Buying your first home

How do I work out which areas will suit my price range? Visit First National Real Estate’s website, enter your budget, and we’ll let you know where we have prope...
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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 is the best strategy to win when buying real estate by auction?

While it may all come down to who has the deepest pockets on the day, sometimes how you bid will influence just how high the other bidders are prepared to go.

However, the most important factor with a real estate auction is to decide what is your realistic limit in advance. Be prepared to be a little flexible, but don’t allow yourself to get carried away with emotion. Here are First National’s tips:
  • Obtain pre-approval for your loan before the auction. This provides you with confidence that the bank will support your highest bid.
  • Some people like to enter the bidding early and then keep bidding strongly in the hope that other buyers will find their tenacity off putting
  • Some buyers like to open the bidding with a very high bid but this can risk paying too much for the property
  • Others prefer to wait until the bidding appears to be exhausted, before starting to compete
  • If two bidders keep upping their bids by similar amounts, some buyers believe it is advantageous to suddenly bid with a stronger, larger increase than has been generally taking place throughout the auction. This is thought to convince competitors that you are determined to succeed and will just keep bidding
  • If the auctioneer indicates that the property is to be ‘passed in’, make sure that you are the highest bidder if you wish to have the ‘first right of refusal’ following the auction. This means you will be first to have the opportunity to negotiate with the vendor
Whatever your style, the one thing that rarely works to anybody’s benefit is being loud and obnoxious. Other bidders sometimes say they are prepared to pay much more to make sure that somebody that is rude does not get their way.

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


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.

How can I renovate a bathroom on a shoestring budget?

Along with the kitchen, bathrooms are one of the most important assets of any property so it pays to invest wisely in their renovation. As with all property investment, careful consideration will help gain you the maximum return.

First National’s top tips for renovating on a limited budget are:
  • Your goal should be to make your bathroom bigger, better and brighter
  • Aim for glossy tiles on the walls as they have high perceived value
  • Choose matt or textured tiles on your floor – they look clean for longer and are less slippery.
  • Explore tile factories and online shopping outlets, instead of retail tile showrooms - savings can be huge
  • Consider your target buyer - cater to their style and storage needs
  • Use quality towels and home décor items to best present your renovation

What are my obligations to neighbours when renovating an apartment?

Renovating real estate is a great way to add value, improve salability, or increase your rental return. However, your neighbours will likely be less than thrilled with the noise and disruption your renovations will cause other residents in your strata plan.

First National recommends the following course of action:
  • Inform the Owners Corporation, residents and immediate neighbours of the date you will start renovating and when you anticipate finishing
  • Comply with council and building rules and guidelines around safety, noise and rubbish removal i.e. what hours and days of the week are works permitted?
  • Be considerate but don’t pander to unreasonable resident demands
  • Make sure your tradesmen don’t obstruct driveways or hallways while working
  • Make sure lifts are properly cloaked with protective curtains
  • Assure that tradesmen clean up at the end of each day so residents are not adversely affected

What do I need to think about when buying a property with a friend?

83.5% of Australians say they wouldn’t even conceive buying a property with one of their friends. However, for many single Australians, buying with a friend solves the challenge of how to get a foot on the first rung of the property ladder.

So, if you’re considering buying real estate with a friend, take our advice and cover these bases:

  • Use a co-ownership property agreement. This sets the ground rules from the outset and outlines what your expectations are and seriousness of the commitment. As a co-ownership agreement is a legal document, there will be clear steps to follow in a disagreement.
  • Determine how property costs will be shared
  • Have an exit strategy. Whatever can go wrong might go wrong so you need to plan for the worst and hope for the best. Things to consider are:
                    o    What happens if one of you dies, becomes seriously ill or disabled?
                    o    Loses their job
                    o    Goes bankrupt
                    o    Develops interpersonal problems with partners, friends or family
                    o    Your property has to be sold at a loss

  • Choose the correct title on the property. A ‘joint tenants’ title means that, following the death of one of the borrowers, the property will automatically transfer to the co-owner and not those specified by the deceased in a will. Tenants-in-common is the other type of title whereby the death of a co-borrower results in the property rights passing onto those nominated in their will. This is the better situation for passing on assets to a spouse, relatives and dependents.
  • Understand how the title you choose affects your borrowing power.
  • Get adequate property insurance cover. You will be bound by a co-borrowing agreement so it is important that you are covered if the conditions are proscriptive during times of financial stress. Consider life insurance options, health cover, income protection and home and contents insurance
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