Thursday, January 24, 2013

Simple Ways To Increase The Value Of Your Home Before Selling

If you have ever tried to buy or sell a home before, you probably already know that negotiations can be tough to get the best price for yourself. The best way to quickly increase the value of your home in readiness for a sale is to embark on simple, but value-increasing home improvement projects.
These can be as extensive or as small as you would like depending on your budget. Ultimately, the smarter your approach to improvements before a sale, the better placed you will be to reap the rewards come sale time.
Here are a few clever ways to increase your home's selling price that won't take a lot of time or money.
Increase Curb Appeal
The first thing that potential buyers see when they approach your home is the driveway, the front yard and the front door. Since so many buyers make their decision based on sight alone, it is important to make a great first impression. ‘Curb appeal’ is an important part of the process, so you should be willing to spend some time tackling this. If you have a driveway, rent a pressure washer to clean it completely. Mow the grass, plant some flowers and even look to replace – or at least paint - the door if it’s looking a little dishevelled. Seems minimal, right? But this alone may be enough to plant a serious seed of approval before they even walk through the door.
Invest in Designer Flooring
Flooring is something that many people overlook when selling a home, but it represents a huge part of how potential buyers will perceive a property. Old, cracked or unattractive flooring can set the tone for the rest of the home, turning people off before they’ve even gotten past the entrance. Although elegant designer flooring might seem like a bit of an outlay at first, you might be surprised to learn that vinyl is actually very affordable, and these days pack a serious design punch. The contemporary styles can replicate the look of wood or stone and will give your home a stylish, modern look.
Replace Existing Window Treatments
Do people pay attention to windows and coverings? You bet you they do! Since curtains, blinds, shades and shutters take up a large portion of the home and are typically at eye level, any old and shabby blinds or curtains should be replaced. Dusty curtains should be wiped clean. A simple, sleek design works best for most homes, and white blinds can often be a contemporary option that blends in cohesively without imposing much onto the space. Replacing window treatments is a simple, but highly effective way of revamping the look of your home entirely.
Add a Fresh Coat of Paint
Perhaps the simplest way to increase the value of your home is to apply a fresh coat of paint. This simple task instantly eliminates any dings or scratches on the wall, and it makes the entire property look newer and more valuable. If you only have time to do one thing before showing your home to potential buyers, make sure it is repainting the interior of your home!
Update the Kitchen
The kitchen is often called the money-maker when it comes to real estate. Buyers like to see a kitchen with new appliances and a modern look. They want to be able to imagine themselves eating, cooking and entertaining within the space. Therefore it’s a good idea to dedicate some time and budget to this if you can afford to.
Simple ways to update your kitchen might include replacing some of the older appliances or resurfacing the cabinets. If you are short on time or money to do these larger projects, focus on thoroughly cleaning the kitchen from top to bottom.
Light Fixtures
Ugly lighting not only detracts from some of your other improvements, but it says something about the legitimacy of the overall improvement process as this can represent a massive weak link in the chain. Replacing old light fixtures with newer, stylish models does more than simply update the look of your home. It also acts as a way to make the property more energy efficient.
Signalling to potential buyers that the lighting is energy efficient and environmentally friendly will likely go a long way in keeping them interested. Select lights that allow you to dim in the main living areas as this will help set an overall tone and this is something potential buyers WILL test as they walk through your home. By the way - bright lights are fine for task lighting such as in the kitchen and wet areas.

No matter where you live, you are competing with many sellers in the same position as you. So think smart about how you tackle your home improvements and you will add value to your property, enabling you to demand a higher resale value. Increasing the value of your home is within everybody’s reach, and the short term expense of doing so pays off in the long run.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sequencing Risks: Bad Luck With Bad Timing

Sequencing Risks: Bad Luck With Bad Timing

Been reading the papers and encountered a new financial phrase dubbed as 'sequencing risk'. So what is sequencing risk?

Basically it refers to the risk that you will experience annual returns in the wrong order. That a negative year or negative event closer to retirement is significantly more detrimental than a negative year or event occuring earlier on in your younger years. A negative financial event in your later years will impact on a larger balance than the balance you have in your younger years.

You may have heard the general idea that younger people have a longer time frame for their funds/savings/investments to recover and grow than older folks have.

The 'Woe Is I' and 'Poor Me' Attitude

Michael Drew, a professor of finance at Griffiths University commented on baby boomers and their bad luck and bad timing, "In their last decade of work, they experienced the bursting of the dotcom bubble, the subprime (mortgage) crisis, the GFC and they're now living through a sovereign debt crisis."

Those sequential financial events are nothing out of the ordinary if you analyse the global financial market going back to the 1930s. Does he think the last ten years are abnormal? If you look at the financial markets from the 1930s to the late 1990s, the business cycles have been marked with booms and slumps due to over gearing, too much loans, inflation and house prices escalating, Black Tuesdays, Asian financial currency crises and suicides.

2008 and the events thereafter impacting the financial markets are nothing new and I find it ridiculous that people behave like it was unexpected and a surprise. As markets rise, they eventually fall. If they don't drammatically fall, then they go sideways. Markets simply don't rise forever and ever in a straight line.

That's why retirement planning shouldn't always be about growth and particularly for those in their 50s. The reason why many baby boomers were caught with their pants down were because they hadn't saved enough in their younger years, and due to desperation to grow their retirement funds closer to their twilight years, they placed their money into growth funds when they should have been ideally moving their funds into more stable income funds or income investments (with a lower allocation in the riskier stock and property asset classes).

Close To Retirement?

Don't have all your funds invested into the stockmarket. If you've got ALL your savings and retirement funds saved in a superannuation fund(for Aussie readers) or a mutual fund (for US readers) then that is the WORST strategy you can ever devise for your money. Even if you have your money invested into two or three superannuation or mutual funds, you are NOT spreading your risk in the best way.

That is the worst investment strategy. Ever.  

The best strategy is to be diversified ACROSS asset classes (eg: property, stocks, cash, bonds, super/mutual funds) and to be diversified WITHIN the asset classes (eg for property- a mix of residential and commercial, for stocks- a mix of financial, resources, retail and for cash- in different banks and financial institution and for super/mutual funds- in different allocations such as property, domestic and international shares.)

Monday, January 14, 2013

5 Tips To Achieving Your Financial Goals For 2013

The New Year is in full swing, bringing with it a clean slate and a year full of promises. So if you haven’t set your financial goals for 2013 yet, then now’s the time because setting financial goals at this point of the year can mean a very different Christmas in 2013 to the one you had in 2012.

Different people will have different financial goals for 2013. For some, clearing credit card debt is a major win, for others putting more money against the mortgage. Some will want to set aside money for a new bathroom or kitchen, others for a vacation or dream purchase. To each their own. Irrespective of what your goal is, the important thing is that you have a financial goal for 2013. Whether it’s clearing debt, increasing savings or saving for a specific goal, any goal is better than no goal. It’s cliché but true; it’s very hard to hit a target if you don’t know where to aim!

Can you imagine yourself lying on a tropical beach in Fiji next Christmas? Or relaxing at home with a glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve holding a credit card statement bearing a zero balance? How nice would that be? And if these options don’t sound good to you, what does? At this early stage of the year, it’s important to think about your immediate, medium and long term financial goals, because the actions you take today will help bring you closer to your financial goals sooner. 

Tips To Help You Set And Achieve Your Financial Goals For 2013

The first step is to choose a financial goal that’s important and realistic to you. The point here is that there’s no sense in aiming for a Ferrari if you’re having trouble making ends meet day to day. Better to set a goal that’s focused on having enough money in the bank to cover unexpected eventualities so you don’t have the stress of living pay check to pay check. So take a good hard look at your current financial state and decide on a clear, simple goal that you’d be really pleased to achieve.

After you have your clear goal, write it down. And when you’ve written it down, put it everywhere where you can see it regularly: on the fridge, behind the toilet door, in your office, taped to your bedside table or your cat, even on the sun visor of your car. Doing this keeps your goal top of mind.
Then, every time you see one of your reminder notes, take a moment to clearly visualise the outcome of your goal. Take a moment to imagine the satisfaction you’ll get having a zero credit card balance, or to imagine the sun on your skin as you laze on a Fijian beach. Feels good, doesn’t it?

Now take action every day towards your goal. It doesn’t have to be massive action, but action each and every day will keep you on track and keep your goal top of mind. Small actions, like bringing your lunch from home rather than buying it or walking to work instead of driving, will keep you goal-minded and ‘on mission’.

Most importantly, if you fall off the horse, get right back on the horse. Life throws us curve balls at times, so if your goal calls for you to save a portion of each pay check but you get an unexpected bill, or heaven forbid you splurge at a sale, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just remind yourself what the end goal is and get back to your plan.

Life happens, so when it does, simply remind yourself what the end goal is, recommit to it, taking a moment to visualise it - then get back to it!

You can achieve financial success a lot quicker with a professional team of experts around you such as a great property manager, a fabulous financial adviser, an expert solicitor or lawyer, reliable tradesmen and a for those who live in Sydney and/or Brisbane, a team of Sydney Chartered Accountants such as Azure Group at your beck and call to help you with tax deductions and depreciations!

2013 can be a year of financial success, or “same old, same old”. Whether it is or not is up to you!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Questions To Ask Your Car Insurer

Everyone who drives a car should have car insurance. If you can't afford car insurance, then you can't afford to drive. If you can't afford comprehensive car insurance, then at least get third party insurance.

With so many companies offering car insurance quotes online, it’s never been easier to find the right car insurance cover for your needs. Having said that, it’s still vitally important to take the time to compare apples with apples after you have a short-list of prospective insurance providers to make sure you get the best deal and you understand the fine print. So after you have your short-list, take the time to get on the phone and ask them the following questions; it may save you hundreds of dollars on your premium and potentially thousands of dollars if the very worst should happen.


First, don’t be afraid to ask them outright about their claims process. It’s important to dig into the nitty gritty here to find out how long it normally takes them to process a claim and what factors usually slow down a claim process. Plus it’s worth asking, after a claim is approved who sources the quotes and repairers (you or them) and how long it normally takes to get a vehicle back on the road.


If you’re into modifying your car, ask them what, if any, modifications you can make to your car. The last thing you would want to do is obtain an insurance policy for a stock standard vehicle that then becomes defunct by you naively adding mags, extractors, or other standard and non-standard modifications.

Reducing Risk

Ask your potential insurer, what difference it will make to your premium if you install anti-theft devices like car alarms and vehicle disabling technologies. Installing an alarm or anti-intrusion device prior to obtaining a policy may reduce your premium, or at the very least reduce your theft excess.

What Does Your Rating Look Like?

Another question to ask is whether an insurer is willing to transfer your existing insurance rating and no-claim bonus from your current provider. These are key factors in determining part of your total premium cost, as well as reducing your excess, so don’t be afraid to ask as it can save you money.

Be Up Front

When you’re on the phone with insurance providers you should also come clean about your driving history. Some people may be tempted to try and leave out any negative incidence in their past, but insurance providers need to know if you have had any licence suspensions, as well as any history of accidents that you may, or may not, have been the cause of. Failing to disclose your driving history may sound like a good idea if you think it will save you money on your premium, but if you have an accident and your driving history is discovered your policy will become void.

It’s worth keeping in mind that your past driving history may not have as large an impact on your premium or excess as you may think, as the type of offence and the recency of the offence are both factors they will consider. A few extra dollars out of your pocket for the premium, or a slightly larger excess commitment, are small prices to pay to ensure you are adequately covered and protected.