Thursday, September 11, 2014

How To Buy A Church

Old churches have become hot property in recent years.
With their hardwood floors, stained glass windows and distinctive soaring skylines, it’s easy to see why former churches are finding flocks of fans among home buyers wanting rare and historically rich properties.
Over the centuries churches have arguably been the best-built and most aesthetically spectacular buildings of urban landscapes.
But now, as many churches are closing their doors, they’re becoming the ideal focus for would-be renovators and building convertors.
But what is it about houses of worship that make them so desirable as homes?

Robin Power is the Chief Executive Officer of Melbourne conversion specialist Re:CONSTRUCTION and he says the same rules apply to a church as to any repurposing of a building.
“If the church is located in a good setting and you have the capacity to convert it into what you want as a home, there has long been demand for that,” Power says.
He says you’ll often find a solid construction, unique design, prime location and limited stock.
You’ll often find a solid construction, unique design, prime location and limited stock.
“What you’re doing is buying something distinct with the benefits of history and all the stories that come with it and, of course, the scarcity factor,” he says. “If it’s done well you can create some fabulous living spaces.”
“Churches are usually well constructed. They’re usually over-engineered and constructed by some wonderful stonemasons as these buildings were funded by the church parish and so were typically very well looked after.”

Questions to ask before buying a church
I want to make a home in a church – what do I need to consider?

1. What is the zoning?

The zoning on the property will affect what you can do to it.
Check to see if there a heritage overlay or is the building identified as individually significant from a heritage perspective. If it is, you’d be wise to find out the restrictions of this before you commit. “You can find this out from the council,” Power says.

2. Is the property on a Heritage Register?
Contact your state register to check if the property has an application in progress or is being considered for inclusion in the register.
“If your property is heritage listed it can significantly limit what you can do with the building,” Power says. “You may think ‘oh goodie, I’ll move that door and add a window’ but it’s almost never as easy as that and there’ll be significant cost attached in most cases.”
A heritage listing can limit what you can do with the building.
Christine Ghrayche of CBG Renovations and Design in Orange says checking with your local council or heritage board “is a must as there are various levels of heritage”.
“Some heritage classifications only require the exterior of the building to remain a certain way (colours, materials, etc), and others require both the exterior and interior to renovated following these guidelines.”

3. Are there any structural issues with the building?

Ask a building expert to assess the condition of the building, including its foundations, steeple, nave, tower and transept if applicable.

4. Are there bones beneath the church floor?
If there were bodies on the property they’d be moved pre-settlement in most cases. Power says: “There’d be a process involved in conjunction with the church whereby the bodies would be moved to another site. As the new owner it can be wise to investigate what’s involved as this is extremely important to those affected families,” Power advises.

5. Do you have the right team?
Ideally you’ll work with a team of people who are experts, or at least experienced, in doing building conversions. It’s not quite the same as a renovation or extension.
A building conversion is not the same as a new extension or simple renovation.
It’s a specialist area and you need to know what you’re doing if converting a former pulpit into a recessed spa bath.


Vacant churches with the right permits are not always simple to find. But if it’s your dream home and you’re ready for the conversion challenge, then keep a close eye on the market.
It’s worth considering the uniqueness of a church property, they’re not everyone’s ideal home, so selling it on could be harder than your average property.
Estate agent Julie Bishop of PRD Nationwide Agent has sold three churches in her time as a real estate agent, including a 150-year-old former Presbyterian Church in the tiny town of Talbot in rural Victoria. She says churches aren’t for everyone.
“Buying a church is not for everyone but definitely for anyone who loves architecture and soaring ceilings. They’re rich in history,” Bishop says. “Properties like these are one-offs. You’ll never be able to just knock one up.”

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

6 tips to kick off your spring cleaning

Spring has sprung and you can definitely feel the change in the air.
That means many of us are turning to spring cleaning.
The term “spring cleaning” usually means chucking out the clutter and dusting down the house, shining it up so it feels fresh and renewed.
Many of us move away from the darker and cozier colours and textures of autumn and winter, towards the fun, bright and lighter feel of spring and summer.
It’s not just our houses: many of us go on personal health kicks, too, and emotional wellbeing is an important part of being healthy and happy. Our personal mood is closely tied up with our home environment, so a spring clean does more than just tidy our homes.

6 spring ideas to create a happy & healthy home

1. Clean your windows

Windows – they say they’re the eyes of your house and reflect what’s inside. And clean windows make a big difference. Dirty windows obscure your view. They hold out light and often condensation can leave dirty marks on the inside. If you don’t have time (or the inclination) to do this yourself, hire a window cleaner to get all your windows sparkling, inside and out.

2. De-clutter with a garage sale

There is no better time than the present to de-clutter. We all love to keep treasured pieces, some of us more than others, but a cluttered space creates a cluttered mind. By clearing the decks from time to time you not only give stuff to other people who can make use of it, but create a calmer and happier home for you and your loved ones.

Decide which areas of your home need most de-cluttering and prioritise them. Then gather a series of boxes or crates. Mark one for storage, one for thrift store donations, one for rubbish/recycling (genuine rubbish/recycling – think first if someone else could use these items), one for your own garage sale and one for keeping. Do one room at a time to stay focused. You may be able to manage a few rooms in a day or over a whole weekend.
Top tip: If the job is overwhelming, seek help from family and friends, or bring in a professional organiser to help you de-clutter.

3. Don’t forget your garden

Plants and flowers are vital in your home in my opinion. They bring colour and life into a space and are a must in any decorating scheme.
Keep it simple: grab some flowers from your garden.
Try potted plants: When it comes to potted plants, make sure you research, or chat with the plant nursery, about which plants will work best for your particular indoor environment. Some thrive well with very little light, others require plenty of light and some need humidity.
Buy indoor-friendly plants: There are plenty of plants that can be grown successfully inside such as palms, Peace Lily, Monsteras and ornamental figs like Fiddle Leaf, which are very popular.
house plant
Image: Pinterest/realestateau
No garden? Don’t despair: If you don’t have an outside garden, you can still create a green space. Think about creating green wall or a vertical garden. There are also many annual flowers that will brighten up your space in pots around the house.
Eat it: Growing edible gardens is a win win. You get healthier from the act of gardening, and you’re eating your own home grown fruits, vegetables and herbs.

4. Try a new craft
With spring comes a new lease of life. Grab it. Why not try a craft you have never done before.
Perhaps learn how to make a rag rug for your child’s room or bathroom. Use old jars to display your flowers in. Have a go at decoupage and create a feature on a coffee table, or cupboard. Crack open some paint and upcycle an old piece of furniture. Adding something you have made with your own hands to your home.

5. Create a peaceful & healthy bedroom
Getting enough sleep (7-8 hours is optimal for most people) should be an important part of your health and wellbeing plan. In winter our bedrooms often turn into cocoons.
As the weather gets warmer we need lighter bedding and a cooler room. Why not try a fresh coat of paint and a new, lighter cover on the bed to create a spring feel.
Ideally you shouldn’t be using technology in bed, as it prevents good sleep habits. You should also monitor how much light and noise you’re subjected to in bed. You may want to add light and heat-effective blinds, such as honeycomb style blinds, which allow you to control for the increasing light across spring and summer, as well as maintaining better temperature control.

6. Fix up any outdoor areas
As the warmer weather approaches, we spend more time outside, so make sure you don’t neglect any outdoor areas in your cleaning and de-cluttering tasks.
  • Protect for spiders and other pests, who will start to be on the increase.
  • Freshen any decking with a new coat of varnish or paint.
  • Paint handrails and other areas which that be looking worse for wear.
  • Clean out children’s cubby houses and sandpits.
  • Give the BBQ a good scrub ready for all the meals it will be cooking.
  • Get upcycling your old outdoor setting with a fresh coat of paint.

Create some art

Why not create some art to brighten up the garden? Here’s some basic ideas:
  • Use chalk paint outside.
  • Try some unusual garden art, such as upcycling some pallets, use old doors and windows as bases for climbing plants.
  • Make your own wind chime or mobile with old spoons.
  • Build a bird bath with an old saucepan and a tree stump, or outdoor urn.
Most importantly, get out into the fresh air and enjoy the increasingly longer days as we head towards summer.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

We can borrow more now that interest rates are at record low! Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

There’s no doubt interest rates play a significant role when a lender assesses one’s affordability to repay a loan. This simply means the lower the interest rate the more you can borrow. At such a historically low cash rate with lenders aggressively continuing to lower their interest rates, not only more & more potential borrowers’ applications are being accepted, but also people with existing mortgages are now qualified to borrow even more money. Either way, that’s – precisely – what banks are targeting for.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposing borrowing. Ironically I’m a mortgage broker who makes a living by helping people to borrow! In fact, this is amazing news for someone like Tim & Bec who have been longing to buy their first home and thankfully, at an affordable interest rate, not to mention the 50% stamp duty reduction taking effect as of 1 September 2014 there has never been a better time for these guys to fulfill their Australian dream.

Great news also for John & Jenny who managed to knock down their home loan over the years, build up plenty of equity in their home and now they’re looking to - kind of - harness their equity to invest in a property, or three, as a road map to their retirement. That is fair enough given that Mr Jo Hockey seems to be adamant to work them to do death. With an improved borrowing capacity John & Jenny are now able to borrow funds to help them achieve their retirement plan.

Other people may not want to buy an investment property but still could take a great advantage of their improved borrowing capacity without extending their borrowing, by simply shopping around for a cheaper home loan among hundreds of hungry lenders who are prepared to do whatever it takes to pinch new businesses from other lenders. By doing this, these people could potentially save themselves hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. How good is that!

On the “not so good” side of things however, is what someone like Darren is about to do. Daza was over the moon when the bank told him they can and will top up his home loan so he could finally add a sparkling new $70k red SSV Commodore to his collection. Whilst there’s absolutely nothing wrong with red SSV Commodores or with Daza or even with the bank, combining the three elements together can form a hazardous medium that would eventually cause undesirable ramifications which would essentially have a negative impact on Daza’s financial position.

Sometimes we fail to understand that if the bank thinks we could borrow $70k, it doesn’t necessarily mean we have to borrow the $70k.

Anyway……the moral of all this is; Now that we can borrow a lot more than before, let’s borrow wisely for a justified need, not extravagantly for an inexcusable want.

And yes, unless you have $70k in cash, a red SSV Commodore is listed under “inexcusable wants”.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

First Home Buyers will enjoy 50% Stamp Duty Reduction as of 1 September 2014

If you’re an eligible first home buyer in Victoria, and you’re purchasing your first home that is bound to settle on or after 1 September 2014, the Victorian Government offers you a 50% duty reduction whether your purchased home is new or established.

Will this have an impact on my borrowing capacity?

As a borrower, this will no doubt improve your chances to borrow from lenders to fund your new purchase. Since you’re borrowing less money, your affordability criteria will improve accordingly.

So, who’s eligible?

Eligibility criteria for the duty reduction can be summarized as follows:

Property value is no more than $600,000

You must reside in your new home for a continuous period of 12 months, commencing within 12 months of settlement.

Where there are two or more purchasers, at least one of them must satisfy the above residency requirement. However, it is not necessary for the same purchaser to occupy the home for the whole 12 months.

Land will not be considered to be occupied as a Principal Place of residency (PPR) unless there is a building on it that, in the Commissioner of State Revenue’s opinion, is designed and constructed primarily for residential purposes and may lawfully be used as a PPR.


Here some examples showing dutiable values – before and after reduction – for different purchase prices:

If you’d like more information follow this link, or simply complete the contact form on the right hand side of this Blog and one of our consultants will be more than happy to assist you.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The ultimate five-step plan to property investment

Smart investment advisers acknowledge that real estate is one of the best methods for building wealth fast. Perhaps nowhere in the world does property provide stronger return on investment than Australia.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics offers a detailed historical report on investments in residential rental property.
The idea of property investment and where to start can be daunting so it’s imperative to do your research. Blueprint Wealth has published a detailed article on helping to understand if property investment is right for you by looking at the risks as well as the benefits.
Planning a property purchase requires more than targeting a location. Learn how to assess the real estate investment market for resale value and risk factors essential to making the right decision.
This five-step property investment plan covers selecting an agent, legalities, and financing options.
1. Agent selection
The first step in finding the right investment property is hiring an agent. Reputation is critical. Review property agents for licence credentials, sales performance, commission structure, and marketing strategy. A solicitor or conveyancer may be required to oversee the legal process to title transfer of the property at time of final transaction. Your investment advisor may be able to recommend an agent who specializes in investment properties.
2. Target market
When seeking a new investment property, undervalued properties located in markets reporting a 10 per cent growth rate in resale annually, offer a higher profit margin on early transfer. Properties requiring no or little renovation are the best selection, followed by those in close proximity with public infrastructure such as transportation and shopping. If a buyer is targeting a property for rental income, low maintenance expense and equity retention coincide with return on investment at the time of resale. Properties listed under market value should be investigated for potential risks such as tax liens or issues related to environmental mitigation.
3. Inspections
Property inspections should be conducted prior to buying an investment property. An inspection report provides details on the condition of the building, and can identify potential problems or costly repair items. Request a pest inspection to identify potential termite or woodworm infestation as well. Conveyancing reports will include drainage diagrams and documents related to environmental hazards registered with the water board or other public authority.
4. Tax incentives
Investment properties may be assigned income tax, capital gains tax or goods and services tax (GST) by the Australian Taxation Office. Depreciation is a standard tax benefit property owners can claim as a deduction on income. Australian property investors also have the option of scheduling depreciation for long-term reduction in annual tax payments. There are more than 50 tax deductions available to property owners at this time. When property expenses are higher than the income produced, due to interest, strata fees, and maintenance costs, negative gearing can reported to offset income taxes.
By setting up a depreciation schedule, followed by application to ATO for pay-as-you-go (PAYG) tax variation, a property owner can reduce holding costs, and increase the sum of mortgage repayments. The income tax withholding variation (ITWV) offered by the ATO is the basis to the PAYG tax variation income withholding allowance required in support of property tax offset. The dual tax incentive was instituted as an incentive for investment.
5. Financing
If not purchasing with cash, most property investors negotiate payment on a real estate transaction with funds secured from a mortgage loan or other asset backed agreement. Fixed rate, variable rate, interest rate, capped, and split rate mortgages can be applied to a property investment. Buyers with equity in an existing property may elect to apply that value to a new investment.

Investors purchasing a property for rental income have the option of backing a loan request with the estimated value of future rental earnings. Self-employed investors in Australia can request a low doc loan. While these lending agreements typically carry either a higher interest rate, larger deposit, or both to offset risk, a low doc loan may be the best option for a self-employed investor. Other common financing options include credit line and trust funded purchases. In order to keep up with financial options available, as well as new taxation guides, follow News & Updates on the ATO website for helpful investment information.

Cheap Money Has Australian Lending Back At Pre-GFC Levels

Statistics released today show cautious consumers dropping personal finance commitments but strong borrowing in the commercial sector pushing total lending finance up by 7.6% to $72.9 billion in June, the highest since January 2008.

Personal loans in Australia fell 1.8% in to $8.505 billion in June compared to May, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

And personal revolving credit fell 3.3% and fixed lending commitments also down 0.6%.
However, commercial finance rose 12.1% to $46.495 billion and housing finance for owner occupier was up 1.8% $17.070 billion.

Commsec chief economist Craig James says lending has returned to levels prior to the global financial crisis.
“In fact, in original terms, lending totalled $84.1 billion in June 2014, the second highest total on record behind June 2007 ($90.8 billion),” he says.

“While growth is being driven by business lending, both personal and housing loans are well up on a year ago.

“Simply, consumers and businesses are embracing cheap financing. And
hopefully in the case of business, some of the extra dollars are being put to work in new investment, in turn leading to the hiring of more staff.

James says the importance of the data lies in what it reveals about the appropriateness of interest rate settings, confidence and spending levels in the economy.
Official interest rates are at record lows of 2.5%.

RBA Fails to shock with latest rate decision as official cash rate stays on hold at 2.5% for the 13th consecutive month.

The Reserve Bank of Australia has erred on the side of caution once again, opting to leave the official cash rate on hold for the 13th consecutive month.

At its board meeting earlier today, the Reserve Bank announced it would leave cash rate at the historically low setting o 2.5 per cent for yet another month.

The Reserve Bank's decision to leave the cash rate on hold was an obvious one as recent data shows the Australian economy is currently tracking along quite nicely.

Consumer confidence has started to bounce back, with data from the Westpac Melbourne Institute of consumer sentiment showing confidence climbed 3.8 in August to sit just 1.2 per cent below the pre-Budget reading.

In addition, business confidence improved, reverting to its post-elections highs, while business conditions rose to their highest level since early 2010.

Finally, property values continue to climb, with recent research showing capital city dwelling values moved 4.2 per cent higher over the three months of winter. Sydney and Melbourne led the charge, with the capital cities recording dwelling value growth of 5 and 6.4 per cent respectively over the last three months.

This spate of positive data suggests the economy is in good shape providing the Reserve Bank with no impetus to change its current monetary policy setting.

Moving forward, it is likely the Reserve Bank will continue to leave rates on hold. While new data emerging suggests the Australian economy is performing strongly, the high Australian Dollar and rising unemployment woes will force the Board to a 'wait and see' approach to rates.

Further, the Reserve Bank has made it abundantly clear they that they are happy with the current monetary policy setting and while there is a significant degree of uncertainty about the outlook - given the number of forces working in different directions - the most prudent course of action is likely to be a period of interest rate stability.