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May 18, 2021 Are you a good neighbour?

The pandemic may have been a fearful time for many but in no small way contributed to the rise of community spirit across the globe. We hear from various surveys that around one in three of us know our neighbours better than before the health crisis struck our shores.   What has been highlighted for many, is how little time we spared for our neighbours and those more vulnerable. And it also showed our need for connections as we checked in on family, friends and formed new relationships with others across our community.    We have a primal need to be with others and we’ve since found creative ways to connect and help each other. You could say our empathy button was supercharged.   Supporting our neighbours We love hearing how locals across our community support their neighbours. From simple offers of help dropped into neighbours’ letterboxes to kindness campaigns organised by able local residents, we’ve seen an upswing in acts of kindness.  In Melbourne, two sisters gave away home-grown seedlings to passers-by, most of whom returned the favour with homemade bread, potting mix and other useful gifts. In New Zealand, The Big Kindness Count recorded 16,000 acts of kindness – ranging from local businesses helping NGOs to locals providing food boxes or shopping and delivering groceries to those in need. There were even anonymous artists creating footpath adventures for local children – within the first few days of the Big Kindness launch.            Supporting local businesses What’s been overwhelming is our renewed focus toward supporting local businesses, over and above buying from national conglomerates.  Many of us are happy enough to scoot all over town in search of a bargain or do our shopping online or when we travel overseas. Today, however, we think twice and have a renewed love for supporting the smaller businesses (often owned by local residents) such as nearby cafés, restaurants and boutique shops. Using technology and social media to connect When we’re unable to visit and hug those closest to us, we’ve learnt to find a sense of security and belonging in other ways.  For the more tech-literate, there’s Zoom or Microsoft Teams or other online video call options. However, for many more, we got a sense of connection and belonging through memberships of online groups where we’ve found others with mutual interests and shared hobbies.  Many suburb-based Facebook groups have grown in popularity and activity in recent months, helping to spread kindness across our local communities. The commonality of our mobile phones and access to the internet makes disseminating information easy – such as lost and found pets, new cafes as they pop up, recommendations for services such as a mobile hairdresser or chiropractor.    Can we keep up the kindness? Regaining the community spirit of days gone by, we now have renewed enthusiasm and ‘permission’ to get involved in our communities and reach out to each other more often.  We hope that as life speeds up again that we manage to retain these deeper and more meaningful connections – especially with our elderly neighbours and the more vulnerable in our communities.   If you are part of a community group and would like to share details of it, please include the name and link in our social media post for this article. We’d love to know more about what you’re doing to be a good neighbour.

May 4, 2021 Perfect DIY home maintenance projects

There’s a joke that does the rounds every now and again: “If your husband says he will fix something around the house, he will do it. There’s no need to keep nagging him every six months.” While this might give some people a chuckle, the truth is we all put off the cleaning and repair jobs that don’t exactly spark joy, especially when life gets busy.  For those of us who wished we had some time off to clean and get to outstanding jobs, with the pandemic causing us to press the pause button, many of us have got what we wanted. With social outings limited and even work cancelled for many people, we are down to a choice between cleaning, fixing and decluttering, or Netflix.  If you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and tackle a few of those outstanding projects we have some tips.  What to DIY when you’re home more Most tradespeople will tell you they are often called in once a DIY job has gone awry so unless you have a lot of experience, stick to smaller, simple projects. Leave things like plumbing and anything related to electricity to the pros and don’t attempt to use dangerous tools if you’re not familiar with them.  However, with that being said, there are plenty of things you can do around the house.  Sort your storage First things first, it's decluttering time. Go through your linen closet, your wardrobe, your kitchen cupboards and your laundry. Have separate piles of things to keep, repurpose, sell online, pass on to charity and throw away.  If you’re overwhelmed, start with a type of item, for example, jackets, shoes or towels. With your entire collection in front of you, it should be easy to make decisions.  There is no better feeling than an organised wardrobe, pantry or toy room. While you’re in the process of decluttering, have a cloth and bucket of warm soapy water handy so you can give things a wipe down as well.  Many local furniture and department stores are open and offering contactless collection so do some research if you are looking to buy shelves or storage units to help tidy your home. Flat-pack bookshelves, storage units or shelves can make a big difference to the way your home is organised and they are easy to assemble.  If you don’t want to make some spare cash from decluttering, why not consider donating some of your reusable belongings to a local charity. Cleaning: Go deep It’s not an attractive prospect but there are certain cleaning tasks that you’ll find very satisfying to complete.  These include:  Under the fridge Under the beds Behind and under the couch  Your outside gutters Your oven Your fridge Your front door (or consider pressure washing the entire front of your house, including your driveway) Air conditioner filter You can delegate tasks like polishing doorknobs or cleaning windows to older children, with an incentive for their participation.  The advantages of doing a deep clean include appliances working better than they have in a while and potentially discovering areas of your home that are in real need of attention.  Many hardware stores had to put a cap on cleaning supply sales with a limited amount available to each customer. While there is still plenty available, you might wish to get creative and make your own cleaning supplies.  Get handy Tasks like fixing leaky taps, repairing gates, filling cracks and tidying up outside are all good for DIY. You will find a lot of tutorials online to help you get the job done the right way.  You could also take on a painting project and use your time at home to paint a bedroom or space in your home that needs freshening up. Again, track down some tips and stick to them. Painting can be harder than it looks and the bulk of the work is in the preparation. Here’s a step-by-step guide to painting the interior of your home. It includes a list of the supplies you will need.  Find a project You might also wish to upcycle some furniture, repurpose space in your home as a study, build some basic shelves in the garage or get to work on an outdoor playhouse now you have the time.  Take each project step by step and try not to rush. If you have older children, try involving them with less challenging parts so they can join your sense of achievement. Some projects kids might enjoy include sanding and repainting furniture, making a mosaic from old broken tiles or helping to sew new curtains.  Another project you will be pleased you got your teeth into is finding your favourite photos, printing them and creating a wall display. Again, this can be a fun one to work on with children.  If you’re really creative (and a little brave), you could work on a mural to add some personality to one of your walls. Use light colours so it can be painted over when the time comes. Here’s another step-by-step guide.  One thing to keep in mind when planning projects is the impact they will have on the value of your home. If you’re thinking of listing your property for sale (or rent) this year, focus on deep cleaning, repairs and cosmetic upgrades so your property looks its best when the agent, photographer and buyers come through.  

Apr 27, 2021 3 Ways to add value to your home, pre-sale

What adds value to a house? This is a question we are frequently asked by home sellers wanting to increase home resale value. Ultimately, all sellers want to achieve the maximum sale price along with a smooth sale. Even in a buyer’s market like we are currently experiencing, presenting your home in its best light doesn’t need to be difficult or expensive. We’ve taken a look at three essential ways you can increase the value of your home before you sell it, along with the best renovations to do before selling. How to increase the value of your home There are three essential areas to cover if you want to achieve the maximum sale value for your property: 1. Tidy and declutter Buyers want to imagine themselves living in your home. This is a lot easier if your property is a fairly blank canvas, so if you want to know how to sell your house, decluttering is the first and most important thing you need to do. It’s up to you where you start, but every room needs to be tackled. To help buyers imagine themselves living in your home, make sure all personal items, such as family photographs, are stored away. Then take out all unnecessary furniture to make the room look as spacious and neutral as possible. In particular, items like your favourite recliner and pet beds are turn-offs for buyers, so these need to go! Any worn or damaged furniture should also be removed. One of the most cluttered rooms tends to be the bathroom. You can help matters here by decanting your toiletries into matching containers to give a neat, stylish look. In addition, don’t forget to clear out all your cupboards – buyers will look inside them, as they want to know if your property has enough storage space. Once you have decluttered, you can give everything a deep clean and see what other jobs need doing. 2. Essential maintenance and cosmetic repairs Buyers are looking for a home which they can move straight into with as little work as possible. For this reason, it is essential to take care of all the little maintenance jobs, such as fixing dripping taps, sticking drawers, or cupboard doors that won’t close. Once all these jobs are complete, you can turn to cosmetic improvements. How much value does painting add to a house? It can actually help you achieve the sale price you want, as a new coat of paint makes a room look fresh and new. Choose neutral colours so the buyers can imagine putting their own stamp on the property. Floor coverings are also extremely important here – if they are damaged or look worn, they need to be replaced. If your carpets are in good condition, however, a simple shampoo might be all it takes to get them looking and smelling new. 3. Home staging You might not realise it, but you have already started staging your home by reducing the amount of furniture to create a more airy, larger-looking space. However, you might want to consult with a home stylist, as professional home styling can add thousands to the final sale price of your home. The stylist will usually bring some of their own furniture and will arrange your rooms in a way that will look as attractive as possible on photographs. This enables you to attract more potential buyers. Find out more about how to sell your house A reputable real estate agent can advise on how to add value to your home. They know the local market so they are in the best position to advise on what changes you need to make, which items to keep, and which need to go. They will also be able to put you in touch with a professional home stylist who can add value to your home. If you would like more information and advice, please contact us – we are always happy to help.

Apr 20, 2021 Selling property under duress: debt or divorce

When you have to sell your home due to debt or divorce, this can be an extremely traumatic experience. However, with the right help and advice, it is possible to get through it and move onto the next phase of your life. Here is some essential information to help you make the transition as smoothly as possible. Selling your home due to debt The combination of cooling in the property market and recent changes to home loans might have resulted in you feeling you have overextended yourself as a property investor. Property prices have fallen, so you might find yourself facing negative equity in one or more properties, which could prompt banks to force you to sell. You can also fall into financial hardship for other unexpected reasons, such as losing your job. This can mean you struggle to keep up with mortgage repayments. If you are in financial difficulty, it is essential to contact your lender as soon as possible to discuss your situation and work out a plan ‒ before they start proceedings to repossess your home. If you need to sell your home to repay your debts, you need to get permission from the lender. This will be given if your repayments are up to date and the sale of your property will cover your debts. If you have missed payments due to financial hardship, your lender will help you to arrange a repayment plan where you agree to sell your home within a given time period. Selling your home due to divorce Divorce is never easy, and the division of assets, including your home, can make a bad situation much worse if it is not handled correctly. Here’s what you need to know to make the process run more smoothly. 1. Selling a property before a divorce settlement If you and your partner can come to an amicable agreement about your assets, you won’t have to go to court. You can have the property valued and decide between yourselves and your legal advisers who gets what share. One partner might choose to buy the other out if one of you wants to stay in the home, but this is likely to involve refinancing your home loan. You might have to take out a new loan to do this, as changing names on mortgages is not allowed. 2. Selling a house while separated Once you and your partner decide to separate, it is essential to get legal advice as quickly as possible. If you are a married couple, all property adjustments have to be made within one year of divorcing. If you separate from a partner you have been living with but not married to, you have two years from the date of your separation to make your property adjustments. 3. Who pays the mortgage after separation? Obviously, if you and your partner separate, you will each need to get your own finances in order so they are not still combined. You might be able to decide between yourselves who will pay the mortgage. However, if your separation is not amicable, the Family Court can decide this matter. 4. How to sell a house when one partner refuses If your ex-spouse refuses to sell the house, you can take the case to the Family Court. The judge can make a court ordered sale of a house in a divorce. This involves having the property valued and sold for that value. Ideally, you should try to avoid having to force the sale of a house by court order, as this can make the process more traumatic and bitter, but the option is there as a last resort should you need it. Why you need a good real estate to help you through As well as a good legal adviser, you also need a reputable and experienced real estate agent. This can make the process run much more smoothly for you, particularly if they have experience with home sales due to debt or divorce. The right agent should be able to empathise with your situation while still being efficient enough to achieve a fast, stress-free sale. When choosing an agent, you should look for someone who has experience in the local property market and a good database of potential buyers, as well as being able to advise you on how to prepare your home to make it as appealing as possible. If you have to sell your home in traumatic circumstances, we are always here to make things easier for you and help you move on with your life. Please contact us if you would like more information.

Apr 13, 2021 Buy first, or sell first? Your home conundrum answered

Buying and selling houses can be tricky, particularly if you are selling and buying a home at the same time. Should you buy a new property first, or sell your current home before purchasing a new one? It's an age-old conundrum. We take a look at the pros and cons in the light of the current housing market, to help you make the right decision. How to buy a new house in the current housing market Talk to your agent to find out whether you are facing a buyers or seller’s market. In most property markets, selling your property before buying your next is most sensible.  Once you have released the equity from your current property, you can keep your eye out for a property you love and negotiate knowing how much money you have to spend.  However, putting the above aside, the process you choose will depend entirely on your circumstances. Can I buy another house before I sell mine? Technically, there’s absolutely nothing to stop you buying your next property first if you can afford it. Buying a new home before selling your current one does have a couple of advantages: It means you don’t miss out if you fall in love with a particular property before you have sold your own. It gives you more time to complete the move – you can take your time moving all your possessions, as there is nobody else waiting to move into your current home. However, these elements tend to be outweighed by the advantages of selling your current home before you buy a new one: 1. You are more likely to achieve the best possible sale price If you sell your current property first, you have time to make it look as attractive as possible so it will gain a higher sale price. You can also take time to consider offers and negotiate with buyers until you get the results you want. If you have already bought a new property, you might feel time-pressured, as you could be paying two mortgages at once, or have a bridging loan. This could tempt you to sell your current property for less than it is worth for a quick sale. 2. You know exactly how much money you have to spend Selling your current property first lets you know exactly what you can afford when it comes to purchasing a new property. It prevents you from getting into financial difficulties through overestimating the value of your current property, then not achieving the sale price you wanted. 3. It can save you time as well as money If you buy a new property before you sell yours, you will not only have to pay two mortgages and two sets of bills, you will also be responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of two properties. This can take up a considerable amount of your time when you should be settling into your new home. 4. Remember, you don't have to rush your move Ideally, you need to find a new home as quickly as possible after selling your current one. However, it doesn’t mean you need to end up staying with relatives! You can always seek to extend the settlement period on your current property to give you more time to find a new property you love. Find out more about how to buy a house while selling your own One of the most important things to do when buying or selling a house is to find an experienced and reputable real estate agent who will be able to make the process as smooth as possible for you. If you would like more information about buying and selling houses, or want to know how to build a house before selling yours, please contact us, and we will be happy to help.

Apr 6, 2021 21 free apps to keep kids entertained

When it comes to keeping kids entertained at home for long periods of time, there’s no shame in making the best use of the internet. Happily, there is a vast world of online learning to discover, which we can tap into any time we need.   Once everyone finds their rhythm, much teaching can take place informally on daily walks, while cooking, or over a storybook. The key is to stay relaxed and make learning fun Read on for some free resources that are both educational and fun.  Reading for younger children  Reading Eggs is offering two weeks of free access so you can see if your child enjoys the program before committing. If your child is a fan of storytime at the local library, Storyline is a great online substitute, with celebrities reading a range of picture books.  Maths Maths is one of those subjects that move quickly in a class setting, and quarantine can be a great opportunity to help your child catch up. The best known online maths teacher in Australia is Eddie Woo, who explains mathematics in bright, engaging ways on his YouTube channel.  Created by astrophysicist and mother Laura Bilodeau Overdeck, Bedtime Math is another fun program that offers fun daily maths problems for kids to solve quickly – a way of making maths part of your daily routine.  Get moving One thing that many parents know is that kids need to burn off energy, and their learning will be improved if they move their bodies.  PE with Joe  This has been the breakout hit of lockdown and social distancing – a PE teacher in the UK is now joined every day at 9 am with people all around the world. His 30-minute PE sessions are fun and leave you feeling great. You’ll find them all on his YouTube channel. Yoga  Another great way of getting a workout in a confined space is yoga. Cosmic Yoga for Kids offers themed classes for beginners. Adults and older kids will enjoy Yoga by Candace; she offers free sessions in short and longer bursts, classes for beginners, and soothing evening yoga with meditation.  Free learning platforms An incredible non-profit online resource is Khan Academy. In response to Covid-19, it has pulled together schedules and lesson plans for students aged from 2-18, and the Khan for Kids app offers rich learning opportunities for younger children. FutureLearn is a similar platform that offers a vast range of courses taught by industry professionals. For high school students, some time spent here would be a great way to research something they are passionate about.  Start a new language Duolingo is where you go to learn one of 35 languages, from Italian to Navajo. And if you want to supplement your language learning with discovering more about the country of origin, check out Country Reports, which offer cultural, historical and statistical information about your country of choice.  Science Science website Steve Spangler is offering the 50 experiments in 50 days challenge via Facebook, with easy science experiments that you can set up at home in the online library.  Less formal ways to learn about science including cooking and gardening. Nomsterchef is a recipe website designed specifically for kids, with easy click-through picture recipes. And Kids Gardening will help kids think more about where their food comes from.  Art  Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems is a friendly daily class by illustrator Mo Willems – ideal for kindergarten-aged children. And both All Kids Network and Artsology offer projects, printables and craft ideas. For older kids, galleries and institutions such as the National Gallery of Australia and the Australian War Memorial offer digital content including discussions with curators and more. History and geography  While we’re spending more time at home, we can also use the internet to discover more about our corner of the world. WhatWasThere asks you to type in your postcode and then unites Google Maps with historical photos to give you an understanding of local geography and history. The National Geographic Kids website is another rich learning resource with games, videos and more.  Another option while planes are grounded is to visit the online versions of world-class cultural venues. The Smithsonian Institute has some incredible marine biology videos. And Google has pulled together the websites of many museums and galleries around the world to explore.  Zoos While you might not be able to take the kids to a zoo, several zoos worldwide are live streaming activities like feeding time. Our own Taronga Zoo is one, as is Monterey Bay Aquarium (via Facebook). While we all muddle through the pandemic, the most important thing, say many educators, is not what children learn but how they feel. So relax, enjoy the slower pace, and know that when school goes back they will soon catch up on anything they’ve missed.

Mar 30, 2021 Six reasons to sell property in the current market

Here are the most common reasons why people are continuing to sell homes whilst we continue to live in these uncertain times, and why a home sale can actually turn out to be a positive move. Why is the property market slow? Life still presents many different reasons why people need to sell their homes. Whatever the market conditions there is no need to wait if you need a quick sale. There are huge advantages to engaging a real estate agent that knows how to sell a house in both an upward or downward trending market. What are the main reasons for home sales in the current market? Here are the six major reasons for achieving a quick home sale, and why these can present positive opportunities for you. 1. Doubling up Now is an ideal time to upgrade, as you can buy a larger home for a more realistic price. So if your family is outgrowing your current home, or you have made or inherited a decent amount of money, the current market presents a good opportunity to move into a larger property. 2. Downsizing If your children have left home, or you are about to retire and want to free up some equity, you should consider downsizing. This has several advantages: You can release equity to do the things you’ve always wanted to do, such as travelling or maybe helping your child onto the property ladder. You can move to a smaller home in the city if you’re tired of suburbia. You can enjoy more free time in a property which requires less maintenance. What you do with your money is up to you, but in a slower housing market, there are plenty of bargains to be had. 3. Debt Debt instigates a large number of property sales. Perhaps your home is now in negative equity, or you might have bought a property off the plan that you now can’t sell or rent. Additionally, lending conditions have become much tighter. You can take advantage of the current climate by marketing your property at a lower price, making it more likely to sell. 4. Desire More and more people are choosing to move to rural or coastal areas to enjoy a more environmentally friendly, slower-paced lifestyle (that perhaps also involves a career change). This gives you a whole new start. Another key advantage of moving out of the city is that house prices are more affordable than in major cities like Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. 5. Divorce Sadly, this is one of the more common reasons for people needing to sell a house in any market. There is no better reason to move than to continue forward with your life and regain happiness. 6. Death This is the last of the D’s and something that is obviously difficult to predict. You might be interested to know that if you inherit property from a deceased relative or friend in Australia, you can avoid capital gains tax if you sell within two years. Choose an agent who’s weathered many property cycles If you know how to market a house for sale, the current cooler property market can work to your advantage. Whatever your circumstances, choose your agent wisely. The right agent will take the time to understand your position and know-how to generate interest in your house, so you can sell at the right time and the right price.

Mar 25, 2021 Selling in 2021: Your property questions answered

If you are in the process of putting your home on the market, you will no doubt be wondering if the pandemic or potential lockdowns means for your home sale. Here are some common questions we are hearing right now. Please get in touch if you have more. Can I sell my house?  Yes. Homes continue to go on the market, but should restrictions be put back in place real estate agents will be leveraging more online tools to promote your property. If you are ready to sell your home, you can still do so.  Is now a good time to prepare my home for sale?  Absolutely. Getting your home ready for sale can be a surprisingly lengthy process, from decluttering and donating to cleaning, repainting and carrying out light renovations.  If you find that you are spending more time in your home, use the time to start going through your belongings. Make note of what work you can do yourself, and what you’ll need to have done professionally. Many people are keeping busy by painting, gardening and doing long-overdue household chores.  By using this time you can look forward to a smoother, less stressful selling period. And as an added benefit, keeping busy and planning for the future are both great for your wellbeing at a stressful time.  How do I show people my home? Most people these days start their property searches online, so in this respect, you will still be able to communicate to potential buyers about your home.  Photography and stylists are still able to work; however, you and visitors to your home will need to practise social distancing, wear masks (if available) and practise regular hand washing.  How do buyers inspect a property if there’s no open home?  Open homes and on-site auctions were restricted by the federal government on the basis that they attracted crowds. Even though these restrictions have now been lifted, some sellers, buyers and renters are still cautious about the number of properties they inspect in person.  Remember, it is still possible to conduct private inspections on a one-to-one basis and sell homes via online auctions – in conjunction with group viewings and on-site auctions.  We’re still finding plenty of interest from buyers so we’ve adopted the practice of recording property walk-through videos using mobile technologies. We share these with interested parties directly.  We’re also able to ascertain each person’s circumstances and provide interested parties with a physical viewing of the property as and when it is clear that they are in a financial position to purchase.  Providing extensive information in the form of photographs, including pre-recorded videos by videographers and virtual inspections filmed on smartphones means that there are plenty of ways for homebuyers to interact with your property. Can properties still be sold at auction? Online auction sites were around long before the pandemic. Our real estate agency is able to provide an easy solution for sellers keen to go ahead with a property sale by auction. When you think about it, major auction houses like Sotheby’s have used online and phone bidding for decades. So services such as online auction site Gavl in Australia or online auction site Proppy in New Zealand have been able to respond quickly to lockdown measures with some updated options for sellers.  Many online auction platforms include online auctions that can be live streamed for you. But if an auction is not for you, they can assist with online bidding for private treaty offers.  When you receive an offer, there are multiple electronic signatory tools to help facilitate the digital signing of sales contracts as well.  Our agency can help streamline the home sale process digitally and, of course, liaise with individual buyers via phone or webinar to develop relationships and negotiate favourable sales deals on your behalf. Are people still buying homes?  Yes. People will always need to put their home on the market and, with interest rates at record lows, it’s a great time to buy.  There are many reasons why people need to sell. These include separation, divorce, to be closer to family or for work reasons. Some might be looking for a sea or tree change, be downsizing to save money or be moving for work or study. So as you can see, there remains plenty of reasons behind people continuing to buy and sell property.  While there might be a slight short-term dip in listings, this also means less competition, which is an excellent opportunity for motivated sellers.  Can I rent my property? How will you find tenants?  Yes. We can list your property for rent and start taking calls and managing viewings much in the same way as we described selling a home above. Viewings for potential tenants can be conducted in virtual form or arranged as a private one-to-one inspection with a property manager.  However, be aware that both the market and rules for rental properties can change rapidly, so please give us a call if you have a property that needs leasing, and we will update you on the latest guidelines and how these will affect you.