What you need to know about stamp duty

*This article first appeared in the September 2019 Midland Express

Stamp duty is part and parcel of buying a property in Australia, something that varies state to state, and something that few buyers understand.

So, what is stamp duty? In short, stamp duty is a form of tax. It is applied to a number of transactions, including transfers of property, mortgages as well as motor vehicle registrations. Stamp duty can also be called transfer duty or general duty.

This transaction of stamp duty is charged based on a percentage amount based on the greater of the market value of the property or the price paid, including any GST. This means, the more expensive the property, the higher the stamp duty.

State governments offer stamp duty exemptions when a property changes hands following a death or divorce or is transferred between family members.

In Victoria, the state government offers a full exemption to first-home buyers who purchase a new or established home worth up to $600,000, as long as they live in the property for at least 12 months, as well as stamp duty discounts to those who buy a property valued between $600,000 and $750,000.

If you are a pensioner, you may be eligible for a one-off exemption from duty when you buy a home valued at $330,000 or less, or a concession from duty when you buy a home valued from $330,001 to $750,000.

The State Revenue Office provides an online calculator which can assist you in understanding eligibility criteria and the amount you may need to factor into your transaction costs.

So where does your stamp duty go? Stamp duty is invested in the economy by the state government that collects it. This revenue is added into the state government budget, which typically covers sectors such as health, transport and roads, police, justice and emergency services.

Tips to keep your energy bills down this winter

*This article first appeared in the July 2019 Midland Express.

Living in Central Victoria, compared to metropolitan areas it is a few degrees cooler in temperature during the winter months. This can take some adjustment for residents– both physically and financially.

So other than sitting on the heater sipping hot drinks with multiple woolly jumpers on, there are a number of things you can do without scarifying comfort or spiking your energy bill.

Curtains and Blinds

Decorate your windows in your home with good quality curtains and blinds. Using curtains that are lined helps keep the heat in and the cold out by reducing the heat loss through your windows.

Save on appliance use, particularly the clothes dryer

One of the most expensive appliances to run in your house is a clothes dryer. Place an indoor clothes-drying rack in a room that you are heating (such as a living room). The heater is then warming you as well as drying your clothes. To avoid fire risk, never place clothes too close to any heater.

Harness natural heat

Taking simple measures to harness existing free sources of heating in your home by using the heat of the sun to warm up your house. During the day open up all your south and west facing curtains to allow the sun’s rays to stream in the windows and heat up your home. As soon as the sun begins to set, conserve the heat by closing all your curtains and blinds to insulate against heat loss.

Consider an energy audit

Engaging an experienced electrician to conduct an audit will help you measure how much energy each appliance is using, identify which appliances are wasting power due to age or maintenance issues and what you can do to make the move to a more energy efficient home.

Asking for monthly energy bills from your retailer is a great way to measure the impacts of any changes you make. Whatever you choose to do, preparing your house year-round can support the reduction of energy bills.

A Fence is not just a fence

Recently, I listed a gorgeous Victorian home in Kyneton. It is the kind of house that would generally sell very quickly in the current market but this one took a bit longer.

Why? Because the house was hidden behind a green colourbond that did not suit the home and its character appeal.

The owner soon replaced it with a white picket fence which immediately lifted the street appeal to potential buyers. The house was soon sold with a happy vendor and new owner in possession of a true Kyneton home of distinction.

Replacing or repairing boundary fences is often a simple thing to do to lift the charm of a home, support swifter selling and approving the overall amenity. If you want to replace your fence and you share a boundary, as many people do, you should reach out to your neighbour and discuss your intentions. Whether it is a replacement or a repair, generally your neighbours will need to agree to share the cost.

A good place to start is familiarising yourself with the Victorian Fences Act. The Fences Act contains rules about who pays for a dividing fence, the type of fence to be built, notices that neighbours need to give one another and how to resolve disputes that come up when discussing fencing works with your neighbour.

Secondly you should familiarise yourself with the Macedon Ranges Shire Council fence height restrictions and covenants. It is important to do this as if your fence is in breach of restrictions, you may need to remove it altogether or modify it until it complies.

In rare cases, where neighbours don’t wish to proceed with a new fence and refuse to pay, mediation may need to occur to bring the parties together in order to resolve the matters.

Whether it’s for privacy, keeping pets and kids inside or as a decorative feature, fencing adds safety, security and style to your home. Making sure you have happy neighbours or thinking long term about sales opportunities is something you might want to consider along the way.

Finding it hard to secure a home loan?

*This article first appeared in the May 2019 Midland Express.

The last year has brought some changes to the home loan landscape. A lot of this has been driven by governments, regulators, and banks, with decisions made at boardroom tables.

These changes have been brought in to make sure our financial system remains unquestionably strong, however, there have been unintended consequences.

A frustrating consequence of this is that many would be borrowers are being rejected for a home loan.

There are a number of things you can do when the bank declines your loan application, so you can put yourself in the best possible position for an approval.

Shop Around

Keep in mind that not all lenders are the same. While one (or more) banks might say no, it isn’t an indicator that others will be the same. Lenders who are not banks – or 2nd tier lenders-often distribute their loan offering via a mortgage broker which means the shopping and qualifying is done for you.

Get your debt in check
Car loans with high monthly payments, credit cards or even short-term loans have a considerable impact on your monthly outgoings. Lenders factors this in when determining whether you have the capacity to not default on your mortgage repayment. Consider consolidation of your debts into a longer-term mortgage loan so as to reduce your monthly outgoing payment amounts and possibly even open up to borrowing more.

Check in on your spending

Your discretionary spending will be a factor in your loan application. Lenders will ask you to estimate your living expenses. They will then take the higher part of the Household Expenditure Method (HEM) of your declared expenses.

A way to support your application is to adopt a money management system several months (6 months is best) before. By breaking down your expense items into essential and discretionary spending, you are able to identify significant savings with your discretionary spending.

If you have cut down on your spending significantly, it will greatly improve your chances of getting a loan because as part of the lending process, the banks will look into your transactional banking and credit card spending to see what you’re spending your money on.

Missing out on a loan doesn’t mean you wont get one. Understanding the new system will support you better.

Is autumn the best time to sell a house in Kyneton?

Autumn in Kyneton brings changing colours and crisp mornings, but it also brings with it the perfect time to sell your house.

The misconception that spring is the best time to sell is driven by ideas of warmer weather and general optimism after a long winter. It is a time of year where lots of houses are listed on the market.

With autumn however, it is about quality over quantity. Here’s why.

The silly season is over

Come autumn, most people will be well and truly back at work after extended time off over Christmas. Buyers have had time to plan, research the market, and fulfil their few New Year resolutions. Generally speaking, many buyers are serious about buying at this time of year after the frenzy of the holidays is behind them.  

Fewer properties to compete with.

Ever heard of the term a ‘buyers market’? During spring and summer, the market can become flooded with properties, which – depending on market conditions – can create an oversupply of properties. In autumn, when there are fewer properties for sale, you have less competition and converting into a successful sale is likely.

Kyneton is stunning in autumn.

There is no doubt that Kyneton is beautiful, but autumn tends to bring out a beauty that is simply idyllic. Stunning clear skies, stable temperatures and trees that are bursting with colour. Autumn is a season that can enhance your home, being a focal point amongst the natural beauty of the region. 

If you choose to sell your home in autumn, be mindful of the Easter holidays when many people go on holiday. It might be a good idea putting your house on the market right at the beginning of autumn when the weather’s at its best and prospective buyers have a chance to view it before they get away.