Buying your first home

Do I need to keep the property I’ve just bought insured u... It’s wise to insure from the moment you have signed a contract to buy your home. Risk passes from seller to pur...
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Buying your first home?

The following advice is of a general nature only and intended as a broad guide. The advice should not be regarded as legal, financial or real estate advice. You should make your own inquiries and obtain independent professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances before making any legal, financial or real estate decisions. Click here for full Terms of Use.

What are the free online resources that every real estate investor should know about? (1)


The rise of the internet over the last 10 years has changed property investing materially – and the number of free resources that you can access right at your fingertips, any time of day or night, is astounding.

Here are some recommended “go to” free real estate websites and resources for pushing your investments that one step further.


Much-used and much-loved, Google Alerts can be set up for news on any area of your liking. Property Observer editor at large Jonathan Chancellor suggested in his speech at the Home Show that setting up alerts for your chosen suburb or locality plus keywords like ‘infrastructure’ or ‘government spending’ are possible approaches to ensure you buy in ahead of the pack. This scrapes local news online, as well as other commentary, and sends it straight to you.

You can set them up to be as frequent or infrequent as you like, all you need to do is send them to your Google account. You may want to also consider using an RSS reader or a bookmarking system.


While it’s suggested that you peruse a number of listings websites (not all agents list on every portal), it’s worthwhile having a favourite that you can check in on regularly. Whether it’s realestateVIEW,, Domain, Homely, Homehound or another, be active in viewing them. Property price guidance might come from sites like onthehouse. Keep an eye on areas of interest, new listings in your price range and even how much properties are renting for – this will quickly show you changes in the market, and what is selling. You’ll also get an idea of the active agents in the area. This brings us to…


It’s good to know the active real estate agents you can call and speak to, and potentially list your property with in future. RateMyAgent is one of these sites, that shows you which agents are the busiest and selling the most and provides some localised data.


Such an easy portal to use, Google Earth and Google Maps will tell you a huge amount of invaluable information and orientate you instantly. Whether it’s using the Street View portal to get a better look at just how close it is to the main road, and whether you can see any graffiti in the pictures, it can also show you how close the property is to the nearest school, shops, public transport and even how close the suburb is to the capital. This is a first stop when researching a new area.


If you’re a landlord, then get yourself armed with information. All of the legislation is online, and now there are even hubs that provide guides and assistance for landlords and investors. Consider spending some time on different Tenants Union websites as well, these help quickly show you common renters’ concerns and how you might assist as a property owner. You will also want to have the details for your local tribunal on hand.

Legislation by state and territory:

New South Wales


Western Australia

South Australia

Northern Territory





Investing in property doesn’t have to be a lonely task and that doesn’t mean you always have to spend money to attend groups and meetups. A number of forums exist for you to speak your mind with other property buyers, and naysayers. From Somersoft to renovation forum Home One, whatever your investment tastes there’s something for you. A number of industry experts are often also online and able to answer questions via the forums.


Missed that episode of The Block that everyone’s discussing (it gets tense when it’s up against My Kitchen Rules)? Or want to get some background on Location Location Location? They stream them through their websites, and at least include past seasons for you to get your fix.


The National Building Code of Australia is soon to be freely available online under new changes - great news for owner builders and anyone considering a structural renovation. And, in the last year, we've seen a crop of new websites offering useful assistance in all areas of investing. Genworth launched their LMI Toolkit in November last year, and new website and app realAs believes they have the algorithm that will accurately determine what a property will sell for (with a success rate of usually within 5%). Another startup, Next For Sale, allows potential sellers to list before they are actually sellers.

What is an easement on a property and how does it affect me?

An easement allows another party to access, cross or use your land for a specified purpose. Some properties have easements such as:
  • Drainage easements – for sewerage, stormwater etc.
  • Electricity easements – for underground or overhead power lines
  • If you want to put in a pool and find an easement across that particular area, you will be prevented from putting the pool in.

Which is the better purchase; a new or existing home?

Buying old
  • Older properties are sometimes cheaper than new ones, depending on the location and condition of the property
  • Older homes offer charming period features and, often, higher ceilings, quality timber floors and unique architectural features
  • Older properties may need renovation of major systems such as heating/cooling, wiring, plumbing, roofing. But, they can offer significantly more margin for turn around and profit

Buying new
  • New homes are designed to suit today’s fashions and lifestyles. They’re more likely to appeal to a wider market of tenants if well located
  • New properties may be entitle you to claim depreciation, giving you extra tax benefits

What is land tax?

Land tax is an annual tax payable by owners of land. Land tax is administered by your state or territory government and is applicable everywhere except in the Northern Territory. It does not apply to your principal place of residence but does apply to every investment property you own.

Do I need to keep the property I’ve just bought insured until settlement?

It’s wise to insure from the moment you have signed a contract to buy your home. Risk passes from seller to purchaser, immediately upon purchase, even though you have not settled and taken possession of your new home.

How can I renovate to get the greatest return?

Renovating a property can pay dividends, but you owe it to yourself and your wallet to make sure whatever projects you undertake offer a high return on investment, says First National Real Estate.

A new coat of paint, built-in wardrobes and replacing carpet with hardwood floors may make a home more attractive to renters and buyers, but not all renovations are created equal.

Focus on kitchens and bathrooms

An open plan living room may set prospective buyers to salivating, but kitchens and bathrooms tend to be of greater importance. This means it can pay off big to update your kitchen and bathrooms with new fixtures and appliances.

Of course, completely redoing a kitchen or bathroom can be an expensive endeavour, so don’t gut a space if a simple facelift will do. Upgrading appliances, installing new lighting fixtures and refinishing surfaces can go a long way.

Avoid high-price items

A swimming pool may be a luxurious and sought-after amenity, but it very rarely equals a significant return on investment.
Firstly, installing a swimming pool will cost you plenty. Secondly, many home buyers are simply unwilling to pay the extra costs that come with maintaining a swimming pool. For every buyer a pool might attract, many more may be turned off by it.
Also keep in mind the safety issues and higher insurance premiums that often come with swimming pools.

Appeal to a wide variety

Renovations can be a great way to express your personal tastes and passions, but remember that renovations that maximise return should appeal to the largest number of potential renters and buyers possible.

This means avoiding design choices that may turn off most people even if they please you. Changes and styles that last and appeal to a wide variety of people are a much better investment than singular renovations that might age poorly.

How can I conquer my first home buyer jitters?

For many people, buying a first home can be a scary thought. After all, you’re taking on a valuable asset with a significant home loan to fund it.

You might feel dizzy at the thought of jumping headfirst into a property market with many houses to choose from. Perhaps your palms start to get sweaty when you wonder how to submit a competitive offer.

But buying a first home doesn’t always have to be such a nerve-wracking experience – there are many ways you can help yourself to conquer first home buyer jitters.

Do your due diligence

As a property is a significant purchase, it makes sense to perform the proper due diligence before you finalise your purchase.

Due diligence involves keeping an eye on market trends, obtaining a professional inspection for any potential purchases and putting in research regarding amenities and neighbourhoods.

This will help to calm any fears you may have about the condition of the property or the area before you finally sign the contract of sale.

Get your finance done and dusted

Before you enter the real estate market, it pays to get your finance pre-approved. This will help you find out how much you can borrow so you can search for a home with confidence.

Instead of looking for a home while worrying if it’s too expensive, you can have your search parameters set after meeting with a lender.

Don’t forget to factor in other costs you may incur in the purchasing process, such as legal fees, loan establishment and stamp duty – otherwise you might find you blow your budget!

Stick with an agent you trust

As a first home buyer, it’s likely you’ll want to have someone you can trust by your side. From submitting your very first offer or working your way through a sea of bids at an auction, it’s important to have someone guide you on your journey.

A trustworthy and knowledgeable real estate agent is the best person to help you through this as they have a sound understanding of the market and the jitters first home buyers can have. After that, it’ll be smooth sailing on the path to homeownership.

What are the most cost effective renovations?

Performing a few renovations here and there can even help you to add some value to your home or investment property - an important step if you're thinking of selling soon!

Here are three budget renovations you might want to think about:

Refresh and repaint

Have you ever walked through your home and spotted countless chips, scratches and marks on your walls and ceilings? Perhaps your wallpaper has begun to peel or mould has gotten the better of your bathroom paint?

A few licks of paint throughout your home can do wonders. It's also an inexpensive and creative way to make your home look new again. Repaint cupboards, walls, ceilings and drawers to freshen up the interior of your home.

Tidy up the backyard

Green thumb or not, it's easy to get right into your backyard and give it a makeover. All you will need are some gardening tools, a few helping hands and a skip to tidy up your backyard and get it looking neat and tidy.

Topsoil, bark and plants are cheap additions to your backyard and can turn your garden from an overgrown patch into a manicured entertainer's paradise.

While you're at it, why not re-stain and refurbish some of your neglected outdoor furniture?

Replace fixtures and fittings

Have a look at the most-used items in your home and determine whether they're in need of replacement. Items such as taps, door handles, wall switches and light fittings can all easily become worn down over time due to overuse.

However, they're also not that expensive to replace. You might want to update some of these to ensure they tie in with the new decor in your home and are more functional.

Remember, DIY renovations require you to stick to a strict budget. Always keep this in mind when you're purchasing tools or hiring extra help.

Are there any tips and tricks for an auction newbie?

The chance to market and sell a home within a set timeframe, while making sure full market value is achieved, has led to auctions becoming a popular way of buying real estate. However, if you're an auction newbie, the whole process can seem a little scary at first glance.

One of the best ways to ensure a successful auction purchase is to prepare well in advance and perform as much research as you can. Then you can be sure you will enter the market with the confidence you need.

Sort out your finances early

The first step when purchasing real estate by auction is to get your finances in order as soon as possible. Get in touch with a mortgage broker or lender to determine how much you can borrow.

This will give you an idea of your budget and what sort of price range you should be looking for.

You can also get your home loan pre-approved, which is definitely useful once auction day rolls around. Pre-approved finance can last for a few months, so this should be sufficient time to look for a home.

Set a bidding limit

Once you have your budget in mind, you can set your bidding limit. It's crucial to stick to this figure on auction day to prevent spending more than you can afford. Remember to leave some space to accommodate any last-minute bids, but know your absolutely final limit.

Select a strategy

Before the auction starts, it's best to determine a bidding strategy. Some buyers prefer to bid straight off the bat as soon as the auction starts, while others wait until the last few minutes as things begin to really heat up.

A few buyers may jump in with a large bid to knock others out of the water, or some people might up the ante with a series of small increments.

Whichever strategy you decide to adopt, make sure you keep your budget in mind and your feelings at bay!

How do I choose interior paint colours for my home?

A splash of colour can make a world of difference, transforming a boring room into a space you and your guests will want to spend time in. Of course, as with most things in life, a little moderation can also go a long way.

When selecting interior paint colours, it's important to walk the line between self-expression and how your design choices can impact your home's value in the future.

Paint is part of a whole

Before choosing a colour, keep in mind that the paint on your walls doesn't exist in a vacuum. It will interact with everything from your floor to your furniture, so try to have a general mood or design scheme in mind before opting for a colour.

After all, a gorgeous sea foam green won't do you much good if it clashes with your wallpaper, carpeting or couch.

Size matters

The size of a room has a lot to do with the types of colours you should choose. Darker colours can make a space seem smaller, while lighter colours have the opposite effect. Keep this in mind when selecting a shade.

Heat up or cool off

Different colours also offer different feelings. Reds, yellows and browns can make a room feel warmer and more cosy, while blues, greens and violets provide a cooler, breezier feel.

Explore accents

Sometimes a single wall can do more to set a room apart than painting every wall the same colour. The same holds true for doorjambs and window frames. Sometimes less is more, especially if the colour chosen is particularly loud.

Look to the future

You should use paint colour selections as a way to express yourself and your tastes, but keep in mind how this might affect the resale value of your home down the line. Not everyone will be crazy about a zebra-print ceiling, after all.
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