11 Best Ways to Save Money in Your Home

save moneyFeeling the pinch? With the rising cost of living, this is definitely the time to save more to manage those costs. Here are 11 sure-fire ways to keep your bucks in the bank!

Audit your bills
Go through your bills for utilities and services and check the fine print. Are there fees or products on there you didn’t ask for or don’t use? Cut back things you don’t need and speak up about things you’re not sure about.

Don’t pay any more than you choose to. Challenge things that don’t seem right. And ask, firmly, about ways you could be better served. It’s a competitive market and companies will consider concessions and discounts to keep your loyalty.

Make a maintenance plan
Just like a home budget, a home maintenance plan helps you save serious money. Rather than waiting until things break and you’re held hostage on price because the need is urgent, regularly go around your home (including your car) and perform proverbial oil changes (or actual oil changes).  You’ll be able to catch problems before they become a catastrophy, and regular attention from you can save a fortune in labour costs.

Ditch the disposables
Experts say not buying paper towels is a great way to save money at home. So if you’re a big paper towel user, see if you can reuse a cloth or old clothes instead, and put things like dryer sheets to work as dust cloths for the TV. Better for the wallet = better for the environment.

Keep updates cheap and cheerful
Instead of replacing furniture outright or spending heavily on high end decor overalls, try a simple face lift first. A few bright cushions on an older couch, a coat of paint on a dresser or bland wall, some nice frames with photos; these all give your space new energy without excessive expense.

If you make your own cleaning products, you can update wooden floors and spruce up to add to the shiny new feel. DIY cleaning supplies are becoming increasingly popular as a way to save a small fortune around the home.

Get some (air-filtering) houseplants
Not everyone has a green thumb, but if you can care for a plant or two they can actually help you save money around the home. As well as adding a bit of life to a space, houseplants can help remove toxins from your air and keep a place fresh.

Stop buying expensive air purifiers and fresheners and lean on nature to keep you breathing clear and clean. Do note: some plants might be harmful to pets, and make sure you buy suited to your environment so you don’t create excessive moisture issues.

Don’t overspend on books, movies, music or games that you’re only likely to enjoy once. If you’re going to buy, make sure you truly love that thing or you’re going to get long term enjoyment from it. Look online for free web series’ and other no or low cost ways to relax around the house.

You can still enjoy things as a once off, but look to rent or borrow, not buy. Consider creating a swap or trade group with your community or circle of friends so you can pass things around and vary your home entertainment at little or no cost. And remember that thing called a library?

Get smarter with energy
Get an energy audit performed on your home and identify specific improvements you can make around the house to save you money. This might include install energy saving appliances, smart meters or automated shut off switches, reusing water (i.e. shower water for plants), or line drying your laundry when the weather allows.

Look closely at insulation. It might not be cheap if your property desperately needs insulation, but there’s few better ways to save money in the long term. We often waste up to half our heating and cooling through poor insulation, and it only takes one poorly insulated spot to cause problems. Read up on why and how to get started here.

Clean up to stop doubling up
Have you ever bought something only to get home and find you already had one of them stashed away in a cupboard? It’s actually very common, especially with clothes, appliances and entertainment like DVDs or games.

Apart from making you feel better, cleaning and organising can help you avoid buying multiples of the same thing, or things you don’t really need because you’ve got something that can do the job instead.
Know what you’ve got, so you know what you need to spend on and you won’t be throwing money away.

Utilise online communities
Online communities like Freecycle, Open Shed and Clothing Exchange are just three of many that let you make money with items sitting unused around your house, and get a hold of things you need for cheap or free, like clothes, furniture, tools and more.

Lose the product snobbery
Don’t be fussy about buying name brands. If you can afford it and want to treat yourself, it’s no crime. But if you’re trying to save, buying for the label alone – whatever the product – won’t help.

Economise by buying generic versions of household goods, and think creatively about repurposing. For example, use carpet offcuts as rugs. Make friends with garage sales and op shops. Explore local providers and farmers markets who are keen to compete with bigger players and may offer incentives. Use the generic as an excuse to personalise and add a custom touch instead!

Start a veggie or herb garden
As we said, where you live and your gardening skills might make this more or less practical for your situation, but if you can get a garden – even a tiny or boxed one – up and running you can save plenty in the kitchen by growing essentials like tomatoes, carrots, basil, chives, broccoli and more.

If your resources are limited, consider pitching in with neighbours for a community garden that you can all share in.

Source : www.realestate.com.au (16 January 2013)

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Styling it up: Property Staging Your Home for a Swifter Sale and Bigger Bucks…

property stagingIn a market where we are seeing a rising number of property listings it is more important than ever to ensure that when your home hits the open home circuit, it’s playing the part.

Unfortunately the old ‘throw some cookies in the oven’ trick just doesn’t cut the mustard anymore. In fact, the mouth-watering aroma of freshly baked treats is SO yesterday. The new must-do property preparation, which surfaced in the United States in the 80s, has well and truly hit Australian shores – property staging.

Essentially, property staging allows sellers to create the ideal home experience for buyers. Experts say that although a buyer may only include certain items on their dream home checklist, they are also subconsciously affected by the not-so-obvious surroundings – which may in turn affect their purchasing decisions. Property staging professionals are trained to incorporate those surroundings into your home in order to achieve those subliminal effects.

A professional stager will assess the property’s current décor, consider the targeted buyer audience and showcase the space accordingly. It’s not just a matter of smart furniture and replica artwork either. It allows the home’s most unique architectural features to really shine and maximises the available space to capitalise on a buyer’s interest.

According to Queensland property staging company, Styled By Me, a potential buyer is 63 per cent more likely to buy a property that is presented as a ‘ready to live in’ look. And agents have reported that a staged home can decrease time on market and increase potential profit.

This service can also allow a property a renewed lifespan on the market. If a home has been for sale for a significant period, an internal transformation can attract a wider group of buyers and refresh the listing’s presence. Additionally, when a home is completely vacant it’s difficult to ascertain the purpose of particular spaces. When staged, the buyer has a clearer understanding and perspective of each space. And naturally your investment in staging will reflect in the images used in your property’s marketing campaign.

It is even rumoured that prestige residential rentals and commercial and retail leases are getting on the property staging train to ensure they snag the right type of tenant for their property.

So if you’re the type that likes to keep up with the real estate Jones’s, it’s time to throw out the cookies and make sure your property is playing the part.

Source : www.reiq.com.au (9 January 2013)

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Finally, the Queensland Property Market is Turning a Corner

property marketThe Queensland property market recorded its strongest numbers of house sales in nearly two years, according to the REIQ’s September quarter Queensland Market Monitor.

Over the September quarter, the numbers of house sales increased significantly and were also up 5 per cent compared to the same period last year.

The REIQ always expected a sharp increase in activity in the September quarter as many of REIQ members had reported that buyers were waiting for interest rates to reduce further and for the return of stamp duty concessions on 1 July this year.

Historically, the September quarter is the spring selling season so activity is usually higher than during winter, but it is heartening to see that the numbers of sales is even up on the same period last year.

There was a mix of median price increases and some reductions for major regions over the September quarter but this can partly be attributed to different compositions of sales occurring over the period. For example, if more affordable properties sell, the median house price will also be lower.

In Brisbane, the median house price increased 1.6 per cent to $508,000. The numbers of house sales was also up more than 35 per cent compared to the June quarter.

Brisbane’s market continues to improve as buyers turn their attention to the affordable capital city property prices, as well as the continued strong demand for rental properties which is attracting investors.

The mining areas of Queensland appear to have come off the boil, perhaps due to sharp property price increases over the past 12 months in Gladstone and Mackay in particular, however sales in these regions remain strong.

The top performer of all major regions over the quarter was Mackay, which posted a median house price increase of 4.7 per cent to $445,000. Over the year, its median house price increased 4.9 per cent.

Demand for units and townhouses is also increasing across Queensland as buyers flock to this more affordable type of property.

Across the State, sales of units and townhouses grew by 40 per cent in the September quarter, compared to the previous quarter. The numbers of sales were also up 14 per cent compared to the same period last year.

The data also showed sales increasing for units and townhouses priced under $350,000.

Units and townhouses continue to be a reasonably priced, and also preferable, option for many buyers who want the convenience of living closer to the city while also keeping a lid on their borrowings.

There was a noticeable shift in demand for lower-priced units and townhouses in Cairns and the Gold Coast over the quarter with both regions recording significant jumps in the numbers of sales of properties for under $250,000.

In Brisbane, the median unit and townhouse price increased 0.6 per cent to $405,000 over the September quarter and also recorded a small positive price result over the year ending September.

This is hopefully the start of the pricing turnaround that the REIQ has been anticipating given our property market has been improving throughout the year.

Vacant land market

Compared to the same period last year, the numbers of land sales increased quite significantly in some areas of the State. This was particularly evident on the Gold and Sunshine coasts, Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Mackay and Townsville.

The numbers of land sales in Gladstone actually reduced compared to the same period last year as the available of vacant land becomes more constrained in the region.

In Brisbane, the numbers of sales increased substantially compared to the same period last year, but was steady compared to the previous quarter.

The greatest availability of vacant land in Greater Brisbane continues to be in the Moreton Bay region with North Lakes again picking up the lion’s share of land sales.

Rental market

Rental markets across the state have continued to experience high demand for properties, with vacancy rates tightening even further.

The latest REIQ residential vacancy rates for September show that rental demand has remained strong, with most major regions now posting vacancy rates of 2.5 per cent or less. A vacancy rate of 3 per cent is generally considered to be the equilibrium point of supply and demand.

Recent population data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows that net overseas migration increased by 72.7 per cent to 13,519 persons for the March quarter 2012. Combined with net interstate migration numbers trending upwards over the same period, it is then no surprise that vacancy rates have fallen as new residents contribute towards the already pent-up demand seen throughout Queensland.

Population growth has also affected the rental markets of regional centres throughout Queensland. While the economic prosperity that resource projects generate is certainly welcome, there have also been many challenges faced by local communities as a result, such as the demand for housing. Recent developments in the Mackay region have highlighted this fact, showing that changes in resource-based operations can have large and immediate effects on other industries including housing rental markets.

Nearly 100,000 Queensland properties for sale and rent from REIQ accredited agencies are on reiq.com

Source : www.reiq.com.au (11 December 2012)

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Wanting a Higher Property Price – How Does Your Garden Grow?

gardenOur growing inclination for spending time outdoors and a more casual lifestyle has meant higher priority is being given to outdoor areas and landscaping in our homes.  This is especially important if you are planning to sell your home, as the right landscaping can have the effect of actually increasing the value of your home and will definitely make a difference to prospective buyers.

So how much time, effort and money should you put in to landscaping your home if you’re thinking of selling?

Like any pre-sale improvements, the secret is spending as little as possible to get great results.  If you spend too much on your landscaping you’re less likely to get it back at sale time.

With this in mind, here are a few simple tips to help improve your landscaping and outdoor area and hopefully make them more attractive to potential buyers.

1. The first thing to do is clear away any children’s toys or bikes that are lying around and remove play equipment if it is making your backyard look smaller.

2. Next, walk down garden pathways and remove any dead, overhanging or dangerous branches. Clean paths if they are mouldy or dirty and replace any broken bricks, pavers or cracks.

3. Look at the fencing. Is it in a good state of repair? If not, make any necessary repairs – replace broken palings, reinforce rickety fencing and repaint as required.

4. If the garden beds or lawn are covered in weeds, have the family spend an hour or two clearing them up.  Prune back flowers, trees and bushes to new growth and `deadhead’ flowering plants.

5. Remove any unsightly, dead or scrawny trees and shrubs and replace with healthier specimens.

6. Add mulch such as sugarcane, pebbles or pine chips to your garden beds. This will not only help to keep water in and discourage weeds but will also make your garden look neat and well cared for.

7. Remove garden equipment. Put away all garden tools such as the lawn mower, edger and hoses when not in use. Also, if your budget allows, remove your old umbrella-style hills hoist clothes line and replace with a retractable line in an area that’s not visible from the back of the house.

8. Finally, make sure your garden includes an outdoor deck or patio area suitable for outdoor eating.

A simple and cost effective way to achieve this is to lay a section of paving stones flush up against your home, preferably outside the back entrance. Recycled bricks make perfect pavers and can usually be purchased from your local recycling or garden centre for very little cost.

Source : Quartile Property Network (18 October 2012)

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Cool Ways to Beat the Heat!

heat1. Summer shading on the east, north and west

Well-designed houses have eaves on the north that are wide enough to shade windows and glass doors from the high-set sun as it passes overhead in summer.

They also have shading on the east and west windows and doors. However, as the sun is lower when it is coming from the east and west, eaves alone won’t cut it on those faces of the building.

If your home lacks the right shading, now is a good time to address it before the sun starts trying to really fry you. In the winter you’ll still want to get the sun in, so look for options that don’t block the sun permanently. As mentioned above, eaves on the north side work well, and on the east and west, you’ll need screening – anything from deciduous trees, shrubs and vines to moveable screens and blinds can help to block out the low sun.

We have pull-down canvas blinds at our ’50s style home. They are very effective at blocking the heat but leave the room very dark. Newer blinds block a lot of the sun but still let a good amount of light through. However, if you just want to block the sun, and are not so fussed about the looks, something as simple as some shade cloth strung up will help to do the job.

2. Ceiling fans

One of the cheapest investments you can make to cut your cooling costs is ceiling fans. They cost very little to run (about the same cost per hour as an old incandescent 60 watt bulb) but can make you feel a lot cooler and reduce your reliance an air-conditioning.

The added bonus is, if they have a reverse switch, they can also be used in winter to cut heating bills.

If you are looking at fans with light kits in them, be aware that some of the lighting solutions can be quite poor, so it pays to shop around and test them out in the store before you buy them.

3. Roof ventilators

There are some pretty sophisticated roof ventilators on the market now that expel hot air from the roof space in the day and draw cool air into the home at night. Check out brands such as Smartbreeze, Solar Whiz and Solectair.

4. Cool the house overnight

Remembering to open the property up at night to let the cool night air in is essential to cutting your power bills. It’s free and takes minimal effort.

Things to do now include adding window locks to your windows so you can lock them part of the way open overnight if you are concerned about security.

If you have a property with windows above the ground floor, window locks that allow the window to be locked open no more than 10 cm, or secure mesh instead of a flimsy flyscreen, are vital to prevent young children from falling out while playing or leaning on the flyscreen of open windows. Locks are pretty cheap and can be picked up from a hardware store. For more information see Kids Can’t Fly.


5. Insulation

With the temperature extremes Australia faces, insulation is an absolute must. Now is a good time to consider adding insulation to at least the roof space if you don’t have it, or looking at whether you have adequate levels and need to top it up.

If you are installing the insulation yourself, be careful about doing it on a warm day as roof spaces can be a lot hotter than the outside air temperature. You’ll also need to know about the dangers of using foil insulation and staples near electrical wiring. Sustainability Victoria has some good information on insulation here.


6. Seal up gaps

On hot days the best thing you can do is shut your home up early to keep out the heat to delay or avoid using an air-conditioner. It’s a good idea to check the home now for gaps around windows and doors, and to consider installing thick curtains or insulating honeycomb blinds that can be kept drawn on warmer days to ward off the heat, especially if you are heading off to work and therefore won’t be bothered by the house being kept dark.

7. Airconditioning

There’s plenty you can do with your airconditioner to make sure it is running efficiently.

Keep it serviced, and try to run it at about 25 degrees or more. Every degree warmer you run your air-conditioner in summer is estimated to cut 10 per cent from the cost of running it.

In hot, dry climates, there’s the option of evaporative airconditioning, which guzzle a lot less energy than their refridgerated counterparts. Unlike refridgerated models, which work best when a house is sealed up, evaporative models require the house to be opened up somewhat so the damp air produced by the unit can be flushed out.

8. Double glazing/low-e coating

If you are installing new windows or doors, it is well worth investigating ways of making them more thermally efficient. You’ll need to look at both the materials used in the window or door frame, as well as the glass within it – including its thickness, whether you will opt for double-glazing, and whether to have a low-emissivity coating.

9. Take heat outdoors

Try to barbecue or cook outside to reduce the heat load being created in your home. And if you are cooking inside, having a decent exhaust fan in the kitchen will help to move the hot air out of the home faster. Look for one that vents externally, rather than just shifts the air around the kitchen.

10. Take a look at your garden.

Outdoor paving and cement can store heat, making it harder for your house to cool down at the end of the day. If you have pavers or cement that heat up, consider ways to shade those from the sun with plants, shade sails or umbrellas.

If you are doing work in the garden, look at your options to reduce the amount of hardscaping, and replace it with mulch or with plants including native grasses and groundcovers. This could also reduce stormwater run-off when it rains, helping to keep nearby waterways cleaner.

Source : www.domain.com.au (23 October 2012)

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