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Jul 4, 2023

Great photos are a vital element of a successful sales campaign

Great photos are a vital element of a successful sales campaign.  Most people’s first impression of your property will not be up close and personal, it’ll be through the photographs presented in the online listing. The camera’s eye is different from the human eye and it tends to magnify any issues or anything that doesn’t look perfect.  So spending time preparing your property for the photo shoot is time well spent…plus it will help you prepare it for the all-important open homes. To ensure your property is shoot ready when the photographer arrives, here’s our room by room photo styling checklist to help turn your property into a super model. Throughout the property Thoroughly clean the whole house (vacuum the carpet, mop wooden floors, clean benchtops) Clean all your windows Clear clutter off any surface Turn all ceiling fans off Turn all TVs off Turn all computer screens off Remove all personal photographs Ensure all shoes and toys are put away Open all blinds, shutters and curtains to bring in natural light Turn on all lights Create a feeling of space in each room – remove surplus furniture and make sure mirrors aren’t in places that will reflect in the photos Curb Appeal Close the garage doors Remove your car/s from the driveway and from the front of the property Clean up landscaping (sweep paths, mow the lawn, trim shrubs, clear dropped leaves) Ensure all cobwebs from around the cornices and door frames are removed Remove visible water hoses Remove toys, sports equipment, soccer goals etc Potentially add pot plants outside front door Kitchen Clear the clutter from any benches Ensure there is no old fruit in a fruit bowl Leave one to two nice appliances on the bench Remove everything from the fridge doors including magnets, artwork and flyers Hide garbage bins Ensure no dishes are in the sink Close the dishwasher door For a splash of colour a bowl of fresh citrus fruit can make a great centre piece Dining table Remove all clutter from the table Place a centre piece on the table such as a vase of flowers in a colour that compliments the rest of your décor or a decorative bowl or ornament Straighten up any chairs and ensure they are evenly spaced around the table Remove high chairs or booster seats Living / Family room Remove stacks of magazines, newspapers and mail De clutter book shelves, fire place mantel, television cabinet Hide remote controls Plump up cushions Remove / hide any kids or animal toys If you have indoor plants – remove any dead leaves and dust large leaves If you don’t have indoor plants consider adding a couple – great for photos and for open homes Bathroom Remove all toiletries from the vanity – no toothbrushes, deodorant or clutter Remove shampoos, soaps etc from showers and bathtubs Ensure toilet seat is down Add a new toilet roll Add some nice soap, a small flowering plant and perhaps a candle Add fresh plump towels  Pull open the shower curtain Bedroom Make all beds neatly…think hospital corners If need be iron bed linen and bed ruffle Remove all personal items from bedside tables.  A small stack of books, a light and a small pot plant is all you need here Remove all family photos from the walls Clean under bed, removing items that may show up in the photos Remove any wall stickers in kid’s rooms Tidy bookshelves and remove some items if it looks very cluttered Pets Hide food and water bowls and litter boxes Remove pet beds and toys Vacuum sofas to ensure there is no animal hair Keep pets out of the house Ensure front and backyard are clear of pet toys Highlight special features If you have certain spaces that you want to highlight, make sure you tell the photographer.  For instance, you may want a feature: Your display shelves Fire place or fire pit – but make sure it has a fire or the photographer photoshops in a fire Pool or spa – but make sure they are sparkling clean Most importantly we are here to help you, so please ask us any questions you have about how to maximise your properties photo potential.

Jul 4, 2023

Water charges in tenancies

Water charges in tenancies are subject to a number of rules. Full water usage (including the bulk water charge) can be passed onto the tenant if all of the below conditions are met: The property is individually metered, The property is water efficient (the water efficiency requirements are contained in the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Regulation Section 22), and The tenancy agreement states the tenant must pay for the water consumption – meaning Item 12.2 is ticked ‘yes’. Q: Is it law that the owner must provide a certificate from a plumber stating the premises is water efficient? A: No, it’s not law. However, having this evidence is best practice to help minimise disputes. If the tenant disputes paying for water usage on the basis the property doesn’t meet the water efficiency requirements, the onus is on the lessor to provide evidence that it does. This evidence could include receipts for the plumbing fixtures installed in the property, although a plumber’s certificate stating the property meets the water efficiency requirements is the most ideal piece of evidence if the dispute escalates to QCAT. Our recommendation is to provide a copy of the compliance certificate with the Form 1a Entry Condition Report. Q: Should the owner have a new compliance certificate completed for each new tenancy? A: As mentioned above, a plumber’s certificate is not law but a best practice recommendation to help minimise disputes. Best practice would be to have a plumber’s certificate for a new tenancy if you have taken over the management and don’t have a full history of the maintenance performed or the entry and exit condition reports. The relevant plumbing fixtures may have changed from when the plumber’s certificate was originally issued. If the tenant challenged the validity of the plumber’s certificate, you wouldn’t have the evidence to support there had been no changes to the premises from when it was issued. Conversely, if you’ve been managing the property and there have been changes to the relevant plumbing fixtures from when the water compliance certificate was issued, then it would be advisable for the owner to obtain a current certificate for the commencement of the tenancy. Best practice tip: Negotiate with the plumbers who work on your rent roll to include a regular compliance check when they’re attending to other plumbing work at a property. Ask them to incorporate a statement on the tax invoice stating that the property still meets the water efficiency requirements. Q: If an owner doesn’t pass on the water usage charges during the billing cycle, can the tenant be invoiced for water usage for an extended period? A: If the water usage charges are relevant to the tenancy period for the tenant, then yes, they can be invoiced. The issue, however, is if they choose not to pay the invoice and the dispute progresses to QCAT. It would not be viewed favourably that the owner did not pass on the water usage charges in the relevant billing period. Section 362 of the RTRA Act requires a lessor to mitigate the loss to the tenant so, by the owner not passing on the water usage charges at regular intervals to the tenant, they’re seen to not be mitigating the loss to the tenant. It makes sense for the owner to pass the water usage charges on immediately so the amount can be budgeted for and paid by the tenant within the required 30-day period. Q: If a property has a separate water meter but it doesn’t meet the water efficiency requirements, can the owner still charge for water usage? A: The owner can charge for ‘excessive’ water usage, although not all water usage as they must provide a ‘reasonable’ amount of water. You would still tick the yes box for Item 12.2 of the Form 18a General Tenancy Agreement. However, you would include a special term which states how many kilolitres (kLs) of water are provided for usage by the owner and what thereafter becomes the responsibility of the tenant/s to pay water usage charges over this amount. Please note: Real estate agents cannot draft special terms unless legally qualified to do so. Although the owner could provide a special term, our best practice recommendation is for this special term to be legally drafted. RELATED: What’s so ‘special’ about special terms? Q: What is a reasonable amount of water? A: There is not a statutory requirement, although Section 169 of the RTRA Act states what the tribunal must consider if there is a dispute. A good starting point is to find out what the average water usage is for the area in which the property is located from the water provider. You will then need to take into account the other aspects stated, and ensure the owner nominates the kLs provided by the owner. (4) In deciding an amount payable by a tenant for outgoings for a water service charge, the tribunal must have regard to the following—         (a)relevant available information about water usage and charges for premises in the local government area in which the relevant premises are situated;         (b)the area of the relevant land;         (c)any terms of the agreement affecting the amount of water used;         (d)the presence or absence of water saving devices in the premises;         (e)the number of persons occupying the premises;         (f)the quantity of water for which the lessor should reasonably be liable;         (g)anything else the tribunal considers relevant. If the property has a separate meter and it meets the water efficiency requirements, make it a requirement when engaging your management services for the owner to pay to have a plumber’s certificate so the tenant can be provided with evidence with the Form 1A Entry Condition Report. If the property has a separate water meter but doesn’t meet the water efficiency requirements, ensure you tick the second box of the Realworks PM Schedule, Item H and include the agreed kLs the owner will pay for. The Form 18a General Tenancy Agreement will then need to include the relevant special term as per these instructions. If you have any questions on charging water in rental properties please call us on 07 5537 3788 Source: REIQ.com

Jul 4, 2023

Is there a particular formula for good tenant selection, or does it simply come down to excellent management?

Tenant selection is both an art and the result of excellent management, and the ability to choose the right tenant for a property is essential. Not only does it affect a client’s satisfaction level, but it sets the tone for how the tenancy will continue. An agent must do everything in their power to ensure they’re screening prospective tenants and applications to the best of their ability. In the same vein, it’s important to remain as impartial and objective as possible, ensuring any preconceived biases from the decision are removed.  Property managers need to be able to explain to their client exactly why they’ve accepted or declined a particular applicant. An agency and/or lessor may have differing deciding factors for an application depending on the property, but agencies should have a a minimum selection criterion in place to ensure all applications are processed to the same standard.  These criteria can then be used to identify minimum expectations of each applicant, and when these are applied to each and every applicant, an agency can ensure all are assessed fairly and consistently. Agency selection criteria are established by each individual agency, but the process for tenant selection may include the following: TENANCY DATABASES It’s reasonable for the agency to want to know that the applicant is not listed on any tenancy database. The agency will check all applicants on the database their office subscribes to (e.g. TICA or NTD) to ensure the applicant has not previously been listed as a defaulting tenant by other agents. Database laws impact how an agency use these databases.  Property managers must inform applicants of which database their office uses, how they use it, and how the tenant can contact the particular database provider.  Agencies must also advise the prospective tenant if they find they are listed, and how the tenant can have the listing amended or removed.  More information on the rules around tenancy databases is available in Chapter 9 of the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008. ABILITY TO PAY RENT An agency on behalf of their lessor will want to ensure the applicant can provide evidence of their ability to pay rent. There’s a commonly used ratio within the industry of the rent not exceeding 30% of the applicant’s gross income. However, it’s important to note this ratio isn’t legislated. To verify the applicant’s financial ability, the agency may contact the employer that the applicant has listed on their application. In addition to this, the agency may request the applicant to provide evidence such as payslips or an employment contract. If the applicant is self-employed, the agency may look for alternative evidence to verify affordability such as the applicant’s accountant and/or evidence such as tax returns. ABILITY TO CARE FOR THE PROPERTY The application form will request previous housing information from the applicant, regardless of their housing history.  An agent would generally seek evidence to support this information such as identification which shows the applicant’s current address. Verifying this information usually involves seeking information from the previous agent (if they rent the property). When contacting the applicants current or previous agent, you should be determining if the applicants have the ability to care for the property (as well as the ability to pay rent). If the applicant has owned their own home, an agency should confirm this through RP Data and contact the agent who is either selling or managing the property.  Although they will not be able to provide “rental” history, the agent can provide information on the property’s presentation, number of pets (if any) and general feedback on the “attitude” of the applicant. For applicants who have never rented or owned a property, the agency may contact their parents/guardians to discuss the applicant and the validity of the information they’ve provided. PERSONAL REFERENCES Most agencies request two or three personal references from people who have known the applicant for a period of time and are not relatives or partners. IDENTIFICATION The agency will require an applicant to provide 100 points of ID and best practice would be to ensure at least one of those is a form of photo ID and another contains a current address and signature. TENANCY AGREEMENT IN A COMPANY NAME In this instance, the agency is to ascertain the same level of verification as they would for an individual, which includes a company search, information on affordability from the company accountant and references. It’s important to verify and retain evidence as to who is able to sign documentation on behalf of the company. FINALISING APPLICATIONS Applications should be processed as soon as possible. Keep people informed of expected time frames, and let them know if there are any delays in processing their application. Once a decision has been made, let applicants know so they can either continue to look for another property or make arrangements to finalise the application if they are successful. Source: REIQ.com

Jul 4, 2023

Understand how Investment property renovations increase tax deductions, rent and property value

What can investors do to increase tax deductions and boost cash flow? One way is to renovate! Investment property renovations increase tax deductions, help with increasing a property’s value and improve rental yield leading to greater returns. This article outlines the different types of investment property renovations, what to look out for and how to maximise tax deductions. Depreciation explained Depreciation is the natural wear and tear of a property and the assets within it over time. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) allows owners of income-producing properties to claim this as a tax deduction. There are two types of deductions available to claim.Capital works deductions (Division 43) is a claim available for the building’s structure and the assets that are permanently fixed to the property. And plant and equipment depreciation (Division 40) is a claim on the assets that are easily removable from the property or mechanical in nature. Capital works deductions are a fixed amount that can be claimed each year on all applicable building structures for up to forty years. Plant and equipment items have varying effective lives and therefore can be depreciated at an increased rate which varies depending on the asset and the method used to calculate the claim. Greater returns Renovating an investment property will not only heighten depreciation deductions but can also increase the capital growth and rental return. Even updating the flooring, adding a fresh coat of paint and updating areas like the kitchen or bathroom can attract better quality tenants and increase rental return. The case study below demonstrates a scenario where an investor completed a $65,000 renovation. Here is the investor’s scenario before and after completing the renovation Original purchase price (before renovation) = $610,000 Rental income per annum prior to renovation = $20,580 Total renovation spend (completed in 2021) = $65,000 Property value on completion = $785,000 Rental income per annum after renovation = $27,040 Due to the renovations completed the property’s value increased by $175,000 and yielded an additional $6,460 per annum in rental income to. Repairs, maintenance and capital improvements Knowing the difference between repairs, maintenance and capital improvements is particularly important when renovating. According to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), repairs are considered work completed to fix damage or deterioration of a property, such as replacing part of a damaged fence. This occurs when an asset is already damaged or deteriorated and therefore requires repairing. Maintenance, on the other hand, is work completed to prevent damage or deterioration of an asset. For example, oiling a deck is considered maintenance as it helps to preserve the quality of the property and prevent future corrosion. The total cost incurred to repair or maintain your investment property can be claimed as an immediate tax deduction in the year of the expense. However, the ATO specifies that initial repairs for damage that existed when the property was purchased does not always qualify for repairs and maintenance and therefore not always 100 per cent is claimable in the first year. Instead, these costs are treated as capital improvements and depreciated as capital works deductions or depreciation of plant and equipment. A capital improvement is considered any works that improve a property beyond its original state. According to TR 97/23, an ‘improvement’ provides a greater efficiency of function in the property – usually in some existing function. Some indicators that the work performed is an improvement include whether the work will: extend the property’s income-producing ability significantly enhance its saleability or market value, or extend the property’s expected life We recommend all investors consider engaging BMT for tax depreciation services. For investors who already possess a BMT depreciation schedule and would like to update minor upgrades they can do this via email, the MyBMT portal or a phone call. Previously used plant and equipment can’t be claimed Residential property investors completing renovations should be aware of the 2017 legislation changes. The legislation stipulates that investors who purchased property after 7.30pm on 9 May 2017 are unable to claim deductions for the decline in value of previously used plant and equipment found in second-hand residential properties. But these investors can still claim depreciation on new plant and equipment assets added to a property and all structures new and old as capital works deductions. It’s common for investors to live in their property while renovating. While this may seem like a good idea, all plant and equipment assets like air-conditioning units, light fittings and hot water systems will be classified as previously used and no longer be eligible for depreciation deductions due to the legislation changes. Scrapping Assets may be removed while there is remaining depreciable value left over, claiming this un-deducted value is commonly referred to as ‘scrapping’. Scrapping value is essentially the un-claimed or un-deducted depreciable value of an asset at the time of removal. The scrapping value is calculated as follows: Scrapping value = original depreciable value – deducted value to date For example, if the original value of an asset or part of a building was $8,000, and $6,000 was claimed by the time of the asset’s disposal, the ‘scrapping value’ or part of a building would be $2,000 (assuming no amount is received on disposal). The owner could then claim the $2,000 as an instant tax deduction in the same financial year as removal. It’s important to talk to a quantity surveyor before removing any items so they can capture the assets available for capital works or plant and equipment depreciation deductions. Renovations completed by a previous owner Many older properties have had renovations completed by previous owners, these works are often qualifying and can be claimed by current owners. For instance, if a property was built in 1979 but renovations were completed in 1993 the capital works for the renovation are eligible for depreciation deductions. Even though the property itself is older than forty years, there are still eleven years left of depreciation deductions on the work completed by previous owners. Data shows that of all the schedules completed by BMT, 66 per cent have been for properties that have undergone some kind of renovation or addition. Contacting a quantity surveyor to organise a depreciation schedule including a thorough site inspection can prevent missing out on unknown renovations. A site inspection is especially important if your property was purchased second hand. The site inspector will make note of all plant and equipment assets in the property. Although some of these assets may be impacted by 2017 legislation changes, they can still be included in your capital loss schedule. In some scenarios this can be an important component if, or when, you decide to sell the property or dispose of the assets. More importantly though, a trained specialist will identify additional capital works that will qualify for capital works deductions via renovations or additions completed by previous owners, sometimes from many years prior to ownership. Cosmetic versus substantial renovations Cosmetic changes and substantial renovations are often claimed differently and can affect the extent that a future owner can claim depreciation. For more information see 2017 legislation changes. Cosmetic changes are generally visual in nature or focus on a specific area of the property. Examples include work such as painting, sanding floors, removing and replacing fittings such as lights, replacing curtains or carpets. Cosmetic renovations only change the appearance of an asset not it’s structure. Undertaking a cosmetic renovation is a good way to improve a property without incurring the expense of undertaking a substantial renovation, but it’s important to understand the differences and know what you can claim. According to the ATO, the term substantial renovations is defined in legislative section 195-1 as: “Renovations in which all, or substantially all, of a building is removed or is replaced. However, the renovations need not involve removal or replacement of foundations, external walls, interior supporting walls, floors, roof or staircases.” Renovations need to satisfy the following criteria to establish whether the renovations are substantial: The renovations need to affect the building as a whole; and The renovations need to result in the removal or replacement of all or a substantial amount of the building Maximise the tax benefits with depreciation Regardless of the type of renovation completed, whether it be an addition or laying new carpet, there are depreciation deductions available. A suitably qualified Quantity Surveyor can find an average of almost $10,000 annually in depreciation deductions. To make the most out of renovations, it’s key to talk to a specialist quantity surveyor, even if you already have a depreciation schedule. A Tax Depreciation schedule outlines a forty-year forecast over the life of the property including the Division 43 and Division 40 components as a total yearly deduction. Both the diminishing value and prime cost method are shown for easy comparison. Source: bmtqs.com.au