Viewing by month: October 2010

How to sell your home quickly

When it comes to selling your home, ideally you’d like to have as much time to prepare as possible, allowing you to fix everything that needs fixing, clean everything that needs cleaning and perform all of the activities necessary to present a pristine property. 

Unfortunately situations can arise where people need to sell their properties quickly and the luxury of having time to ensure a property is perfect to sell isn’t always possible.  You may have just purchased a property and need funds to settle, or perhaps you are headed to a job in a far away location; whatever the reason, you need your property sold quickly and you don’t have a great deal of time to put a lot of effort into making it ready. 

If you don’t read any more of this blog post, be sure to understand the role of pricing.  Price is probably the most important element when it comes to selling a property quickly.  If the price is right, you will usually be able to sell anything. 

Now, I’m not saying that you have to lower your expectations to the point where you are practically giving your property away, I’m just urging you to be realistic.  This situation is not the time to wait it out for a buyer to come along who wishes to pay a premium to secure your property.  A sound assessment of the market and comparable property sale prices in your area will provide a good guide as to the range where your home may be purchased quickly.  Your real estate agent will also be able to make pricing recommendations. 

On this note, to sell a home quickly also requires a good real estate agent.  You will need somebody who can be honest with you, giving realistic guidelines as to where your pricing expectations should be.  It can also be helpful if the agent has some prior experience in a quick sales campaign.  The agent will be walking a delicate line – they will be drawing buyers in on the basis that you wish to sell quickly, however they need to avoid buyers making the assumption that you will settle for a low price. 

You may find that your house needs a little bit of freshening up before it is ready for sale.  An easy way to brighten things up may be to give your walls a fresh coat of a neutral coloured paint.  This will create the impression of space, freshness and openness, as well as giving potential buyers somewhat of a blank canvas for them to imagine their own lives in your property. 

Hiring some furniture could also do wonders to rejuvenate your property.  If your furniture looks slightly old and tired, some new, modern pieces could increase your property’s appeal to buyers. 

Selling a home quickly doesn’t have to be a hard exercise.  By giving your property an easy facelift, and keeping your price expectations realistic, you should find that a sale comes before you know it. 


0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 26/10/2010 at 10:52 AM | Categories: Selling -

Tips for First-Home Buyers

So you have decided to take the plunge and purchase your first property – congratulations! In my view, owning your own home is one of the most significant and satisfying purchases you will ever make.  Although the initial outlay may seem like a lot, by paying off a mortgage each month you are actually building equity and essentially setting yourself up for the rest of your life. 

The first step to buying your first property is to save the money for a deposit.  Depending on your current spending patterns, this could be quite an easy or difficult task.  There are countless tips on how to cut back on your expenditure, including creating a budget, using cash instead of credit and paying off your credit card in full each month to avoid interest charges, however you will often find that what is really required is actually an attitude change. 

Simply reminding yourself of your end goal every time you find yourself tempted to make an unnecessary purchase can do wonders for your savings.  For example, instead of purchasing that new dress or piece of electronic equipment, imagine that property waiting for you.

To make saving that little bit easier, first home buyers should try to do as much research as possible regarding the various government tax initiatives available.  These may involve grants as the property is your first, or incentives for buying off the plan.  Each state will have different information available.   

When buying a property it is essential to be aware of all the costs involved beyond the property itself.  There are usually legal fees, home loan application fees and stamp duty costs that must be paid and thus factored into your budget.  Be aware that these costs may have an impact on the amount you can afford to spend on the actual property. 

When you finally find the ideal property for you, make sure you have the relevant inspections conducted prior to bidding at auction or making an offer privately.  Believe me, even if you think that the property is perfect now, this view may change two or three years down the track when you become aware of a significant flaw that requires fixing at considerable expense.  If anything, having a property and/or pest inspection will give you peace of mind and if there is a fault it may allow you to negotiate a lower sale price. 

When it comes to purchasing the property, you can either make an offer privately or bid at auction.  In both cases, try to find out as much as you can about the property and try not to get involved in bidding wars where you end up paying way beyond the property’s value (yes, these can sometimes occur in the private sale process as well as at auctions).  Remember, there will always be another property to buy. 

Although the process of buying your first home can sometimes prove to be a stressful time, try to enjoy it.  You have worked hard and may have sacrificed much to save the money to get to this point - you should be very proud of your new purchase.   


0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 26/10/2010 at 10:50 AM | Categories: First Home Buyers -

The value of buying off the plan and points to consider when doing so

There seem to be two schools of thought when it comes to buying a brand new house or apartment ‘off the plan’ (i.e. before construction on the property has even started).  Some people love the idea that they are the first person to live in the home and relish the fact that everything is new.  Others would prefer to give a building a few years to age, to see how it stands the test of time. 

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald entitled ‘How to buy new’ caught my attention the other day.   I thought it would be an interesting one to share with you, given the stamp duty concessions that the New South Wales government has been offering to the buyers of land and new houses and apartments since the budget. 

In the article, the author Carolyn Boyd goes through some of the things that must be considered when buying an apartment, house or land, starting with the fact that you should avoid falling into the trap of a false sense of security just because it’s new.

Inspections are essential and questions should be asked about exactly what is included in the type of housing you are purchasing.  The display suite is usually the top of the line, most expensive option available and will often include more costly finishes and appliances.  Before buying, ensure you know exactly what will come in the dwelling you decide on. 

As well as knowing exactly what is included, it is also important to understand exactly where in a building or development lot your new property will be situated.  Again, while the display suite may be ideally situated facing the north, your new block of land or apartment may end up with little sunlight.   

The article also recommends that research be conducted into the properties planned around the one you are buying into.  There is nothing worse than buying an apartment which you think has a view, only to discover upon moving in when the complex is built that another building has also gone up beside yours, effectively ruining your outlook or stealing your sunlight.  It is usually a simple exercise to check with council to see if any other developments are planned around yours and to determine the effect this will have on you. 

Finally, it can be a worthwhile exercise to investigate the history of the developer and builder and to talk to owners of properties they have built in the past.  It can be comforting to know before you buy that you are dealing with competent and experienced professionals. 

The stamp duty concessions that we are seeing make it a very worthwhile exercise to research buying off the plan.  As it is with any property purchase, research is an important aspect of the process.  The aim of this research should be to determine as much as you can about the actual property you are purchasing, ensuring there are no unhappy surprises when your new home is actually built. 

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 18/10/2010 at 9:41 AM | Categories: Buying -

Security when 'Home Swapping'

I’ve been hearing increasing stories of people I know going on holidays through a home exchange program – that is, as opposed to staying in a hotel or serviced apartment, you stay in somebody else’s home, and they stay in yours. 

I think the concept is a great idea, allowing you to stay in beautiful accommodation both around Australia and overseas for a fraction of what you would pay for a hotel.  It is crucial however that proper precautions are taken to protect both your own personal security as well as your home.

According to home swapping website,, good communication is essential for any home swap arrangement to work well.  Before any firm agreements are made, talking to possible exchange partners via methods such as the telephone, Skype and email will help you to get familiar with each other and feel more comfortable about sharing your homes.  This contact can also be used to share photos and ask any questions you may have.   

If after some correspondence you feel something with the other party is remiss and are uncomfortable with having them in your home, you are under no obligation to go ahead with the exchange arrangement. 

It is also important to ask for referrals from any prior exchange arrangements your exchange partners may have had. 

It goes without saying that any valuable jewellery and objects should be locked away while the exchange is taking place.  It may also be worthwhile to secure any personal documents and files and to restrict access to confidential computer files. 

To prevent any damage to your appliances or electronic equipment, be sure to leave a detailed set of instructions for anything complicated.   Make sure you clear a section in wardrobes and drawers that will be utilised, to avoid your clothes getting mixed up with your visitors’. 

Many home exchange companies will get the respective parties to sign a contract, agreeing to various conditions for the period.  Take care to read any such agreement that you sign and be sure to hold up your end of the bargain.

Home exchanges can be an excellent way to travel, often helping you to save money, see a place from a different perspective and perhaps even form lifelong international friendships.  The process can be pleasant and stress-free as long as just a few precautions are taken.  

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 18/10/2010 at 9:38 AM | Categories: Property Management -

Protecting your home when going on holiday

With the weather getting warmer as we approach summer, I am surrounded in the CENTURY 21 office with talk of holidays.  I must admit, I too am getting excited at the prospect of enjoying Sydney’s outdoors over summer with some time away from my desk. 

Whatever you have planned, whether it be an extended overseas holiday or simply a few long weekends away, it is important to make a few easy preparations to your home to ensure that you return to find it in the same state in which you left it. 

Robberies are rife in summer, especially around school holiday time.  As many people go away at the same time, most thiefs are aware that there are a reduced number of watchful eyes to put a dampener on their plans to break into properties.  

Thieves will be on the lookout for any sign that the occupants of a dwelling have not been present for a number of days.  By taking some precautions, you can reduce the telltale indications that a thief looks for to determine whether or not you are away. 

Firstly, be sure to cancel or have a friend or neighbour collect all regular delivery services that fall within the period of your absence.  After all, nothing signals ‘not home’ like a build up on your front doorstep.  Such deliveries may include your mail, newspapers and milk. 

It is often wise, if possible, to keep a car parked in the driveway of a house.  An empty carport or driveway over a couple of days can serve as an instant signal to a thief that nobody is at home.  At least if a car is in the driveway, your property may not be so immediately obvious to anybody with undesirable intentions. 

Keep the curtains in your home at varying stages of openness.  While you don’t want to leave curtains wide open so that people can see right in, closed curtains for extended periods can also indicate that the occupants of a house are away.  Having some curtains open, some closed and others halfway often creates the impression of activity in a home, as though people are coming and going. 

Finally to ensure that you return to a welcoming home after a relaxing trip, make sure you take care of certain things before you leave.  Ensure that any pets are being minded, remove any products from your fridge or pantry that are soon to go off, and make sure that any bills which will fall during your holiday period are paid before you leave. 

Then, all you have to do is relax and enjoy your much deserved break. 

1 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 15/10/2010 at 1:38 PM | Categories: Around the house -

Is Australia facing a Housing Bubble?

The subject of a ‘housing bubble’ seems to be a media favourite at the moment, with consistent coverage ever since US property investor Jeremy Grantham said in June that it was only a matter of time before the Australian residential property market crashed. 

I can understand that for those Australians who own property and/or are considering making a property purchase, such speculation may be quite worrying.  

My colleagues and I at CENTURY 21 have consistently refuted the notion of a housing bubble ever since the topic arose, pointing out the stability of the residential property market in recent years which has been underpinned by steady upwards trends in the growth of house prices for over a decade. 

However, given the continued nature of the speculation, I thought I would recap on the views of the different experts, including the Reserve Bank of Australia, who have weighed in on the debate. 

The most recent commentary was from the chief economist at Goldman Sachs, Tim Toohey, who last week dismissed the concept of a speculative housing bubble.  Mr Toohey was quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald as saying that the behaviour of housing prices over the past year does not resemble a housing bubble due to a number of factors.

These factors include the fact that the refinancing of established homes is at a nine-year low, that loan-to-value ratios are well below the levels seen in 2000 and that the loan-to-value ratio of new dwellings has remained virtually unchanged for over a decade. 

Mr Toohey also referred to Australia’s housing shortage which is reaching chronic proportions and looks only to worsen over the next few years as the demand for residential housing continues to surpass supply – Goldman Sachs has estimated that by the end of 2010 the national housing shortage will be 250,000. 

The Reserve Bank’s viewpoint appears to be in agreement with that of Mr Toohey and Goldman Sachs and CENTURY 21.  In a research report released by its economists, the RBA downplayed concerns of a housing bubble, referring to the fact that the issues which led to the housing bubble of the early 2000’s and subsequently required policy intervention are not present in the market currently. 

The RBA’s research notes how the residential housing market has now improved and is less likely to result in a bubble, mentioning that investors now play a less prominent role, the lending standards of banks have become better and the ratio of housing prices to income has been moderately flat for some time.    

So it would appear that many Australian experts also agree that a housing bubble is not what we are currently experiencing.  Having said this however I would encourage those interested in property to continue reading and to remain abreast of the different opinions that arise on the topic.  Australia continues to have a chronic housing shortage and ongoing increasing demand, which should help to keep the house prices trending upwards for the time being.

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 14/10/2010 at 4:05 PM | Categories: State of the Market -

How to ensure your home sells at auction

While many people choose to sell their homes at auction as opposed to private sale, the fact that auction clearance rates rarely reach one hundred per cent for any given period indicates that not all auctions end with a sale. 

Auctions can be a very successful way to achieve an excellent price for your property.  With all the people who have shown an interest in purchasing together in one environment, along with psychology and egos, very quickly the amounts being bid can shoot upwards. 

But in the cases where the auction is unsuccessful, it is usually the price of the property that is the reason.  Although most of us have a value we believe our home or investment property to be worth and it is very difficult to be forced to accept a price we believe to be undervalued, ultimately the ‘market’ (those bidders standing at your auction) will be willing to pay a certain amount which you can either choose to accept or reject.

Having a realistic understanding of the value of your property is of huge importance as you go into the auction process.  As a real estate professional, it is up to your agent to discuss with you, frankly and honestly, the state of the market and a fair amount you could expect to receive for your property. 

Many agents will try to win your business by overestimating, assuring you that they can reach a particular figure come auction.  In reality, only the buyers who are bidding can determine what price your property will achieve. 

When armed with a good understanding of the approximate market value of your home you will be much better prepared to approach an auction and it won’t be such a shock if a lower than expected, but within market range, value eventuates. 

Of course, it is ultimately up to you whether you accept this price or not (if it is below reserve price).  However you may want to consider the consequences of not selling on auction day before you allow your property to be passed-in. 

Property advertising is not cheap, and any further monies spent on promotion will eat away at the value achieved, which is not guaranteed to be greater if you keep your home on the market.  It is also not a desirable situation to have a property on the market for an extended period of time as people may start to wonder why it has not sold and if in fact there is something wrong with it. 

Ultimately, a good approach to auction is for the seller to be prepared regarding the realistic value of their property and the current state of the market.  This will enable you to make a measured judgment about whether or not you should accept an offer made on the day, or if you should withdraw your home from the market and try again at a later date. 

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 14/10/2010 at 4:01 PM | Categories: Selling -

Investment property opportunities - student housing

I’ve noticed through my time in the real estate industry that people have varying ideas about what makes a good investment property.  Some people like to buy in locations that seem to experience perpetual summers and are rented out as holiday accommodation all year round, while others like to purchase in up-and-coming trendy suburbs, so as to capture the ‘just leaving home’ market. 


In my opinion, when purchasing a residential property for investment purposes, people should definitely consider student accommodation as another viable option. 


Traditionally Australian students have stayed close to home to study and live at home while doing so.  However we are currently seeing university, private college and TAFE students travel around Australia as they seek out the best institutions at which to complete their course or conduct a work placement and as such require affordable housing away from home.   


The number of international students attending Australian universities is also increasing, with education services now Australia’s largest service export industry behind tourism, bringing in billions of dollars to the Australian economy.  While some of these foreign students may be lucky enough to live in housing purchased by their family, the majority require accommodation for the duration of their stay. 


In many locations around Australia therefore there is demand for student housing.  And you can be sure that as long as you keep your property properly maintained (as you would any investment property) your rent will keep coming in for as long as students attend the nearby institution. 


So what can you do to maximise the return from your property? My first piece of advice would be to remain selective – don’t assume that just because your occupants are students they are after a dingy dwelling in dire need of renovation.  Students are becoming increasingly picky, especially international students whose parents, in many cases, are funding their accommodation.   Try to buy a modern property, or if so inclined, fix up an older dwelling, installing contemporary amenities. 


 Remember that location is essential when choosing a property.  You should try to buy in areas that have large student populations and are within close distance (preferably walking or easy public transport) to education institutions. 


To ensure that your property is always occupied, even during holiday breaks, try to stay proactive in its management, or employ a property manager who is.  Be aware of when extended breaks will occur and plan ahead if you know that your tenants will wish to vacate. 


Student accommodation can be an excellent investment property option, with (in many cases) a lower upfront purchase cost and very certain ongoing rental payments.  You may find it worthwhile to look into the option when considering your next investment move.  

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 11/10/2010 at 3:43 PM | Categories: Investors -