, you’ll likely have to buy property in an area that is expected to experience high growth. There’s a lot of information to absorb when considering property investment. If you're feeling lost or need more information just give us a call and we can lead you in the right direction

Nov 21, 2022 5 Benefits of Using Virtual Staging to Sell Your Home

The working-from-home revolution has propelled online activity into a new era as people become increasingly comfortable not having to be ‘in person’ for work meetings to catching up with friends and everything in between. Digital tools to sell, buy and rent a home have also become the norm, contributing to better consumer experiences, especially when they are remote to where the property is located. When it comes to selling your property, knowing that more than 90% of searches start online, it is crucial to find ways to stand out from your competition. Virtual staging can help achieve this, and it offers numerous advantages compared to the costly alternative of hiring furniture for what is a vacant home. We will look at 5 benefits that virtual staging offers to sellers: 1.    Make your property stand out 2.    Help prospective buyers project themselves 3.    Save money with a more cost-effective alternative 4.    Benefit from a fast turn-around 5.    Boost your selling price 1. Virtual staging helps your property stand out As 90% of searches for a property start online, it is crucial to grab the attention of prospective buyers straight off the bat and seize any opportunity for your home to stand out from the crowd. This is when virtual staging comes into play. "It is the best way to bring a cold vacant home to life easily. It helps to show its full potential", explains Brad Filliponi, Co-Founder of Box Brownie, one of the world's leaders in virtual staging. Thanks to beautiful images that also give potential buyers room for imagination, your property will increase its chances to make an impression and secure its spot on the list of interested buyers. 2. Help prospective buyers project themselves in the property Many buyers struggle to project themselves in a home that is empty or not styled to their taste. But virtual staging can help prospective buyers with that so that they can create an emotional connection with the property, crucial for a successful sale. The process is quite straight-forward. "A client uses vacant (or not) interior photos to fill the property for sale or rent with lifelike digital furniture. The idea is to show how or what the space can be used for. Most buyers find it hard to visualise an empty room and ‘see themselves in it’, so these edits can really become a silent salesman for your property", says Mr Filliponi. Moreover, virtual staging works both on standard or 360 photos for virtual tours. "The only potential downside of virtual staging is that the styling is not there upon inspection. But at least the seed has been planted", notes Stephen Mutton, National Head Of Network Development at LJ Hooker. However, there is an easy way to overcome this potential hurdle. Sellers can use easels in the empty rooms to showcase the printed virtually staged images. This will help remind prospective buyers of the potential of the property. And once the buyer’s attention has been caught and the decision made to attend an open home, you can then trust your real estate agent to do his job. 3. Virtual staging is more cost-effective than traditional styling Traditional styling can be expensive. Depending on the location of the property (for example, this service is more expensive in Sydney than Hobart), the number of rooms and the time necessary to sell the home, it can cost anywhere between $1,500 and $10,000 or more. Therefore, you may be limited to only a couple of weeks in your budget. You may also be limited in the style of furniture you can select. "The cost of traditional staging means that it can fall out of people's budgets and it simply doesn't get done, even though it’s deemed essential to get an edge on the competition. Therefore, with most property ownership journeys starting online, the less expensive digital styling ability is a more cost-effective solution", says Mr Mutton. The cost of virtual staging usually ranges between $30 and $120 per image depending on the supplier. That means that you can consider staging the home in two or more different styles to suit different audiences. You can also showcase more than one option for how to use a room. For example, a small bedroom could be presented both as a nursery and as a spacious office. 4. Benefit from fast turn-around (48 hours or less) Unlike traditional staging, virtual staging only needs a few hours spent editing images on the computer to get the ball rolling. It doesn't require the organisation of an initial consultation and all the logistics that come with sourcing and setting up the furniture in the property. In most cases, you should be able to have all your images ready in 48 hours or less, depending on the supplier. This is much faster than the minimum of one week to set up physical staging, and much easier to organise. Moreover, there is no risk of damaging the walls or floors when moving the furniture in and out of the property. 5. Boost the selling price of your home Appropriate styling can evoke an emotional connection to a property and a desire to want to live there. This means that correct styling increases the saleability of a property and the return is usually well worth the investment. Indeed, experts agree that home staging can increase the selling price of a property between 5 and 10% on average. "Virtual staging shows people what the potential of the empty space is. This, in turn, will create a desire to want to live there or own it and ultimately increase the value and or competition on the property, explains Stephen Mutton. It works much like a car that you wouldn't sell without washing it and showing its full potential." DISCLAIMER - The information provided is for guidance and informational purposes only and does not replace independent business, legal and financial advice which we strongly recommend. Whilst the information is considered true and correct at the date of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact the accuracy of the information provided. LJ Hooker will not accept responsibility or liability for any reliance on the blog information, including but not limited to, the accuracy, currency or completeness of any information or links.

Jul 28, 2022 A Guide To Preparing Your Home For a Spring Sale

Spring is an excellent time to sell your property for a variety of reasons. As the seller, you will want to prepare your home the right way. This will give you the best chance of attracting great buyers, achieving a higher sales price, and, ultimately, locking in a successful sale. In this guide, we explain why spring is a great time to put your property on the market, and we explore specific strategies for getting your house ready. Why spring is an ideal time to sell Property sellers in Australia often hold off until spring to list their property. One of the reasons is the sunnier weather and blossoming gardens. They make properties look more appealing and motivate buyers to get out and about after the cold, rainy months. Unsurprisingly, buyers tend to be more inclined to attend open houses when the weather is sunny and mild, rather than overcast and rainy. People are also generally more motivated to secure a property with the end of the year looming. It allows them to move in before or during the Christmas holiday period and settle into their new home before starting the school year. Hence the market tends to see an uplift in spring. In turn, sellers recognise more buyers lead to increased competition, higher prices, and possibly a quicker sale for their property. Strategies for readying your home to sell in spring Even though sales outcomes tend to be stronger in spring, more sellers and a larger number of properties mean more competition for your property. This means you’ll still need to have a focused plan to boost your chances of a great sale outcome. Ideally, this strategy will include property staging and presentation. Follow these tips to maximise your property’s appeal to buyers. 1. Spring clean Start with a complete spring clean to get your house ready for the sale. Clean glass doors and windows from the outside and inside. Remove cobwebs and give everything a good dusting and vacuum. Wash curtains and dust blinds, lighting, and other fixtures. Clean and polish door knobs, mirrors, switches, taps, and fittings. Have your carpets professionally steam cleaned. Wipe down cupboards and all exterior and interior surfaces like closet doors as well as shelves and drawers. Pay particular attention to kitchens and bathrooms, and have your tiles and grouting cleaned by experts if necessary. 2. Increase curb appeal First impressions count when it comes to buyers’ opinions, so increase curb appeal and make your exteriors stand out. Tidy up your front and back garden by clearing away any clutter from your front yard. Use a pressure washer to hose down driveways and garden pathways, and make sure you remove any oil stains. Rake away dead leaves, prune dead winter growth, and do a thorough weeding. Have your roof and gutters cleaned by professionals. Remove any large bushes and trim away tree branches to clear the exterior view for prospective buyers. Trim your lawn edges for a clean and orderly look. Fix dead, bald, or yellowing lawn patches by seeding and fertilising these spots. Adding small improvements like mulch can make a big difference while reducing the need for ongoing weeding. Get rid of any shabby-looking outdoor items like rusting deck chairs and creaking swing sets. Consider repainting fences, exterior walls, and the letterbox. For a pop of colour, add flowers and green shrubbery to your front garden. Don’t forget to fertilise your lawn and garden beds for vibrant springtime growth. Make an impact by introducing statement pots and plants to your entrance. Remember to keep up with watering to keep your lawn, flowers and trees looking their best. 3. Remove personal items Take the opportunity to declutter your house by throwing away or donating anything you’re not using. Remove as many personal effects from your property as possible. Decluttering makes your interiors and storage spaces look more spacious, and depersonalising your home provides potential buyers with a blank canvas to imagine the house as theirs. Remove family photos, souvenirs, and accolades. Consider putting oversized, worn-looking, or clashing furniture pieces into storage. Anything you leave, like clothing hanging in your closet and plates in cupboards, should be in good condition and tidily arranged. 4. Accessorise the interior Staging your property allows you to target specific demographics and possibly achieve a better price. An experienced real estate agent is your best adviser when it comes to staging. He/she can pinpoint the special features and guide you on how to highlight these with staging. So what exactly does staging involve? You could rent furniture, artwork, and additional accessories to accentuate your property’s top features. These can be used to repurpose rooms - such as turning an extra bedroom into a nursery or a home office - depending on your target demographic. You can add basic touches yourself, such as updating old towels, rugs, and linen with new ones. Draw back the blinds to let in natural light and add fresh bouquets of flowers. During inspections, the agent might recommend added elements like relaxing music and pleasing aromas with baking cookies and freshly brewed coffee. 5. Do any necessary repairs and maintenance Take an objective look at your interiors and note any flaws, defects, or damage. Repair leaky taps, loose doorknobs, and faulty light switches. Give damaged walls a fresh coat of paint, and consider having carpet stains removed by professionals. If you have timber flooring, think about having them restrained. 6. Work with an expert A real estate agent works closely with you at every step of your sale, ensuring you’re staging and preparing your property correctly. He/she can check you’re working off an accurate value for your home and assist with your contracts and paperwork. Spring is a busy time for both buyers and sellers, and your agent can help make your property stand out and successfully market it to your target demographic. In addition, you could have the full confidence that it’s truly the right time to sell if you have the help of a real estate expert who knows your local market, like LJ Hooker’s highly experienced agents. Achieving a successful sale in spring Spring is a preferred time to sell and buy, and as a seller, you could enhance your chances of getting a great price and achieving a faster sale by preparing your property in the right way. Decluttering, cleaning, and depersonalisation are essential strategies to apply, along with working with an experienced real estate agent. If you’re preparing to sell your property, make sure you get in touch with an experienced real estate agent and obtain an accurate property appraisal. You can get a better understanding of where your property stands in the market today by getting a free expert property appraisal with an LJ Hooker agent. DISCLAIMER - The information provided is for guidance and informational purposes only and does not replace independent business, legal and financial advice which we strongly recommend. Whilst the information is considered true and correct at the date of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact the accuracy of the information provided. LJ Hooker will not accept responsibility or liability for any reliance on the blog information, including but not limited to, the accuracy, currency or completeness of any information or links.

Jul 14, 2022 The Cost of Investing In Real Estate

Investing in real estate can provide a major boost to investment portfolios, but it is not as simple as selecting a property and moving in tenants. However, your investment property could provide solid returns by making informed decisions. The key to success? Being aware of the true cost of real estate investments. Head to our website to find out more. #byljh LINK TO https://www.ljhooker.com.au/invest/cost-of-investing-in-property?utm_source=workplace&utm_medium=library&utm_campaign=investors

Jun 24, 2022 What will Interest Rates do in the 2nd half of 2022?

Who We Are The Reserve Bank governor has warned Australians they need to be prepared for substantial interest rate rises over the rest of this year, conceding he is not sure how high they might go. Key points: Philip Lowe says it is "reasonable" to think interest rates will get to 2.5 per cent at some point He expects inflation could reach 7 per cent by the end of this year and start dropping early next year He defended the RBA's statement last year which said interest rates would not rise until 2024 In an interview with 7.30, his first public remarks since hiking rates by half a per cent, Philip Lowe said he expected inflation could hit 7 per cent by Christmas and predicted it would not fall until the first quarter of next year. At a time when Australians are already grappling with rising fuel, power and grocery prices, he declared the RBA would do "what's necessary" to get inflation back to between 2 to 3 per cent. "It's unclear at the moment how far interest rates will need to go up to get that," Dr Lowe said. "I'm confident that inflation will come down over time but we'll have to have higher interest rates to get that outcome." Dr Lowe added that it was "reasonable" to think interest rates would reach about 2.5 per cent at some point, stressing they had been at emergency levels in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and needed to gradually return to normal. Leigh Sales interviews Philip Lowe.(ABC News) "I say that because the midpoint of our inflation target is 2.5 per cent, so an interest rate of 2.5 per cent in inflation-adjusted terms is really an interest rate of zero, which in historical terms is a very low number," Dr Lowe said. "How fast we get to 2.5 per cent, indeed whether we get to 2.5 per cent, is going to be determined by events." Under such a scenario, a family with a million-dollar mortgage would likely have to pay more than $1,000 a month more than they were a few weeks ago. The RBA governor conceded some families were already struggling to make ends meet and would find the increase in repayments tough. But he said many were well placed, pointing out that unemployment was very low, many households had built up substantial savings buffers, while others were relying on higher interest rate returns to make ends meet. "At the individual level, some people have taken loans that they may not have wanted to take out in retrospect, but the overall picture, which is really very much the focus of the Reserve Bank, is a pretty resilient economy," Dr Lowe said. RBA defends saying rates would not rise until 2024 The Reserve Bank is "committed to learning" from the impact of the pandemic on the economy, Philip Lowe says.(ABC News: Daniel Irvine) Last October, the RBA was saying rates would not rise before 2024, and Dr Lowe conceded that will have influenced how much some Australians have borrowed. He said he thought there would be a "long tail" from the pandemic and expected the economy would bounce back more slowly. But Dr Lowe declared his comments about the economy were conditional and were not a guarantee. "Sometimes my comments get interpreted as me having made a promise, or a very strong statement, that interest rates would stay where they were to 2024. In our own communication, in our own way of thinking, it was very much a conditional statement," he said. "The economy didn't evolve as we expected, it's been much more resilient and inflation's been higher, and we thought we needed to respond to that." Although Dr Lowe warned inflation could hit 7 per cent by Christmas, he said there were already signs it would fall in the first quarter next year and again in the second quarter. He said the supply bottlenecks in the global economy were starting to ease, with a pick-up in production of things like new cars and computer chips. Philip Lowe says the RBA is expecting the economy to grow "pretty strongly" over the next six to 12 months.(ABC News: John Gunn) "We're not worried that declines in housing prices will affect the banking system," Dr Lowe said. "We're expecting the Australian economy to continue to grow pretty strongly over the next six to 12 months. There's still a bounce-back from all the COVID restrictions." He added that it was a "really good question" to consider whether the economy had been overstimulated by the RBA and the federal government during the pandemic, and whether that was the reason for the coming rate rises. "But perhaps I can take you back to the dark days of the pandemic, back in February and March 2020," he reflected. "There were credible predictions that tens of thousands of Australians would be dead within a few months, that our hospitals would be overfull, that the unemployment rate would reach 15 per cent, that there'd be deep economic and social scarring in society and there'd be a generation of lost opportunity. "We were facing incredibly scary, damaging times. We took out a lot of insurance. I think it was the right thing to do but I accept that others will have a different view. The Reserve Bank is committed to learning from that experience." 'The bigger fiscal issue' Philip Lowe says: "There are increasing demands on the public purse."(ABC News: Matt Roberts) With a new government in Canberra, Dr Lowe said the nation also needed to consider how the Commonwealth would continue to pay for all the things voters wanted. Anthony Albanese's government has inherited a budget with no surpluses in sight and net debt forecast to peak at around $860 billion in a few years' time. Economists believe that level is manageable but warn the nation's books contain a structural hole. In short, the country is on track to spend more than it takes in, at a time when there is increasing demand for spending on things like defence, aged care and disability services. To fill the shortfall the federal government can raise taxes or cut spending, which are both generally politically unpopular. Or it can embark on productivity measures, which are also often difficult to implement, to grow the economy quickly to make the overall scale of the debt smaller. Dr Lowe said it was a discussion the nation needed to have. "There are increasing demands on the public purse. It's harder to find out how we're going to pay for that," he said. "That's the bigger fiscal issue." Posted 14 Jun 2022

Jun 20, 2022 11 Pantry Essentials for Cooking & Beating Inflation

Saving money on food comes down to one thing: Working smarter, not harder. And that starts with keeping some basic pantry (and freezer and fridge) essentials on hand at all times, so you can whip up tasty meals with minimal effort. Saving money in the kitchen is always important, but even more so in 2022 as food prices rise. The USDA reports that food inflation is at a 14-year high, with grocery store shopping and eating at restaurants costing consumers about 6% more this year than last. There are a number of factors driving up prices: rising energy and transportation costs plus higher labor costs. Also, a widespread outbreak of avian flu has affected chicken and egg prices. Consumers are also seeing rising costs for meat in various forms including both raw and cured like bacon. Check out our 10 genius ways to save money on meat for your family’s meals.  Why Is It a Good Idea to Have a Well-Stocked Pantry? If you have a well-stocked pantry it makes it easier and cheaper to cook at home, and not resort to takeout. A stocked pantry allows you to smartly take advantage of store sales to make meals for your family because you don’t have to buy every ingredient for something you may want to prepare. For example, if there’s a good deal on ground beef at the grocery store and you already have dried breadcrumbs, jarred red sauce and dried spaghetti in your pantry, you’ve got most of all what you need for easy Spaghetti and Meatballs. Pick up a few fresh veggies and make Black Bean Soup with the canned beans and broth you’ve got in the pantry. And how lucky that you have a loaf of French bread in the freezer. The Budget Cook’s 11 Kitchen Pantry Essentials Whole grains and breads Pasta Beans and legumes Baking Nuts and seeds Oils and vinegars Condiments and sauces Dried herbs and spices Shelf-stable foods Frozen fruits and veggies In the fridge If you’re trying to cut down on takeout and looking to stock your cabinets on the cheap, grab these healthy pantry essentials to build quick and easy low-cost meals. Keep an eye out for sales. Also, there is a lot on this list and you don’t need it all. If your family won’t eat peas, no need to buy that frozen bag of them. Same with pickles and olives, though for some folks, these items are the perfect flavor boosts for salads and sandwiches. 1. Grains and Breads Rolled oats Quinoa Rice (long grain, short grain, brown) Breads Muffins Bagels Corn and flour tortillas Cereals Quinoa and rice are standard bases for veggie bowls, taco bowls, and fried rice. They also make it easy to whip up your very own Quinoa Curry. Rolled oats are also versatile and worthy of a place in your pantry. In addition to overnight oats and baked goods, you can toss oats into a smoothie, or even make your own granola. A variety of bread is another great staple to have on hand. You can put just about anything between two slices of bread and call it a sandwich, or add some cheese and veggies in a tortilla to make a quesadilla. You’ve got tuna and bagels? Think about an open-face tuna melt sandwich. By having some standard whole grains around as a base, you can also cut down on food waste and reheat your leftovers or use up produce to create entirely new dishes. If you see bread on sale, grab a few loaves and stash in the freezer. 2. Pasta Spaghetti Penne Shells Couscous Rice noodles Egg noodles You don’t necessarily need these specific noodles, but a long noodle and a short noodle will do all the things you need noodles to do. Say that 10 times fast. Your short noodle (elbows, shells) can make mac and cheese or a great pasta primavera with leftover veggies. Long noodles (spaghetti, fettuccine, angel hair) are made for sauces like Alfredo, pesto or marinara. You can make your pantry even more versatile by stocking it with rice noodles or egg noodles to whip up a homemade Pad Thai or ramen. 3. Beans and Legumes Chickpeas (garbanzo beans) Lentils Black beans Kidney beans Refried beans Lima beans Black-eyed peas Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder Beans and legumes cost a fraction of the price of meat, making them an affordable way to add protein to soups, chilis, and tacos. Roasted chickpeas make a healthy salad topper, while lentils are great for curry. You can buy these canned, but buying them dry is even cheaper. Bonus: Ditch the bag and store them in decorative jars, for a whimsical kitchen counter storage solution. Another perk to buying dried beans? Dried chickpeas make it super easy to blend your own delicious hummus. It is hard to beat the convenience of canned beans, and store brands are usually cheaper than big-name brands. Consider rinsing them before using to get rid of excess sodium. 4. Baking All-purpose flour Granulated sugar Brown sugar Baking powder Baking soda Powdered sugar Vanilla extract All-purpose or whole-wheat flour is essential for more than just cakes and breads. You can use it to make your own pancakes, biscuits or even fresh egg pasta. Flour is also used as a thickener in homemade sauces and soups. A little sugar can make a yummy sweet-and-savory sauce or quick fruit crisp in the microwave. Sugar shouldn’t be a staple in your diet, but it’s necessary in your kitchen. You’re likely to consume less sugar when you make your sweets at home instead of buying them at the store. And some homemade sauces actually call for a bit of sugar to offset the spiciness (like this Teriyaki Sauce). 5. Nuts and Seeds Almonds Peanuts Cashews Pecans Pumpkin seeds (pepitas) Shelled sunflower seeds Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder Basic nuts and seeds have a dual purpose: They’re a great snack on their own, and they give a nice crunchy texture to salads, oatmeal and baked goods. They also work really well with certain meat dishes— like this Cashew Chicken. Watch for them on sale because they can be pricey. Nuts are also just super healthy. Pumpkin seeds are chock-full of nutrients — just 1 ounce has 7 grams of protein. Nuts also contain a hefty dose of healthy fats and nutrients, so skip the chips and keep these tiny gems on hand. Save money on your nuts and seeds by ordering them in bulk from companies like Nutstop. 6. Oils and Vinegars Olive oil Vegetable oil Sesame oil White vinegar Apple cider vinegar Balsamic vinegar You can make some awesome marinades and salad dressings with this classic combo. Apple cider vinegar makes a tasty vinaigrette; while adding sesame oil to peanut butter and soy sauce creates an amazing peanut sauce. If you want to expand your oil and vinegar inventory, balsamic and rice vinegars add a lot of options to your pantry arsenal. Plus if you end up with more vinegar than you know what to do with, you can always try your hand at canning garden vegetables! 7. Condiments and Sauces Mayonnaise Dijon mustard Soy sauce Hot sauce Honey Worcestershire sauce BBQ sauce Much like oil and vinegar, condiments and sauces give new life to bland meats and veggies. They can also be the glue that holds creative summer dishes together—like this easy Egg Salad recipe. A little hot sauce corrects all recipe mistakes. Peanut butter toast makes a great snack — in fact, we’ve found that there are a lot of household uses for peanut butter. If you’ve already got a lot of condiments to work with, don’t let them die in your fridge. There are several ways to put them to good use. 8. Dried Herbs and Spices Salt Pepper Garlic powder Onion powder Ground cumin Italian seasoning Crushed red pepper Cinammon powder Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder Salt and pepper are a given. But buying pre-minced garlic saves time — and allows you to add fresh garlic to anything. It also brings you one step closer to this delicious homemade garlic bread. Cumin is another good spice to have, since it’s a staple in many Mexican dishes. Italian seasoning is a frugal life hack. It includes all the seasonings you want in the ratio you want them, without having to buy seven different bottles. And crushed red pepper is an easy one to have on hand because you can always refill your container with the packets that come with your pizza. Spices and dried herbs can be expensive. We’ve rounded up 10 ways to save money on spices that will help keep your pantry stocked for scratch cooking. 9. Shelf-Stable Foods Tomatoes (whole peeled, crushed, diced, pureed) Peanut butter Nut butters Pasta sauces Coconut milk Stock or broth Corn Canned tuna Canned chicken Salsa (red and green) Olives Capers Pickles Raisins/dried cranberries We often think of this category as canned goods but some of these foods will come in jars, resealable bags or cartons. Watch labels because some items may need to be refrigerated after opening. Coconut milk, stock and tomatoes are necessary bases for many soups, chilis and curries (Coconut curry, anyone?). You can also cook rice and quinoa in stock or coconut milk to add some extra flavor. It’s always nice to have a jarred pasta sauce on hand if you don’t have time to make your own — even though it’s really easy. And if you’re embarking on a pantry challenge by eating what’s on hand before buying additional groceries, having ample canned goods will help you tie together some delicious meals. 10. Frozen Fruits & Veggies Spinach Peas Mixed veggies Berries Mixed fruits Veggie patties or nuggets Edamame While it’s not exactly your “pantry,” having a stocked freezer is one of the easiest ways to ensure you always have prepped veggies, vegetarian protein alternatives, and a variety of fruits on hand. Toss frozen veggies into the oven for an easy baked veggie side, or add frozen berries to your favorite baked goods, like these Blueberry Muffins. (Plus, you’ve got the baking essentials in your pantry so you may not have to buy anything!) If you have a hankering for more of the “junk-food” frozen items like dumplings or frozen pizza, don’t go crazy trying to deprive yourself. Remember, satisfying your food needs (even those sneaky cravings) at home will always be cheaper than paying for take out. 11. In the Fridge Butter Eggs Milk Nut “milks” Cheeses (cream cheese, Parmesan, cheddar) Yogurt Just like the freezer, you might not think of the refrigerator as your pantry, but some essentials there will make cooking from scratch so much easier. Take eggs. Even though the price is higher for a dozen than it’s been for a while, eggs can still be the basis of an economical meal. Look for store brands which continue to be a better buy than bigger name brands. Check out these 24 ideas for affordable ways to serve eggs for dinner. We especially like this Huevos Rancheros recipe and since you already have beans, salsa and tortillas in your pantry, dinner will not only be a snap, it will be cheap. Contributor Larissa Runkle frequently writes on finance, real estate, and lifestyle topics for The Penny Hoarder. Jen Smith, a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder, contributed to this article. 

Aug 3, 2021 Tips to help you sell during lockdowns

Selling your property during this latest lockdown is not “mission impossible”. There are many technologies and techniques to help you maximise the value of your home despite the pandemic. Buyer demand is still at record highs even though restrictions have been placed on inspections, limiting it to one person at a time. If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic’s impact on property, it’s that lockdowns create a pent-up buyer demand that has previously created increases in prices. Additionally, buyers are comfortable with using new technologies to make their purchases. Video, virtual and 3D tours of homes have been a huge hit, and many buyers have stated their preference for the transparency of online auctions rather than those carried out on-site or in an auction room. Lockdown can be a great time to sell. Genuine buyers never stop looking but as some owners get anxious and pull out of the market they’ll have fewer properties from which to choose. This means the in-balance between supply and demand will work in your favour even more. If you’re thinking of selling, here are a few activities we believe are critical to a successful lockdown property sale: 1. Invest in online – Make sure your property features strongly on portals such as Domain and realestate.com.au. You’ll attract not only genuine buyers but also those who are thinking about their next dream home. 2. Snap happy – Nothing ignites the imagination of a potential buyer like quality photography and during a lockdown, they have plenty of time to think about their big move. You want to be at the forefront of their minds and it’s the great photos that make your home stand out. 3. Target market – We’ll identify the most likely buyers of your home – whether they are families, singles or young couples. This will instruct us on how and where to pitch your property. 4. Be marketing-smart – Leveraging social media is a great way to reach your target market especially when the photography is stunning. 5. Unconverted leads – As your agent, we can show you how we’ll leverage contacts made in the last six months about properties similar to your own. While some of these potential buyers might have bought elsewhere, the lack of properties on the market means many are probably still looking. 6. Video tours – Video and virtual tours can be shown on Instagram, Facebook or restricted to being available on request. Some clients like to do these tours themselves, but it’s usually best to have them handled professionally. 7. 3D tours – These professionally-produced tours allow potential buyers to walk through your home using their computers. Buyers get a sense of size and space using 360-degree rendering of any room, and the garden and entertainment area. 8. Stage your home – For a wow factor, consider staging your home. Presentation counts for so much in real estate, and this is an ideal approach – and can cheer you up during lockdown! A consultant will choose and hire furnishings to put your property in its best light. Don’t decide on this at the last minute. You’d want the photography and virtual tour to capitalise on this strategy.

Jul 21, 2021 11 amazing technology features for your next kitchen

The fun you can have renovating your kitchen is almost beyond imagination these days. Design options and colours from which to choose are head-spinning and full of potential to help create a loving, warm home. And if you love a touch of tech, then the latest appliances and gadgets might blow your mind. As experienced local real estate agents, we know the kitchen is one of the most important rooms for many prospective buyers. It’s where everyone gathers, where we nourish ourselves and where memories are created. New homeowners will often pour any remaining funds set aside for their purchase into a kitchen update. Likewise, if you’re thinking of selling right now, then a high-spec kitchen will set your property apart and help maximise its value. Kitchen technology makes an impact on prospective buyers, especially those who love to cook and entertain. To give you a taste of what’s available, here’s a round-up of innovations in cookers and ovens by companies such as Miele, Asko, Smeg and many more. You don’t have to bake any of these manufacturers into your thinking, but just let the idea of owning the world’s best cooking technology simmer away in the back of your mind! Open sesame – New high tech oven doors automatically open at the end of a cooking cycle. If you forget about the food or become distracted, the oven will allow heat to escape but keep the food warm as it rests. Say cheese – A camera in the oven monitors the food, and you can watch it cook and even alter the settings with an app from anywhere in the world, although probably you’re likely to be somewhere else in the house! Cool doors – Literally, the doors are cool. High-spec ovens have fans that force cool air between the double-panes of thermal glass in the door. This forms a veil of cool air that makes the door safe to touch. If you have children running around the kitchen, it’s a helpful safety feature. Smart cooking – Let your oven automatically select the right temperature, cooking time and oven function. Some models will even suggest which shelf height for optimal results. Climate change – Several manufacturers offer ovens with a sealed environment to ensure roasts retain nutrients, flavour and natural juices. They promise cakes will rise evenly and pastry will be evenly crisp and not burnt with this feature. Stretch-out – That awkward manoeuver of pulling a hot tray from the oven to check the food is history. Shelves now have telescopic arms, so trays slide out easily. Need for speed – Top of the range ovens are now promising to heat twice as quickly as those designed less than five years ago. Get steamed up – Settings offer a mix of steam and heat designed to avoid drying out food, such as fish and meat, while crisping skins and fat. Heat is on – When it comes to cleaning an oven, forget the scrubbing brush and caustic sprays. Pyrolytic cycle heat that gets up to 500C is used to carbonise food residue and grease. All you’re left with is a small amount of ash that you can wipe away. Spotless ovens – Watch out for an oven interior surface called ever-clean enamel. It retains its flawless finish and is durable and easy to maintain, say designer. Go with the flow – Improving technology around fans and airflow means the heat is distributed evenly throughout the oven.