Almost the Most Livable City In The World

Melbourne City Skyline

With impressive titles like “Australia’s cultural capital” and “the most livable city in the world,” Melbourne projects a fantastic reputation to the world. And if you’ve already had the pleasure of visiting the city, surely you’ve at least imagined what it would be like to live there permanently. In case you need any more convincing, here are a few of what we’d consider being the top reasons why your next move should be to Melbourne.

(Almost) The Most Livable City In The World

Each year, The Economist publishes its rankings of the world’s best places to live. And for seven years in a row, until 2018, Melbourne topped the list as the most livable city in the world. Vienna now holds the official title, but Melbourne is surely a close second. The rankings are determined via analysis of several categories that people generally find important when deciding where to live: education, infrastructure, health care, and so on. In other words, The Economist is trying to give its readers a holistic picture of each city it considers. Incidentally, Australia has two other cities in the top 10 – Sydney and Adelaide – but Melbourne has essentially established itself as the gold standard of livability, at least per these rankings.

Australia’s Most Stunning Coastline

Great ocean road AustraliaIf you want to spend some time out in nature or have the option of a convenient weekend getaway, Melbourne can be an ideal city. Just a few hours’ drive from Melbourne lies the Great Ocean Road, where you can drive for hundreds of kilometres along dramatic cliffs and clear, blue waters. If you don’t have a ton of time, a quick trip to see a given attraction, like the 12 Apostles rock formations, can be pleasant. However, if you do have the time, you can explore the rest of what the Great Ocean Road has to offer. Living near naturally gorgeous places like these will no doubt improve your quality of life by giving you an oasis to escape to when the stresses of life catch up to you. And we didn’t even get to the terrific beaches nearby!

A Communal Sports Scene

No matter where you live in the world, sports are something that brings people together, regardless of age, background, occupation, etc. And one of the really special parts of Melbourne is its sports culture, comprised of impressive home teams in sports like cricket, Aussie Rules football, and rugby (you’ll likely become a fan of the Melbourne Rebels) as well as huge international sporting events. Melbourne Cup horse racing carnivalPerhaps most famous of the bunch, the Melbourne Cup is one of Australia’s can’t-miss events that is closely followed by millions from around the globe, bet on by locals, and even celebrated with a national holiday. Beyond this incredible horse racing event, the Australian Grand Prix (a Formula 1 race) and Australian Open (a tennis Grand Slam) are also major international celebrations on the sports calendar. It all makes for an incredible sports culture and fosters a sense of community throughout Melbourne.

Public Works Are Taken Seriously

From transportation to art, public works in Melbourne are some of the most impressive in the world. Regarding getting around town, you will have the choice of trail, tram, or bus for your mode of transportation. In fact, Melbourne’s tram network is the largest in the world and is the only such system completely powered by solar energy.City Circle Melbourne Tram All in all, it’s convenient, cheap, and good for the environment – all things the modern resident tends to appreciate! Meanwhile, if you choose to walk around the city, you’ll notice a massive collection of artwork all on public display and spread out around town. Highlights include the Federation Bells and the murals painted on Hozier Lane, but altogether the art only adds to the feeling that this is a city that takes its public image and atmosphere seriously.

All in all, most people (including those experts at The Economist) can agree that Melbourne is truly a wonderful place to live. You will always have something to do, you’ll always have an easy way to get around, and the atmosphere is almost unfailingly pleasant. Top it all off with the fact that the city is also known for safety and good public education, and it can be a lot of people’s ideal place to live.

What is Google Home?

Google Home device

What Google Home can do?

Here is the short version of what Google Home can do. By simply using your voice as a command you can do multiple tasks. These include managing your TV and sound, create shopping lists, monitor home security, manage chores and tasks or even plan out your day. This is just a small sample size of what Google Home is capable of.
Google Home device
Here is a more detailed list of the capabilities of Google Home.
Media access to listen to or watch.

  • Voice Match – Share Google Home with family and friends. Link your Google Account and voice to Google Home to hear personalized info.
  • Music – Play music from popular music services by artist, song, genre, album, playlist, mood, or activity.
  • News – Get the latest news from sources you trust.
  • Podcasts – Listen to popular podcasts.
  • Radio – Listen to popular radio stations.
  • Relax – Listen to soothing ambient sounds.
  • Bluetooth – Play your stored music using Bluetooth.
  • Audiobooks – Listen to audiobooks from Google Play Books on your Google Home device.

Control TVs and speakers

  • Play TV shows and movies using Google Home – Stream video content to any TV that has Chromecast plugged in or built-in.
  • Play YouTube videos on TVs using Google Home – Initiate and control YouTube videos to any TV with Chromecast or Chromecast built-in – using only your voice.
  • Play audio on speakers and TVs using Google Home – Stream audio to any speaker that has Chromecast Audio plugged in or Chromecast built-in.
  • Multi-room audio – Group any combination of Google Home, Chromecast Audio, or speakers with Chromecast Audio built-in together for synchronous music throughout the home.
  • Play audio from your phone to Google Home – Play audio from your phone to Google Home from 100+ Chromecast-enabled audio apps or by playing your Android Audio.
  • Turn TV on and off – You can turn your TV on and off using your voice and Google Home.

Plan your day

  • My Day – Get a curated daily snippet about your day which includes weather, calendar, commute, reminders, and news
  • Traffic – Ask for traffic and travel times when driving, walking, or biking
  • Local guide – Search for local places and ask for additional information
  • Weather – Ask for current weather or forecasts for the week for your home location or any other location
  • Calendar – Ask about an event or get your schedule for the day from Google Calendar
  • Flight information – Get status updates on your upcoming flight
  • Apps for the Google Assistant – Get things done and have some fun on Google Home with third-party created apps for the Google Assistant

Get things done

  • Shopping list – Create a shopping list and check what’s already on it
  • Cook – Find and make your favourite recipes using step-by-step cooking instructions from your Google Assistant.
  • Shortcuts – Create faster, easier ways to do your favourite things with your Google Assistant.
  • Reminders – You can set, ask about, and delete reminders on Google Home.
  • Send information from Google Home to your phone – Your Google Assistant can send information from Google Home to your phone.
  • Find your phone with your Google Assistant – Never lose your phone again! You can ask your Google Assistant to ring or call your phone.
  • Ask your Assistant to remember things – Get a little help from your Assistant to remember things.
  • Broadcast voice messages to Google Home devices – Send a message to everyone in your home by broadcasting messages on all of your Google Home devices.

Manage tasks

  • Timer – Set and manage a timer for cooking, game time, laundry, and even sleep.
  • Alarm – Never run late or miss a flight or meeting. You can set and manage alarms with just your voice.

Get answers

  • Facts and information – Ask Google what you want to know.
  • Finance – Ask about current individual stock prices or current points of an index, like the ASX.
  • Sports – Ask for scores, live updates, or next game date, location, and time.
  • Calculator – Perform complicated calculations.
  • Translation – Get translations for words or phrases in supported languages.
  • Unit conversions – Get unit conversions.
  • Nutrition – Get nutrition information for ingredients or food.
  • Dictionary – Get definitions and spellings for words.

Control your home

  • Control your smart home devices – Control supported smart home devices like thermostats, plugs lights, and more
  • IFTTT – If this, then that – Control countless online services and third-party smart devices that aren’t directly integrated.
  • Stream your security camera – Keep an eye on what matters by streaming your security camera on your TV using Google Home and Chromecast or a TV with Chromecast built-in.

Does Google Home cost money?

At between $99 and $149, this speaker is set at a fairly good price. Its the intended improvements going forward that should add value. If you would like to purchase a speaker that is portable then this Google Home smart speaker is perfect.

Tips On Investing In Property

OBrien Real Estate property investment tips Melbourne

How to invest in the real estate market.

No one can predict with any certainty how the real estate market will trend. However, there are lessons to learn from those who have been property investors for many years. If you follow certain principles you can increase your wealth over time whilst owning an asset.

With every positive upturn in property, there is an inevitable downturn. But if you hold your property over a long period of time you should see your equity grow. So, how do you minimise the risk prior to making a real estate purchase? There are multiple property forums and advisors out there.  Take your time and talk to as many people as possible who are experienced in property investment. There are many people out there who are happy to advise you on the best path. And they will do this freely.

Property investment tips Melbourne

We have created a few tips on the basic principles of property investment.

1. Think like a tenant and make a list of requirements

  • Generous sized bedrooms with ample wardrobe space.
  • Parking space
  • Separate laundry facilities
  • A living area that is comfortable
  • What are the neighbours like?

2. Property access that is close to amenities

In an ideal world, your property is at the end of a court and only two blocks from a school, shopping centre, public transport and healthcare facilities. These are factors that will help your property grow in value. Also, properties in these locations tend to hold their value if there is a negative correction in the market.

3. Do your homework

As they say, buy the worst house in the best street. Look for the median price of properties in your desired suburb. See what the average annual capital growth and the 12-month capital growth is in that suburb. You can also find what the gross rental yield is for most suburbs via certain websites.

4. Increase the value quickly

If you have done your homework and have been patient in purchasing your home that is below the median price of other properties in your neighbourhood then you can quickly increase the value. Minor fixes can include some new paint, carpet and gardening. Do the blinds need replacing? Is the kitchen a little tired? There are multiple minor renovations that you can do to increase the value for a minimal cost. Factor in these costs before you purchase the property.

5. Refinance your investment property

Has your property increased in value over time? As a safeguard, you can refinance your property as a warranty against you losing your job. This is insurance that should enable you to keep up with your mortgage repayments.

6. Keep your tenants happy

Property management is a skill. Engage the services of a registered property manager and let them deal with the rent collection and any maintenance issues. Having tenants that pay their rent and maintain your property is gold. Make sure you have 12-month rental contracts that are bound by Government, State and local laws. A property manager should also furnish you with ready to submit tax accounting documents. You have gone to all the trouble in finding your property now let a professional manage it for you.

Buying Land To Build On

The positives of buying land and building a house

1. What are the advantages of buying land and building?

If you do your homework and get solid advice then building on the land you buy can be rewarding and profitable. Firstly, you can choose the design the home or choose from multiple layouts and live in an area you are comfortable in. Secondly, you can move into your home that is brand new.
Buying land to build on
There are many advantages to buying a parcel of land and building your own home. Purchasing land in an area that caters to schooling, shopping and leisure can appreciate markedly over time. Depending on your situation you may also be eligible for Government Home Grants.

As the build progresses you pay as you go. This is typically done in stages. The first stage being the purchase of the land. Then the completion of the floor followed by the roof, the lockup and finally the completion. So it is important to tailor your loan to suit these stages. This way you are under no obligation to pay the entire loan until all stages are complete.
Prior to making any commitment be aware of your loan agreement and the contract with the builder. Ask others who have gone down this path for advice. Go to forums and see how they rate their lender and builder. There is a mountain of information on the internet that can answer most questions and fears you have. Do your homework!

2. How to choose a block of land?

Make a list of requirements that will suit your lifestyle in the suburb and region.
The ideal scenario for any person or couple when buying land and building is being comfortable in the community. Common requirements are day care facilities, schools, shopping precincts, public transport and communal groups such as sporting clubs. Here is a broad list of requirements that can look for.

Services – What are your needs? Do you require childcare, schooling, medical facilities and public transport? If all these services are available then great. If not check with the local council and see what their plans are going forward.

Zoning – What is the council zoning for the suburb? Is the area only zone residential? Or, are there plans to incorporate commercial areas in the future? These are factors that can determine the value of your property as time passes. Find out if the area is targetted as a high-density population. Your suburb may look ideal in the beginning but the general makeup of the area can change dramatically over time. Enquire as to the possibility of sub-division of your land. Find out if you can add an extra dwelling such as a granny flat on your property.

The topography of your block – If your block is flat and without vegetation then there should be no expenses in relation to excavation and tree removal.

However, the removal of trees can cost you a lot of money. And are you able to remove all of the trees? You will need to see if there are any restrictions. If your block of land is on a slope then levelling the block will come at a price. Also, are there rocks on the property? If so, this adds more costs to your construction.

If your property is located in a high fire risk area then expect your insurance to be higher. This also includes the possibility of flooding. Once again add these questions onto your checklist.

3. Do I have to pay stamp duty?

You will pay Stamp Duty when you purchase the land. The build can commence construction when settlement is in place and the land is in your name. The ideal situation is to make a settlement happen when the building plans have been approved by the council. This contributes to minimising your borrowing fees.

However, you can choose to make one final payment to the builder after completion. In this case, the builder will buy the land and cover all building costs. The builder is paid once your loan comes into effect.

In this scenario, you will have to pay stamp duty on the full purchase price of your land and house. Other expenses will include stamp duty and solicitor’s fees on the land purchased. The builder’s loan costs including interest and fees. And finally, the construction costs.

4. Am I eligible for the First Home Owner Grant?

Here are some instances on how most state governments tend to subsidise those buyers buying a new home over an established one. In NSW the $7,000 First Home Owner Grant was discontinued in 2012, and there is now a $10,000 First Home Owner Grant for new homes available.

If you’re not a first-time buyer, you can still get a $5,000 grant for new homes – which means even if, for example, you’re after self-employed home loans for your second property, you can still benefit.

Similarly, in Queensland, the $15,000 Great Start Grant helps those buying or building a brand new home, while the Australian Capital Territory only targets new or renovated properties with its $12,500 grant.

If you are buying or building a new home in Victoria valued up to $750,000, you may be eligible for a First Home Owner Grant (FHOG). If you are eligible for the FHOG and the home you are buying is in regional Victoria, you will receive $20,000. If the home is not in regional Victoria, the grant is $10,000. The home must be less than five years old to be eligible for the FHOG.

First Home Owner Grant Information in each state of Australia
Australian Capital Territory
NSW
Northern Territory
Queensland
South Australia
Tasmania
Victoria
Western Australia

5. Who is the best land and construction lender?

You can start with banks and mortgage brokers. Also, you may want to consider the advice of a mortgage manager.

Some of the best advice will come from people who have already gone down the path of buying land and building their home on it. Or you may want to join a forum such as Home Renovation and Building Forum. There are literally thousands of topics that discuss all types of questions and experiences people have had when buying land and building.

Browse our list of land sales throughout Melbourne.

What Is The Minimum Deposit For A Home Loan

What is minimum deposit for home loan

How much do I need for a home loan?

Go back about 10 years and the majority of housing lenders would willingly give borrowers 100% of the loan to purchase a property. In some instances, they would lend up to 105% of the loan to valuation (LVR).

Times have changed today. Banks and mortgage broker companies have tightened their lending policies. The loan to valuation is not as generous as it used to be and certain stipulations have been put in place that borrowers need to meet.

Having said that here is a guide to what banks are willing to give and the deposit you will need when buying a home.
How much do i need for a home loan

Banks and Non-Bank Lenders

The four major banks Westpac, CommBank, ANZ and NAB will typically lend up to 95% of the value of the home. However, this is predicated on the borrower having employment, current savings and minimal debt. Of course, the amount of the loan will influence any lender on how much they can lend. The loan amount will also strongly influence the lender’s decision. To give yourself an approximate on home much you can borrow using a Home loan deposit calculator.

The non-banking lending sector also offers borrowers up to 95% of the property’s value. In addition to this, an extra 2% can be included to cover lenders mortgage insurance (LMI) capitalisation. In other words, the borrower can get a loan to 95% of the property and then add the cost of the LMI to the loan.

Let’s say the value of the property is at $500,000. The lender agrees to loan 95% or $475,000. You will need a $25,000 cash deposit. Now you have to add the cost of the lender’s mortgage insurance of 2% or $10,000. Now your loan amount is $485,00 or 97%.

What you need to qualify for a low-deposit home loan

1. Proven income history
Being able to service your loan is how lenders will determine your risk factor. Lenders also consider your ability to pay the mortgage should you lose your source of income or should your income reduce. If you are self-employed or earn your primary income from investments, you may be seen as a higher risk to a lender.

2. Savings Deposit
You will generally need to prove that you have saved 5% of the purchase price.

3. Clean credit history
You need to have a clear credit history over the past six months. All your bills should be paid on time without exception. This includes credit card repayments, rent, telephone and so on. Lenders can obtain credit history to see if you have applied for bankruptcy in the past or have had foreclosures.

4. Minimal debts
If you have a credit card then put the credit limit to the lowest possible amount. Lenders will include the credit limit as a debt. Let’s say you have a credit card with a credit limit of $5000 and you owe $2200 on the card. This will be seen as a $7200 debt by lenders. As a rule, people who have more than 7% of the property purchase price in unsecured debts such as personal loans and credit cards will struggle for approval.

5. Stable employment
It helps significantly if you have a strong employment history. And if you have been in your current job for at least six months. Your current income will also be a determinant of what you can borrow. Naturally, the more you earn will be evidence you can repay your home loan.
6. Your assets
Lenders will take into account any saleable assets the borrower has. These assets may need to be valued. Sometimes an asset is not worth what you think it is. Ideally, an independent registered valuer can put a price on the asset.

7. Age
Of course, lenders will take into account the age of the borrower. However, the main criteria will still be the amount of deposit the borrower has, their savings history and if there are any debts. What is the maximum age to obtain a home loan?

Industry stalwart of 30 years joins OBrien Real Estate

OBrien Real Estate is excited to welcome respected local agent Heather Steadman to the team. Heather has seen many changes, many challenges and many successes in the real estate industry. Heather joins the Oakleigh sales team with the more than 15 years’ local sales experience in the Glen Eira area.

Managing Director Dean O’Brien said “Heather has become one of the area’s most respected agents; winning the trust of her vendors and their buyers alike. I know Heather is proud to be amongst the founding members of the OBrien Oakleigh leadership team alongside Max Martinucci.

Max Martinucci said Heather being such an experienced agent and a family orientated person fits perfectly with building the ethos family and longevity within our sales team. Heather has sold over 25 properties over the last 12 months through the suburbs of Bentleigh, Bentleigh East, Murrumbeena, Caulfield and Ormond.

Heather said “The experience and energy I can bring to the team is welcomed at OBrien Oakleigh, I am excited to work with some fantastic and innovative team”.

Creating a Perfect Entertaining Backyard

Perfect backyard entertainment area

Backyards are not oil paintings. They’re not to be stared at and admired. They’re meant to be used. But for some reason, you haven’t quite managed to create a hub for your friends and family to enjoy. It’s nice enough, but it’s missing that ‘oomph’. In this guide, we’ll tell you how you can turn your boring outdoor space into a bonafide entertainment venue.

Seating is Key
The key to a good backyard party is making sure your guests are comfortable. If they have to sit on annoying plastic chairs that dig into your back or, even worse, the floor, they’ll make their excuses and leave your would-be party in a real hurry. Here’s our advice:
Backyard entertainment area

  • Varied options. You want seats in different areas, rather than just one big round circle. It gives people the chance to mingle with different crowds and people prefer small groups for a conversation.
  • Seats should have padding. If you can’t help having cheap plastic seats, for example when running a big event, then the very least you want to do is have padding.
  • Seats that are made to mingle. You want seats that will encourage conversations. Huge chairs that lean back are great for a spot of reading, but it won’t keep the chat flowing.

Sort Out Your Garden
Untrimmed hedges. Overgrown lawn. Dead bushes. Creepy crawlies everywhere. If this sounds like your garden, it’s time to sort it out:

  • Take care of your lawn. Your lawn is going to perform a key function in your backyard parties. Keep it healthy and green, rather than a yellowing mess. If it does end up changing its colour, it is important to consider the factors that can lead to discolouration, besides lack of irrigation as the main culprit.
  • Plants and trees are a good thing. They’re nice to look at and offer shade during those warm summer months.
  • Garden paths. Worried that your guests are going to trample all over your garden? Create clear garden paths for your guests to follow.
  • Prune. Plants that look overgrown or messy is not a good thing. It’s not just the aesthetic part of it, but they also tend to get in the way and are just annoying.

Temperature Control
Guests are fragile creatures. You want to ensure they’re kept as comfortable as possible, which often means providing a way to keep warm or cool down as necessary:

  • Buy a decent fan. We’re not talking your tiny desk fan. If you’re used to hot summers, provide the right kind with multiple settings.
  • The shade is important. We all love the sun, but spending too long in it can be uncomfortable and it’s also unhealthy.
  • Blankets. As it gets cooler into the evening, guests will start to feel the chill. Have a few cosy blankets available for them to wrap up in.
  • Light a fire. This may not be possible for everyone, but it sure is nice. If you have space and can afford it, think about a fire pit.

Choose the Right Sound System
Your sound system has worked for every indoor party you’ve had. So it’ll work just fine for your backyard event, right? Wrong. Here are the factors you need to consider:

  • The elements. You don’t want your speakers to malfunction the minute a little rain starts to drop.
  • Ramp up the power. In your house, you have walls to contain the sound. Outdoors, it’s all wide open space. This means you need to ensure your speakers have the right amount of power. Bear this in mind when testing units in stores.
  • Cover the zones. If you have a large garden, it’ll be made up of different ‘zones’ (think of them as separate rooms. You need to ensure the music isn’t super loud at one end, and a faint whisper on the other.
  • Your own for small gatherings, hire for big events. If you usually have small gatherings that spill into your patio, a small set is more than enough. When you do branch out to a big event every once in a while, you can easily hire speakers. It’ll be far cheaper overall.

Clean Up After a Party
The worst part of a party? When everybody leaves. And no, we’re not being sentimental sops with this statement. We’re talking about the empty plastic cups, the leftover food, the dirty dishes, and a lawn that looks like it’s just had a football team run all over it. To keep your backyard in top entertainment condition, do this:

  • Use tablecloths. You don’t want your lovely wooden table to be ruined with spilt drinks or ketchup stains.
  • Use plastic plates and cutlery. You definitely don’t want to use your best china when it comes to garden parties. We recommend (reusable) plastic or, even better, ceramic instead. Don’t throw them away, if possible. Let’s keep it environment-friendly. If you absolutely must go for disposable, check that they are recyclable.
  • Buy garden trash cans. They’re a little ugly, but they work. Get one of those huge garden trash cans so that people can keep things clean for you.
  • Everyone helps out. It’s not just up to you. Grab your partner, kids, or best friends and ask them to give you a helping hand. Doing a clean-up job alone is one of the worst things.
  • Clean the grill right away. Your grill/BBQ requires a little TLC to keep it in tip-top condition. It’s annoying, but it’s got to be done. Clean up that BBQ as soon as you can, making the job easier than if you leave it for days/weeks.

Remember to Relax
You’ve created that perfect space. You’re ready for the first guests to arrive. But then the anxiety starts creeping in. What if you’re boring? Will people like the food and drink? What if they ruin the garden?

Before you cancel the whole thing, remember to relax. This is meant to be fun, remember? Take the tension out of those muscles and breathe. Your friends and family are coming to see you because they like you. Who doesn’t like a good BBQ? And finally, we’ve already told you how to clean up after your guests leave. In short, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about.

Follow the aforementioned steps, and you’ll have a perfect entertainment backyard that can rival any festival venue. And that’s all there is to it. Now put that hot dog on the grill, grab yourself a cool beverage, put on some party mood music, and wait for the fun to begin.

Author – Bethany Seton
Related articles –
Make your backyard a safer place to play

Make Your Backyard a Safer Place to Play

Tips on making backyard safer

Tips on making your backyard safer

Kids love to go into the backyard to have fun. But they also have a knack for finding dangerous objects and places that could harm them. Making your backyard a safer place will prevent many outdoor injuries caused by sharp objects, broken wood, unsafe water, harmful plants and even wildlife. Here are some easy ways to ensure that kids stay safe while they play around in your backyard.
Make your backyard safer
Comb the yard to remove hazards
Before you let the kids go into the yard, comb the ground carefully to remove rocks, sharp sticks, bottle covers and old containers. Cover all protruding wires and pipes. Fill up holes, abandoned wells, ponds and areas that can become pools or puddles after heavy rain. Remember that little kids can drown in as little as one or two feet of water. Stack up all wood products like firewood in a place that’s out of reach of kids. Children are usually tempted to climb them and they can lose their balance and fall. Some lumber can also serve as hiding places for snakes, rodents and harmful insects.

Provide security around your pool
Drowning in pools is a major cause of infant death before the age of four. So you need to do all you can to prevent accidents in the pool. Check for your local pool safety guidelines, and install the appropriate fencing around the pool – the barrier should at least be 1.2m high when you have a minimum of 300mm of water.
Ensure that you obey all local pool safety regulations and there are no gaps greater than 10cm below the gates or panels. Lock any doors that lead to the pool area. Additionally, you can add sensors to these doors for added peace of mind. In addition to your safety precautions, provide as much personal supervision as you can.

Use safe modern outdoor play structures
Do away with the old pipe-frame swing sets and invest in new inspiring outdoor play structures made of PVC, rope, and timber. Check the fastenings, footing, ropes and smoothness of the timber. Ensure that there are no openings that can harm a child’s head or body.
While the kids are playing on slides or swings, they may take a fall. So it will be great if you can create a soft landing surface at the base of the play equipment. Avoid setting up play equipment with a concrete or asphalt base. If the equipment contains swings, let it be at least two or more meters from the nearest wall, tree or fence. Also, keep the sandbox covered so cats don’t start using it as a litter box. Take off all loose nails and splinters from the box and fill it with clean river or ocean sand.

Set safety rules for your kids and their friends
Write out the safety rules for your kids and place them where they will easily see them. Do this during winter or spring so that they will learn them and encourage their friends to obey them when they come to visit. Some of the safety guidelines should include:
* Always wear shoes that cover the toes
* Don’t put on loose clothes or items that can get trapped in equipment
* Make proper use of all play equipment – don’t stand on swings, walk up the slides or jump off any high platform
* Never push, chase or play rough while you are on swings, climbing walls or slides.
* Put backpacks, bikes and other items out of the play area so you don’t fall over them.

Make a fence
Set up a fence to ensure that your kids and pets always play within your yard. The fence should have gates that close automatically. If it’s not possible to set up a fence, create well-defined boundaries where your kids can play. If you’re particularly worried about the wellbeing of your children, you can also use a GPS tracker to keep on top of their movements. This device will keep you at peace and enable you to trace your children quickly if they stray away from your yard.

Create Ground Surfaces that are child-friendly
Restrict play on hard surfaces to activities like bike riding. Beneath the play equipment, put a 6-inch layer of coarsely ground fir bark, wood chips or sand. Don’t use sawdust since it may contain metallic particles (nails) and could cause allergies. Mould and mildew on your patio are also possible allergens, so you should consider pressure washing once a year. Where possible grow a grass lawn. It provides a broad and soft ground for a variety of children’s games. When you purchase grass seed mixtures, avoid those with clover to prevent the influx of bees.

Playing outdoors can enhance your child’s physical and social growth. If you follow these safety guidelines, you can help your kids to enjoy their play time without having any major injuries.

Author ~ Bethany Seton

Making a Great First Impression with Your Entrance Hallway

Entrance Hallway

Impress With Your Entrance Hallway

First impression entrance hallway
For many, an entryway is nothing more but a small room to greet guests and store shoes and jackets. Its functionality has become dominant and the potential for style and design forgotten. However small this space may be, it still is the first thing your guests experience when they enter your home. And there are no second chances to make a first impression. Let’s take a closer look at some of the ways in which you can transform your hallway into a stylish and memorable space.

Lighting
There’s no reason you can’t be both practical and fashionable at the same time. An entryway is rarely a well-lit area, which gives you a great opportunity for some elegant lighting. While you should always strive towards having sufficient light, that doesn’t mean it needs to be as bright as possible all the time. Opt for a layered lighting system and combine natural light with a hanging bulb or pendant lights, lamps or spotlights. A great lighting piece can add much to the aesthetic aspect of your home.

Mirrors
Having a hallway mirror comes as a natural choice. You’ll always want to have that last glance at yourself before you step out. Choosing a mirror really lets you show your creativity. Whatever the size may be, a magnificent frame will truly make it a piece of art. A large mirror will be the focal point, and a small one will add accent. A great decision either way.

Space
On the one hand, there is much you can do to add that touch of amazing to this small part of your home, yet sometimes, it is really too small to allow either functionality or style. This is the point when you should consider making it wider – removing or repositioning the walls to get that much needed extra space. Not only will you finally have that storage room you were craving, but you will also literally make room for creativity. Furthermore, any investment in the improvement of your home will ultimately pay off once you decide to sell. Indeed, in a recent study, 89% of Australians believe that renovations will increase the value of their property, so it’s a practical and strategic move.

Functional furniture
Once you get the desired size, it’s time to talk furniture. Storage is still a priority, so look for multifunctional space-saving pieces that complement the rest of your home. There is also the option of having wall hanging pieces which will allow for some additional space. You and your guests will definitely find it more comfortable to actually sit down to get in or out of your shoes, thus a bench is a way to go.
You can definitely never have too much coat storage. There is an array of stunning wall hook designs that were made to impress, which can come with a small shelf on top so you can store smaller items.
Drawers are a lifesaver when it comes to practicality. They can be part of an elegant piece of furniture with a tabletop to hold a lamp or a decorative item. But what they hold inside is nobody’s business but your own. When you storm into the house after a long day, you’re free to empty your pockets into it. Always pretty on the outside, the mess inside always stays secret.

Colour
The colour scheme of such a small space speaks volumes about your taste. Choose a rug that really pops and adds a vibrant touch to the whole space. It’ll draw attention to the floor as well as emphasize the length of the entryway.
The least expensive, yet the most effective way to update any room is paint. If you lack natural light and your hallway is small, choosing the right paint will make it appear wider and brighter. Another way to light up your walls is wallpaper. They have the power to create an illusion of space and display bold prints that will add a dimension of grace to your hall. It needs to respect the architecture, but also reflect the homeowner’s preferences.
If you have enough space left on your walls, and the décor allows it, why not design your own art gallery? It is a great place to display a collection of art and photos that are meaningful to you and your family. It is firstly there for your eyes, but your guests will appreciate the personal touch.

Greenery and flowers
Let’s not forget about greenery. Add some life by grouping potted plants at different heights or add a large bouquet of flowers into space. Interesting tall floor plants like cacti and large palms will surely make a statement.

Do not underestimate your entrance hallway. This small space can do wonders for the overall appeal of your home.

Author ~ Bethany Seton

Preparing Your Property For Rent

Preparing your home to rent

How to maximise your rent return

So you own an investment property and are looking for a tenant. The presentation of the property is the key to receiving the best possible rent return. In order to achieve the maximum rental per week, all areas of the property should be clean and in order. In order let’s begin with a checklist of to-dos.

1. SECURITY and SMOKE ALARMS
Make sure the property is fitted with certified smoke alarms. Ensure all doors and windows are to a standard set out in your insurance policy.

  • It is has been a Government requirement for smoke alarms to be installed in all properties (houses and units). This includes all owner-occupied and rental properties. Every property listed for sale and/or rented must have minimum smoke alarms installed
  • Prior to leasing your property have all your smoke alarms checked by a professional and receive a compliance certificate
  • Check your power board circuit has a safety switch
  • If your windows have locks make sure the keys are available
  • Provide at least 2 sets of keys for each lock on the house

Preparing house for rent

2. WATER EFFICIENCY

  • Check for leaking and dripping taps
  • Consider installing water efficient devices and acquiring a water efficiency certificate from a trusted plumber. Once acquired, you can pass on 100% of the water consumption charges back to the tenant

The information below is sourced directly from the Residential Tenancies Authorities (RTA) website.

Water Charging:

Property managers/owners are allowed to pass on the full cost of water consumption, provided:

  • the rental property is individually metered (or water is delivered by vehicle), and
  • the rental property is water efficient, and
  • the tenancy agreement states the tenant must pay for water consumption

3. PEST CONTROL

The previous owner or tenant may have had pets on the property. You can “flea bomb” your home yourself or employ a professional pest controller.

  • A professional pest controller should provide you with a certificate of completion

4. FLOOR COVERINGS

  • Have your carpets cleaned professionally
  • If you have vinyl coverings then check for tears
  • Check for floor tile cracks

5. WINDOWS BLINDS and CURTAINS

  • Clean the glass, frames, tracks and flyscreens
  • Make sure the windows open and close properly
  • Cover all opening windows with fly screens
  • Dust the blinds and ensure they are in good condition and work properly
  • Installing tie-downs (cleats) or looped-cords minimises the risk of children being entangled in blind cords. Secure internal blind cords so that dangerous loops cannot be formed.

6. GARDEN and GUTTERING

  • Cut the grass to the desired level and do the edges
  • Take out all weeds from garden beds
  • Check your guttering for leaves and other debris
  • You can install guttering guards if you want
  • Maintain any trees and shrubs on your property

7. GARBAGE

Make sure you have all the required garbage disposal bins. Remove all debris from the property which can include bricks, timber, metal and leftover building materials.

8. ENGAGE A PROFESSIONAL CLEANER

Now that you have your property for a tenant you can engage the services of a professional cleaner. Make sure the cleaner has references and reviews from previous clients. Clean your property from the ceiling to the floor including windows.
Your cleaner will clean the entire home which should include the following.

  • All lights and fittings
  • Kitchen appliances, fittings and sinks
  • Bathroom fittings, shower walls and screens
  • Floors, walls and ceilings
  • Inside and outside of all windows

We suggest you hire a professional cleaner. It is not a legal obligation. Once the cleaner has finished you should take photos of all the rooms for your reference.

9. INSURANCE

Compare insurance policies from as many agencies as possible. Provide all the certificates you have acquired for work done on your property. Take photos of the inside and outside of your property.

Did you know you can protect yourself from financial loss caused by damage to your rental property by your tenants or their guests, and loss of income due to unpaid rent?

A landlord’s policy will include accidental damage caused by tenants, theft of your property by your tenants, malicious damage caused by tenants, and loss of rent due to tenants leaving without paying.

We suggest you have the following:

  • Public liability insurance
  • Building and contents insurance
  • Landlord insurance.

10. ENGAGE PROPERTY MANAGEMENT PROFESSIONALS

OBrien Real Estate understands property management. Our dedicated team of property managers collectively maintain over 3600 properties. We know how to present a property prior to lease. We will maximise your return on investment.

We manage:

  • What you can claim for taxation
  • Full tax accounting files
  • Maintenance issues
  • We stay abreast of property management laws and legislation
  • We have a database of potential tenants
  • All tenants are security checked

OBrien Real Estate manages over 3600 properties. We are experts and qualified property managers. Contact us for a free lease appraisal.