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What Constitutes a ‘Good’ Settlement Agent



Recent changes to industry regulations have caused a shift in what makes for a good Settlement Agent. Previously the standard was to call around and try to negotiate the lowest price based on the scale of fees. However, now the scale has been removed there is no longer a standard for comparison. Now, a Settlement Agent needs to rely on having something more that will make you, the client, trust them with this monumental transaction. So what should you look for?

Professionalism

While it goes without saying that everyone in the industry has to be professional, some have a higher standard than others. When calling around to find out who can help you there are some things to bear in mind; are they courteous on the phone? Are they quick to answer? Did you have to leave a message? Did they get back to you quickly? These kinds of things could be an indication of the kind of service you can expect through the whole transaction.

Industry knowledge

Do a little bit of checking into the agents you are considering. Read through their websites; how long have they been working in the industry? It’s almost certain that the longer they have been working in the industry the more they will know. Ask around as well; speak to your Real Estate Agent about whom you are considering, or read some online reviews. You may get an insight that not all clients see when dealing with a Settlement Agent. Whilst some may refer you to a certain Settlement Agent, ultimately the choice is yours as to who you nominate.

Commitment to you

This is imperative. A Settlement Agent is employed by you to represent you. They should have your best interests in mind and have to give you the best advice they can under their regulations. When something falls out of their jurisdiction they must refer you to seek legal advice. But more than this, they should keep you informed every step of the way. They should not be hard to get a hold of, they should be able to get back you quickly, and you should not be left waiting. If you wait for too long, you are not their priority. While you may not be their only client, you are their client regardless, and all clients should be treated with the same attention and respect.

Time

Finally, and most simply, if they cannot make the time to see you, call you or email you, then they do not have the time for you. This can often become a problem in offices that have too much work and cannot manage their time correctly. It is this regard that makes it important to realise that a discounted settlement fee may mean a discounted service.

So after all this, what do you think makes a ‘good’ Settlement Agent? It’s easy, one who makes you their priority. And if you have managed to nominate an Agent who doesn’t give you the service that you expected or desired, there is some good news. You can change! Under the Settlement Agents’ Code of Conduct 1982 rule 28, “a client is entitled to change his settlement agent … at any time without giving reason.”


The Role of A Mortgage Broker



For many of our customers, simply understanding what’s involved with taking out a home loan can make all the difference. That’s why in the following links, we’ve included some information on how the loan process works (and how a mortgage broker can help make it happen). Also included is an article that explains honeymoon rates as well as some rather significant changes in foreign investor lending.

Honeymoon Home Loan Rates

Foreign Investor Lending Changes

The Loan process: Explained

As always, we’re here to help so please don’t hesitate to call our office if you have any questions.


Changes to the First Home Owners Grant



The first home owner grant of up to $3,000 for the purchase of established homes in Western Australia has been removed as of 03 October 2015.  

A first home owner who purchases an established home on or after 03/10/2015 will no longer be eligible for a grant. However, if the value of the property is $530,000 or less, they may still be eligible for the first home owner rate of duty. The first home owner grant of $10,000 for new homes will remain unchanged.

What does this mean for you?

Basically, if you are a first home owner who signed up a contract to purchase an existing home over this past weekend (Saturday 3/10/2015 and Sunday 4/10/2015), you will not receive the grant. However, if you signed up to buy land, turn key, or a newly built home that has not been lived in, you will still be eligible to apply and receive a grant of $10,000.

If you already had a contract signed before Saturday the 3rd of October, then Office of State Revenue will have to honour the previous ruling and you should receive a $3,000 grant if successful in your application.

How about the stamp duty?

This will remain unchanged. All first home owners will be eligible for Nil stamp duty if the property is valued less than $430,000, and will have to pay a portion of Stamp Duty if the property is valued between $430,000 and $530,000. These figures apply for established homes only. The vacant land threshold is $300,000 to $400,000.

 


Sellers to Get Spring Ready



Getting your home ready for a spring sale

Once you have the perfect agent by your side, it’s time to take a good look at your home and what could be done to improve its appearance. If you were a buyer, what would put you off the property? Make a list, and get ready to make some changes!

This is often difficult to do with your own home as it is most likely filled with possessions that you love and adore, so asking a close friend to help may be a good option.

If you’re selling in the current market, you have some competition with buyers now enjoying the luxury “shopping around” period. But this doesn’t necessarily mean bad news for you; it’s the opportunity to make your property stand out from the crowd!

Don’t let buyers slip away – ensure you take care of the following turn-offs before opening your doors to potential buyers:

  • Pets and their pet things – Even an animal lover can be turned off by your little ball of fluff when their potential home is in question! Buyers won’t want to see your cat’s dirty litter box or doggy treats around the place. Make sure your pets are out of the way whilst your home is on the market. They should be away from your home during home opens or if you can, have them stay with a family member the whole time your home is on the market. This will help to eliminate any lingering pet smells.
  • Cigarette smoke – This is almost always a deal breaker! Few will want to invest in a new home that smells of cigarette smoke and you will have buyers walking straight back out the door at home opens. If you have been smoking in the house, you may need to remove fabric furniture, steam clean the flooring and even repaint the property! It will be an investment in the short term, but it will certainly make or break the sale.
  • Dirty/Messy Bathrooms – Understandably, this is a huge turn off for potential buyers! It is common for bathrooms to become cluttered with makeup, perfumes, and other grooming items, but you will want to ensure this is not the case during a home open. It is important you store everything neatly under the counter, and give the area a once over to ensure it’s clean and free of any hair, grime and toothpaste marks.
  • Too many personal belongings – If your shelves and units are cluttered with photos of you and your family, trophies, awards and birthday cards, consider removing some of these items. Don’t get us wrong, having a personal touch is important but it will be difficult for potential buyers to visualise themselves in your home when it screams “you”.
  • Clutter – Remove any extra furniture pieces which are cluttering your space. Let the buyer visualise their furniture inside the home – the trick is to make them fall in love, and see the potential.

Pay special attention to how your home is presented, overall. This usually gives the buyer peace of mind as a well maintained property suggests a limited chance of encountering hidden problems once the property is officially theirs. That means fixing any cracks in walls, dripping taps, loose fixtures or broken tiles.

Tying into this, remember you are always on show. From the second you list your property for sale, there will be buyers doing a sneaky drive-by, daily. They will be scoping out the property, street and overall neighbourhood. This can often be the decider for the cluey buyer, so don’t give them the opportunity to be put off. How the property appeals to them from the outside will determine whether they want to venture inside. Here are some ideas to help you keep your home in top shape in case any potential buyers drive by for a looksee:

  • Make sure your front gardens and lawns are well kept and maintained.
  • Cut back any over grown plants and weed any messy garden beds.
  • Remove all junk mail and newspapers from the letterbox and yard.
  • If possible, park the cars in the garage so they’re out of the way.
  • Avoid having rubbish out for collection on the verge.
  • Each night before sunset, turn on all outdoor lights.

When it comes to the inside of your home the trick is to provide an inviting, clean and comfortable feel.

Replace all dish and hand towels throughout your kitchen and bathrooms with fresh, clean ones.

When it comes to rugs, pick up all visible chunks of wool from them and make sure they are secured using rug tape and rubber mats to keep them in their correct position and in the best quality. Rug tape will also help to limit any accidental trips for potential buyers coming through your home.

Use accent lighting for decorative purposes, helping to add ambiance to any room whilst creating visual effects. It draws the eye to ornaments, paintings and feature furniture.

Keep nice smelling hand soap in your bathroom and make sure to wash your hands before your home open begins to infuse the bathroom with a beautiful scent.

Decorate with artwork to limit bare walls. Bare walls often create a cold and unwelcoming feeling, so spice them up with some dramatic artwork.

Think about finishing touches and what little changes will make a huge difference to how your home is presented and viewed by potential buyers. For example, consider purchasing fresh flowers to present as a centrepiece on your dining or coffee table – always a hit!

So, as we look to the warmer months, keep in mind – first impressions do count!