Young couples

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...
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Young couples

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 should I do to prepare for an open inspection?

Everybody knows first impressions are everything. So when you open up the doors of your home to the public for an open inspection, you'll want to ensure it's looking its absolute best.

Accentuate its features

Your home might possess many great features - and now is the time to really show them off.

Depending on what the season is, you might want to showcase some features more than others. In winter, light the fireplace or turn on the heating to demonstrate how warm and cosy your home can be.

Alternatively, open up all windows, blinds and doors in warmer months to let cool breezes flow into the home.

Throw out your junk

Open inspections are a time to clear out all of your clutter. Not only will this reduce how much stuff you'll have to take with you when you move, but it will also help to make your house look tidier too.

If you really need to keep all of your possessions, consider hiring some storage space for the short term.

Leave them to it

When people start arriving to look at your home, it's a good idea to pop out for a while. This will leave prospective buyers to feel more relaxed and free to roam your property.

If you have a dog, take this opportunity to go for a walk with it, as this will get both of you out of the house. Make sure you put you pet’s bowls out of sight as well.

Give your home a facelift

Have you had a good, long look at the front of your house? Does it look welcoming and attractive? If the weeds have popped up and there are nasty oil stains on your driveway, you might want to think about giving your home a quick facelift.

The front of your home is the first place a prospective buyer will look, so it pays to make this part clean and tidy. Don't forget to wash all of your windows and pull back the curtains, too!

What are the signs that you need a new home?

Moving into a new home can be a hassle. Nobody really enjoys packing up all of their belongings and carting them off to a new place. This can lead many people to stay in their houses for a long period of time, despite their needs or the family's changing over time.

But sometimes moving house is a necessary part of life. Whether it's due to a steadily growing family, children moving out or shifting for a new job, there are many reasons why you might need to relocate.

It's no longer what you want

There may be many things you like about your home, but over time, there may be other things you have begun to dislike.
For instance, perhaps you liked your home's proximity to a nearby primary school for your children.

But if your kids have all grown up and moved out, you might not appreciate the noise anymore.

You're strapped for room

When you bought your home, you may have thought two bedrooms would be sufficient. However, since you moved in, your family might have expanded - rapidly.

If you're so strapped for room that all of your kids are sharing bedrooms, it might be a sign that you need to move on to a bigger house.

Maybe you've accumulated a lot of belongings over the years and your garage is now full-to-bursting, bringing about the need for a home with an attic and other storage capabilities.


Over time your neighbourhood can change. The house next door might have once been occupied by a nice family, but has since become rented student accommodation. A busy shopping mall may have been erected at the end of your street. Perhaps the owner of the house next door has now become the neighbour from hell.

These are all good reasons why you might want to consider moving to a brand new area, as being happy in your home is extremely important.

If one or more of these signs is evident in your home, get in touch with a First National Real Estate agent to get closer to finding a house more suitable for your needs.

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 should I present a spare room for open inspections?

Opening up your doors to strangers to inspect your home may seem a little unsettling as an idea. The pedantic side of you might spring straight for the cleaning cupboard to ensure your home is in tip-top condition. Another part of you might go through your house to make sure each room looks its best. The shy person within may say, no, this is no way to market my home.

The spare room is often an area that isn't used for any other than storage. Whether it's a few bits of mismatched furniture or old boxes, many homeowners can put all types of odds and ends here and leave them to sit for a while.

If you're about to host open inspections at your house, or you're only permitting private appointments, but you don't know what to do with your spare room, here are three simple ideas to help you.


Show off the practicality of your home by installing a desk, swivel chair and a computer. Many people now have the ability to work from home and by creating a quiet, peaceful area, you can show prospective buyers what your property has to offer.


Grab a few bookshelves, a comfy chair, rug and a footrest and you can easily convert your spare room into a little library. Play around with the decor to get the feel you want - whether it's a light and airy space or warm, cosy reading nook.

Fitness room

Have you got a couple of pieces of fitness gear lying around? Convert your spare room into a small gym. Whether it's a Swiss ball, yoga mat, a treadmill or a couple of dumbbells, it's easy to show the potential the room has as a home gym.

If you happen to be short by a couple of items, ask a friend or family member to lend you a few things. Don't leave your spare room empty or filled with clutter - spruce it up in whichever way you feel to show buyers the potential and options your home has to accommodate their lifestyle.

Ultimately, showing people how your home could perform, rather than how you currently use it, often widens its appeal. That's what you're aiming for - attracting the broadest possible range of buyers so your agent can maximise your price.

How can I increase the rent from my rental investment property?

Many people choose to invest in property because it is a great tactic to build wealth and secure their futures financially. However, as it's an investment, owners should look for ways to maximise the returns on their properties. First National property managers always do.

If you're looking for strategies to get the most out of your rental property, here are three tips to help you on your way.

Hire a professional

Have you ever had to bang on a tenant's door to pick up missed rent? Has your phone gone off at midnight after a tenant's hot water cylinder has burst for the third time this year?

Managing your own rental property can be a difficult task, especially if you have a vast portfolio. Instead of trying to juggle multiple properties at once, enlist the help of a professional property manager to take a few off your hands.

Property managers have the knowledge, time and skill to ensure your investments and tenants are taken care of.

Review your rent

It may have been years since you last reviewed the price you're charging for your rental property.

The important thing to remember is that the market can change quite often. Fluctuations in vacancy rates and median rents can all impact how much you can charge for your property, and you may end up charging too little.

Review your rent on a regular basis to meet the market. Compare your home with other rentals similar to your property, or obtain a rent appraisal from an agent.

Regularly refresh your rental property

The key to ensuring your rental property remains tenanted is to keep it in good condition. By staying on top of maintenance issues and refreshing the interior, your investment can be kept looking great for longer.

At the end of each tenancy, you might want to give the home a quick lick of paint, have the carpets cleaned and the garden reworked. You might even be able to charge a bit extra for rent, while also making your home look more appealing to tenants.

How can I make more room for a growing family?

When you first moved into your home, you may have thought that three bedrooms were going to be enough for you and your family. However, over the years, you may have had a few more kids than you originally planned or taken in a relative.

This can cause a bit of a headache if you begin to run out of room, but here are three ways you can add more space to your home.

Attic conversion

The solution to your space shortage problem could actually be lying right above your heads. Instead of using your attic to store dusty old furniture, you can convert it to a liveable space. Either turn this into an extra bedroom, a living area or a playroom for the kids to make use of the space in the roof.

Granny flat

If you have an older family member or a teenage child, granny flats make a great option for them to maintain their independence while still living close to the family home.

Not only this, but they can also be rented out separately, should your family members move out of the property. You'll need to get council approval to build one, and if you're going to rent it out to the public then you might need to obtain a separate power and water meter for the flat.

Garage conversion

Another option is to convert your garage into a more liveable setting. However, you won't be able to just back the car out and throw in a bed - there is some other work involved in the process.

As it will become a living space, you'll need to get council approval and ensure it meets building standards. Other factors you will have to plan for include insulation, flooring, heating, lighting, electricity and plumbing.

The option you choose to use for your home depends on a number of things, such as your budget, how much room you have and whether you can obtain council approval. However, all three options have the potential to add value to your home, too!

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 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.

What are the most important things to look out for at open home inspections?

Open house inspections can be equal parts fun, exciting and nerve-wracking, especially if you find yourself falling in love with a property at first sight.

However, there will be plenty of time to dote on your home in the future - inspections are all about keeping your eyes open for any signs that your potential new abode might be a major lemon.

Homes may not have voices, but that won't stop them from trying to tell you something. Here are some of the more serious open inspection red flags to be on the lookout for.

A shaky foundation

It's often said that a strong foundation is the most important part of whatever's built atop it, and this can hold true for houses. While costs can vary, cracked foundations are notoriously difficult to fix and can cost homeowners tens of thousands of dollars.

Keep an eye out for cracks on steps and walkways outside. Small cracks may be normal and come with age, but wide, horizontal cracks may be a dead giveaway that the home is falling apart underneath.

Wet worries

Nothing quite compares to the risks associated with water damage. Not only can moisture rot building materials, it can lead to the growth of mould and mildew. In turn, this can lead to serious respiratory problems for people with allergies.

Signs of potential water damage include dank, musty smells, water stains, mould spots and warped walls. While water damage itself can be fixed, even more important is what caused it. After all, a leaky pipe will be much easier to fix than a hole in your roof.

Pesky pests

Not only can vermin and insects make your skin crawl, they can also be terribly difficult to get rid of. The damage caused by pests like mice and wood borers can be far-reaching, and the costs associated with eliminating them aren't cheap.

During an inspection, take time to look around for signs of pest problems. These include dead bugs, animal droppings and mouse holes.
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