March 24, 2016

Clean Every Nook and Cranny - Getting the Deposit Back on Your Student House

Student houses are notorious for getting a little bit grubby around the edges. It’s understandable: students are busy people, and it’s not always easy to fit in a cleaning routine. Rotas can be ignored, and nobody wants to be the only one doing all the cleaning, so it might get neglected. Over the course of the year, alliances can be made and enemies can be formed and more often than not you leave the property feeling a sense of relief as you only really get to know people once you live with them. Everyone has their own idea of what constitutes a ‘clean’ and hygienic house and when living as a student, you are all finding your feet and sometimes duties such as cleaning can be tossed aside for more important matters; making sure all the take-away menus are up to date for example.
One thing that you cannot ‘make do’ with when it comes to cleaning a student property, is the state it must be left in at the end of the year. Mid-way through the year (around May-June-July) is often the time of year where many student tenancies are coming to an end, so thousands of students will be manically cleaning their student houses in the hope that they’ll get their deposits back. So, how do you make sure your house is left in top shape?

Clean Every Nook and Cranny

What is Expected of You

Whether you’re going to do the cleaning yourselves, or you’re getting a professional in, to survey and tackle the damage, it is important to check the maintenance list your landlord would have issued at the start of the tenancy. This should give you an idea of what is expected and what you can perhaps get away with slipping by the wayside. From this list, you can make a list of priorities and a list of cleaning items that you can leave until later.

Nobody likes cleaning, particularly student houses that can get grubby and grimy over time and neglect. If you have lazy housemates that never seem to clean up after themselves, the task seems ever impossible as it feels as if nobody is helping you. By prioritising your duties you can start approaching the task in a more manageable way. Little steps help to make big changes!

Getting Your Hands Dirty

You should tackle the ‘worst’ aspects first, which are generally the bathroom and kitchen, so that the rest seems less daunting. If you keep putting them off for another day, chances are that they will never get done and you could end up paying out of your deposit for it. Look online for hints and tips into properly cleaning the bathroom and kitchen. The oven, in particular, is always one of the least popular tasks, but money can often be deducted if the landlord doesn’t deem it to be clean enough, so pay attention to this.

It can be easy when living in student accommodation, for people to neglect regular cleaning duties, but keeping on top of the maintenance throughout the year can really help when it comes to crunch time. If you have kept the bathroom and kitchen in a good condition throughout the year, cleaning it fully at the end of a tenancy will not be such a daunting task.

Be Meticulous – Your Landlord Certainly Will

When dusting, don’t just deal with the surfaces you can see. Make sure you tackle top shelves and behind items, and even the skirting boards can collect dust, so be thorough. A damp cloth or a dust-attracting duster are the best way to fully remove dust from a surface. Also make sure the dust doesn’t gather in the carpets by giving each room a full vacuum, including under furniture where crumbs and dust can accumulate over a year. Dust from top to bottom so that you aren’t sweeping dust from the higher levels onto clean levels once you’ve dusted them.

It might seem like a lot of effort to go through, but if you want to make sure to get your deposit back, you should make that effort. It is not unheard of for crooked landlords to try and find any excuse to wheedle tenants out of their deposit, particularly if they are students. Know your rights and don’t give your landlord any ammunition by being meticulous with your cleaning. Better safe than sorry!
This article was written by Sara Bryant, working on behalf of Apple Clean, professional carpet cleaners in the South East who were consulted over the content.

March 23, 2016

6 Tips to Consider For Preparation of the Moving Day

Moving can be a really tedious task for anyone. More often than not, there is something or the other which goes wrong and you are left to deal with it at a new house. However, there are a number of ways that you can prepare yourself to ensure that the day of the move goes smoothly and without any obstacles. These are some of the ways How to prepare for moving day:
Preparation of the Moving Day

1.     Keep a journal that is only used for the move
To make the shifting process easy, it is very useful to keep a notebook handy to be kept as journal to serve as a one stop look up for all the moving needs that you might have. You can use this notebook to make a list of the things that you need to do before and after you move, the budget that you are working to make the move and keep a track of the receipts etc. You can also use colorful page dividers to help you divide the notebook into sections so that it is easy to find any information when you need it.

2.     Making a budget to include all moving costs
Very often we find that we end up spending way more than we had thought or planned for when making a move to a new house. Having a budget in place that has an entry for all the foreseeable expenses that you might have to incur is a great way of limiting your expense. This is especially important when it comes to discussing the topic of “How to prepare for moving day”.

3.     Ensure that you change the address for communication
Your bank accounts, mobile operators, internet distributors etc. all need an address for communicating with you and it is very important that you change these addresses from the old address to the new one that you are moving to so that you do not miss out on any new communication. You could also let your friends and family know what the new address for communication will be moving forward.

4.     Hiring a moving company
There are a lot of companies that can help you move your things from one place to the other. However, since the amount of money involved in such a move is substantial, you should always look to obtain quotes from at least three companies and check the services that they are offering at those prices before you decide on picking one of these companies as your preferred company.

5.     Don’t be shy to ask for help
Moving involves a lot of physical labor and it is almost impossible to complete the task all by yourself. When thinking about How to prepare for moving day, do not feel shy to ask your friends and family for help. Getting them to help also makes the whole process more fun.

6.     Arrange and label properly
When thinking about packing your belongings, make sure to pack the things that you need first, like lamps, utensils etc. at the top of all the other stuff and ensure that you label all the cartons so that it is easy for you to set up the new home as soon as you move in.

Bio: Anisha Ambrose writes about property and real estate in India. She has worked at the company for one year as a marketing manager. She likes to share her experience with those who are interested in property market!

7 Tips on How to Avoid Real Estate Scams

Only foolish people will think they couldn't be fooled by uninitiated, dishonest individuals when making real estate transactions. There'll always be skin in the game or those who will only suck money from you. The crook can be your landlord, agent, agency worker or even bank representatives.

Here's how to avoid being a victim of real estate scams.

1) Never rush the decision
All of us have a tendency to grab a great deal whenever we came across such, thinking that we need to get that deal otherwise another person will snag the deal from us. Not so fast! Patience is a virtue, remember? Also, if you will rush things, you won't have the opportunity to question what you are actually doing. When you do start questioning your own decision-making process, the loopholes will reveal themselves. Likewise, you'll start question if the transaction is permissible or not.

7 Tips on How to Avoid Real Estate Scams
2) Scrutinize the person or organization
Unless you already have a name, chances are, you have to visit a local real estate office to get the names of the available realtors. Even when you are given a shortlist of names though, you still need to be pragmatic about it. Check for reviews and testimonials online. Then again, not because the person has a LinkedIn profile means he is legit. Check the consistency of the presented information specifically the license number and expiration date. Yes, real estate license is renewable.
3) Ask probing questions
Oftentimes, despite knowing some issues on the property that the broker is trying to sell, she will describe it as 'perfectly habitable.' Thus, beware of the choices of works of your chosen broker. It is thus very important to ask the why and how questions. The question 'why you are selling the home' alone may reveal disparaging remarks about the real reasons behind the sale. Observe non-verbal cues as well. If the agent is hesitant to answer your questions, it could mean she's hiding something from you.
4) Understand the details
While real estate transactions are relatively straightforward processes, there are many opportunities to scam. In fact, in every stage of the process, a fraudulent activity may occur. If something is not clear to you especially since fraudsters are fond of industry jargons, don't afraid to do your own search or ask your family and friends about the legitimateness of the claims. Bottom-line, understand what you are getting yourself into especially because money is involved.
5) Take control of the process
Every transaction has its inherent risks. However, you can minimize the risks if you are in control of the entire process. You need to do this to protect your hard-earned money. For instance, you should not sign the deed if your name is not on it. Never allow the other person to unguard you. For example, don't allow her to fill-up the form for you no matter how insistent he may be. Never allow the person to represent you as something you are not.
6) Review the documents
Speaking of documents, never sign anything unless you are 100% sure that you understand all the sections, conditions, and stipulations in the said document. Have an attorney to review the document before you sign it. It's a wise investment too because the attorney may assess whether the transaction is legitimate or not. The attorney will issue a negative report. It would be much better to ask him why he thinks the deal is deceitful.
7) Stick with instinct
If it's too good to be true, it is. If something seems shady, most probably, it is. Never ignore bad feelings about the person or the property that you want to buy, sell or rent. If an agent or loan officer encourages you to lie just so your home loan will be approved, don't obey him. This is called the lie-to-loan scheme that may also land you in jail if you do. As such, walk away from a transaction that doesn't feel right.
Crooks wear ties, too. While people are presumably honest, it doesn't mean that you won't be victimized. Above are smart ways to approach any real estate transaction and the people involved in such a transaction. Put simply, be the diligent person that you always be to avoid being the next victim of these lawbreakers.

Christine is a freelance writer and blogger for Alveo Land. Alveo Land offers an extensive portfolio of holistic communities with relevant, thoughtfully-designed amenities, and customer-focused services that ensure its residents and end-users live well.

How the Real Estate Industry in Australia has Evolved in the last years

Australia’s real estate industry has defied the odds. Since 2001, market analysts have suggested that the real estate industry has developed property bubbles; a phenomena which occurs when periodic high property valuations become unsustainable. 15 years later, real estate prices continue to increase and maintain its upward trajectory.
Real Estate Industry in Australia

Australia’s property market has grown at a rate of 6.5% per annum since the 1990’s. But during the last decade, the rise in property prices have out- paced the growth in average income. It was estimated that in 2010, the average price of housing in Australia was equivalent to seven years of income compared to three years in the 1950’s up to the early 1980’s.

What has caused the increase in property prices the last few years? Here are a few of the possible factors:

  • Lack of available land area for development
  • Easier access to credit due to financial deregulation
  • Availability of low interest rates since 2008
  • 53.8% increase in average floor area from 1984 to 2003
  • Increasing population growth; more demand plus fewer supply
  • Favorable taxation system for investors and current home owners

Property prices grew highest in Sydney at 19.9% in 2015. This was followed by Melbourne at 9.9%, Canberra at 4%, Brisbane at 3.8% and Adelaide at 3.5%. The prominent cities which saw a drop in property values were Perth at -3.3% and Darwin at -2%.

Sydney also lays claim to having the most expensive property in New South Wales with an average cost of AUS$ 780,000; 30% above the national mean house price. On the other end of the spectrum, Tasmania has the most affordable property at AUS$ 321,000.

Despite these numbers, studies and reports continue to show that Australia’s property market remains unstable. In its report, The Economist suggested that Australia’s residential property was overvalued by 30% in 2015. This was the same sentiment echoed by the UBS and the International Monetary Fund or IMF.

Demand for Australia’s real estate market seems to be resistant to rising property prices.

Analysts have also speculated that foreign investment has played a role in the increase in property prices. The rising prices of Australia’s property markets have not discouraged foreign buyers from China and Hong Kong.

Reports show that as of the 3rd Quarter of 2015, Chinese investment in Australia’s property market had grown by more than 400% in the last five years. Numbers show that Chinese investors had purchased AUS$ 12 Billion worth of real estate property between the years 2014 to 2015.

Why is it that more Chinese are buying or investing properties in Australia?
The primary driver is pricing. Despite its rapid pricing increases, many Chinese still find property values more affordable in Australia than in their homeland. Some investors have stated in reports that a modest home in Sydney is the same price as a small apartment in China.

Many Chinese also happen to enroll their children in some of Australia’s prestigious universities. Australia’s universities and educational system are world renowned and reputed to be among the best in the global stage.

There appear to be a good number of Chinese families that want their children take their university studies in Australia. Thus, they invest in housing to give their children a place to live during the school year.

Can the increasing number of foreign investments in Australia be the main factor in driving prices upward?

The numbers presented by the Real Estate Industry of Australia say otherwise. According to the REIA, the Chinese focus on buying properties that are over and above the price range of the local Australian. On average, Chinese investors buy properties that cost AUS$ 1 Million for temporary real estate residence which is already 30% than the average housing price in the most expensive city in Australia which is Sydney.

There are also strict foreign investment rules which govern the purchase of property. These provisions include:

  • Foreigners may not buy existing homes but they can purchase new homes on the market.
  • Foreigners who live in Australia and purchase property must reside in it and sell it upon expiration of their visa.
  • The Foreign Investment Review Board is mandated by law to review all investments and purchases in real estate property.

The latest report by the Master Builders of Australia have presented their findings that contrary to popular opinion, foreign investment only accounted for 2.5% of annual sales in 2015.

Thus, it may seem based on these figures that foreign investment is not the significant driver most Australians thought of.

From these data, Australia’s current growth trend despite the lack of solid economic fundamentals proves one thing: the strength of “The Great Australian Dream”.

Australia’s economy only registered a modest growth rate of 2.4% in 2015. The global economy is still reeling from the effects of the 2003 economic collapse of equity markets and the 2009 Euro Zone crisis. Yet prices continue to rise over the last six years.

Although not commiserate with the growth of property prices, Australia’s incomes have also risen. In 2012, the average weekly wages in Australia was estimated to be at AUS$ 1,050.2. In 2016, the average weekly wage has risen to AUS$ 1,145.7 or a 9% increase over the last four years.

The availability of low interest rates continues to encourage Australians to borrow and pursue their dreams of owning a home. Proof if this is the growth of Australia’s mortgage market. In 2002, the mortgage market accounted for only 58% of Gross Domestic Product or GDP. But in 2015, the mortgage market had accounted for 95% of GDP.

This of course, presents a scary scenario should property bubbles exist and begin to pop. With more than AUS$ 1.55 Trillion in outstanding housing loans, the last thing Australia needs is a collapse in the property market.

The Reserve Bank of Australia or RBA continues to maintain the official cash rate unchanged at 2% largely to support borrowing and to prop up spending for a sluggish economy.

The question now is to see how demand for real estate will continue to keep prices up over the next few years. Population will be a key factor as Australia’s has been growing at a rate of 1.8% per annum. So far, Australians passion for home ownership has helped the country defy the odds and prevent a prolonged fall in its property market outside a brief spell in 2009. 

March 22, 2016

How to Make the Most of a Small Space?

There are many things you can do in order to make the most out of your small space. This does not have to involve tearing down the walls or making major renovations. There are many easy tricks that are on your disposal and you should definitely give them a try. Here are some of them.

Create Zones
One of the things you can do on a small space is create zones for different activities. Think about the things you do and create a separate zone for each of those things. This means that in a single space you can have a zone for sleeping, studying or dining. All you have to do is visually divide the zones and whole place is going to look much bigger. You can use different flooring for each zone or choose a specific color for each of them. This way, a small space can actually serve as a couple of rooms.
Use Furniture Cleverly
Living in a small space means you will struggle to find place to keep all of your things. If you are creative and ready to make changes, this will not be difficult as it may seem. First of all, you should get a table that can serve both as a dining table and as a desk. A couch that can double and become a guest bed is always a great choice for smaller spaces. Another good idea is to get an ottoman can serve as an extra seat but will not take too much space.
Hang Things on the Wall
Another thing you can do is make the most of the walls in your small space. Of course, you should hang a couple of cabinets on the wall which will provide you extra space for your clothes and books. You can also get a coat hanger and always keep your coats and jackets there, instead of wasting much-needed space in the closet. Put an extra shelf wherever you can and keep things such as notebooks, CDs or make-up.
Trick Your Eye
If you are living in a small space, you should also do your best to make it look larger than it actually is. This can be done by getting a couple of mirrors and putting them up on the wall. Mirrors extend the space visually and are a great thing for smaller spaces. You can also hang a curtain all the way from the ceiling to the floor. These can extend the look of a room as well. You should also avoid keeping things on the floor. When there is nothing on it, the whole place looks bigger.
Go for Different Doors
Doors require much space and that is something you do not have. So if you have standard doors you should think about replacing them with sliding doors. This means you do not have to think about leaving the extra free space for the doors to open. Instead, you can use that space to add an extra table or a shelf. If you are looking for sliding doors in Sydney, you should check out some local companies. Get these installed and you will be surprised how the whole place will look larger.
Make sure you do not keep clothes all over the place and wash the dishes right after a meal. Things like this also affect the look of a small space. But a good thing about living in a small space is that it lets you be creative as much as you want so make sure you always think of new ways to save up some space.

5 Uncommon Ways to Embellish Your Living Space

We all wish we could have a home that resembles a castle from a fairy-tale with an ample garden and expensive artwork. There are countless ways to enhance the beauty of your home, making it not only pleasant for living but also a private haven like nothing you have seen before. Following these 5 tips you will surely create your own piece of paradise:

Colour Your World

Colour Your World
Most people do not realise how much colour affects their mental state. If you are surrounded with neutral and plain coloursin your home, it just might put you in a melancholic state of mind. Forget minimalistic designs, sterile environments and two-colour pallets! It is time to come out of your comfort zone and bring some colour to your world. Using vivid and bright colours can greatly help you transform your home from a blank canvas to a fabulous artwork. Use different patterns, textures tones and shades for different spaces, do not be afraid to mix up something seemingly not pairable or to combine something that simply does not go together. Reinvent and reimagine, only this way you will be able to bring your home back to life.

Repurpose & Reuse

Repurpose & Reuse
Before you start throwing away those old wine bottles or wooden crates, you just might wish to turn them into something decorative and practical. The idea of repurposing old wooden crates into magnificent coffee tables, benches or colourful shelves has really taken over the hearts of all those DIY decorators out there. Also glass jars and bottles just might find their new purpose as hanging flower pots or condiment containers. If you have some spare tires, there is no reason why they should not become the next seating arrangement in your living space.

Let It Shine

Let It Shine
What is a home without a little sunlight? Do not make your home a secluded gloomy cave where a single ray of light cannot break through. That is so démodé. On the contrary, let there be light! Remove those blinds and those heavy curtains and welcome those warm sunrays into your home. If you wish to introduce more natural sunlight into the space, a wonderful idea is to install sun roofs or celling to floor windows. Not only will your home exude with warmth but it will also look like something you can see only in movies.

Simple Changes

Did you know that even the smallest changes can completely transform your home and make it look magnificent? Also, can you believe that you could completely alter your home surrounding without spending a single coin? Well, you could simply start by de-cluttering your living space for the beginning. You will immediately notice how your home feels lighter, more spacious and most importantly – more comfortable. Another wonderful trick is simply rearranging the furniture in your home. Switch some pieces from one room to another and you will be left with a feeling of a completely new home.

Spruce Up Your Garden

Spruce Up Your Garden
Every extraordinary home deserves an equivalently wonderful garden space. Liven it up a notch and add some greenery – there can never be enough plant life. Trees, colourful flowers and garden decorations truly give out a charming sensation. Also, consider making a mini bar right there on the porch. You just might add a couple of chairs, tables, hang a couple of parasols and enjoy long summer days. In addition, you can use your new peerless compressor to inflate a pair of old tires which you can use as a seat or as a floating tire in your pool.

Not everybody has an eye for details or a wallet to hire a professional interior designer. But that does not mean that your living space should remain plain and tedious. With just a pinch of imagination and a couple of handy friends, you too can have an extraordinary and pleasant home.

March 19, 2016

How Closing A Credit Card Affects Your Credit Score

There are no boundaries to how a credit card can step in to draw you out when you are in hot soup, just like a good old friend. But this “friend” has its limitations. If not kept under a watchful eye, it may leap out of bounds and lead you to a dreaded financial nightmare. Confused? Let’s make it simple for you.

Credit Card = Friend or Foe?

You have a monthly income of let’s say, Rs. 50, 000/- and you have 2 credit cards with limits of Rs. 75, 000 each. This means in any month you can spend money that is equal to your income plus credit limits. In this case, it will mean you can make purchases of Rs. 50, 000 (salary) + Rs. 75, 000 (credit limit on card 1) + Rs. 75, 000 (credit limit on card 2)= Rs. 2, 00, 000! Thus, with an income of merely Rs. 50, 000 you are actually able to spend way above your means all with the help of a credit card. So, it’s a friend.

Credit Card Affects Your Credit ScoreBut wait. The expenses made through your card have to be returned after a month to the company that has issued this card to you. You have an outstanding balance of Rs. 1, 50, 000/- on your cards and no balance in your salary account, as you have spent it. Once you receive a credit for Rs. 50, 000 towards your salary you will be able to pay only one third of your outstanding bill. The balance will roll over to next month with an additional interest charge. It will take you months to clear this outstanding debt. So, it can be a foe too.

While spending and repaying the credit card do not improve CIBIL score, but how much you are spending and how much of that are you repaying does have a signification bearing on your CIBIL score.

Let me get rid of it!

A lot of people would be quick to conclude that neither will there be a card nor will there be any outstanding bill. Assuming this many people would rush to cancel their cards. Like the two sides of a coin, closing a credit card has dual effects on your score.

One aspect of credit cards in your financial portfolio is how many credit cards you have. If you apply for credit card nonchalantly, it can harm your credit score. One main reason for it is because credit cards are a form of unsecured loan. Unsecured loans attract higher rate of interest as they are more risky from the point of view of lenders.

Another aspect of having credit cards is credit utilization ratio. Let us continue with our example. You have an available credit of 1, 50, 000 but you use not more than 30, 000 in any month. As per a simple calculation of credit used divided by credit available, you are not using more than 20% of credit. This means you are not an aggressive user of credit. You cut down on one card. Now the available limit is reduced to 75, 000 but you continue to use it for 30, 000. Here your utilization ratio increases to 40%. You have doubled your credit utilization without increasing your spending. This will bring down your score.

If the fraction of unsecured loans in your financial portfolio is higher than secured loans, coupled with a higher utilization ratio means that you will have larger payments with higher rate of interest and the likelihood of you coming under debt burden will be great. This is one reason why lenders will be averse to extending further credit to you.

Having too many credit cards and higher available credit limit also make prospective lenders wonder on why you need so much credit. They may also assume that you are seeking more credit to wriggle out of existing debt burden.

Then what shall be done?

Firstly, do remember that a good score alone is not a promise for easy borrowing. All your financial activities are recorded in detail in your CIBIL report. A lender is likely to take both of them into consideration while evaluating your loan application.

Secondly, if you have to close a card, then close the one which is more recent. Any cards that are old must be kept open as they have little impact on score.

Plan in advance. It means, if you do not foresee to apply for fresh loans for at least six months then you can cancel a card today. The impact on your score will wear off with timely repayments.
And most importantly, don’t let your credit score alone be a factor in deciding whether you should or should not close your card. If you feel that a card is posing a risk of being lost and misused because it is sitting idle, is attracting a maintenance charge though you don’t need that card or if you are already in a debt soup, then go ahead and close that account. You can offset the effect on your score by paying off existing balance and over time with the help of diligent payments.

To put it briefly

Yes, cutting down on your credit cards will hurt your CIBIL score. Mostly, a lower credit utilization ratio is considered less risky. But to keep a low ratio investing in more and more credit cards is not a wise decision either. Strike a balance between the two and maintain discipline in your finances by paying off balances on time. This is will keep you out of debt stress.

written by Arun Ramamurthy, author of “Unlock the Power of Your Credit Score” : India’s first book on credit scores India’s first book on credit scores.

                                                                      - When credit is your need, there is a credit card indeed.