How to manage your investment property over the Christmas break

With Christmas just around the corner, you’re probably looking forward to a well-deserved break. Trouble is, your property manager and tenants are probably doing the same. So how do you keep your investment property safe over the holidays?

Follow our 5 tips.

Tip 1: Be prepared and plan ahead

If your investment property has any plumbing or electrical problems, fix them NOW. Chances are, those niggling little concerns could become major problems when the only help at hand are emergency plumbers and electricians. Over Christmas, they’re hard to find and charge accordingly. Attending to them now could save you a lot of money and your tenants a lot of grief.

Tip 2:  Does your investment property have air conditioning?

Air conditioners must be serviced regularly to ensure they remain in good working order. Like plumbing and electrical problems, you don’t want the expense of emergency repairs over Christmas. Remember to clean filters at least once a year to help prolong their serviceable life and reduce repair costs.

Tip 3:  Does your property have a swimming pool?

If so, you must have an up-to-date Swimming Pool Certificate of Compliance. In NSW, these Certificates are essential. They last 3 years but it’s important to ensure the pool gate and fencing are regularly checked. You are also required (by law) to have a resuscitation chart clearly visible.

Tip 4: Window locks are a legal requirement

Since March 2018, all strata buildings in NSW are required to have robust, child-proof window locks to restrict how far a window can be opened. This regulation applies to all windows that are 2m above the ground outside and 1.7m above the floor inside. The locks must prevent windows opening more than 12.5cm.

Tip 5:  Your tenant’s holiday plans

If your tenant has holiday plans, they need to advise your managing agent how long they will be away and provide their holiday contact details. While away, your tenants need to arrange for someone to regularly clear the mailbox. An overflowing letterbox is an advertisement the property is empty.

What’s your managing agent’s holiday plans?

Obviously, your managing agent is entitled to take a holiday but your investment property and tenants still need to be supervised – especially if the unexpected happens.

At Stills Properties, we ensure all tenants are provided with a list of emergency phone numbers for electrical and plumbing services. These trades have been working with us for years because they are reliable, highly trustworthy and ethical. We also keep on top of all property maintenance issues to minimise the need for any emergency call-outs.

Does your current property manager do this? If you don’t feel your investment property is getting the care it should, get in touch with Stills Properties on 1300 091 638 or email propertymanager@stillsproperties.com.au.


Real Estate on the Radio – Festive Edition

Brigitte Stills returns with a festive edition of her Real Estate segment on Northside Radio 99.3FM next Monday – 9th December – between 9.30 – 10am.

  • Investors – is your property ready for the Christmas and New Year break?  Now is the time to ensure any outstanding repairs and maintenance is carried out, before your Agent disappears on holiday. 
  • Buyers – if you’re looking to buy an investment property, make sure you’re discussing your plans with a reputable Property Manager before you buy. Get the inside knowledge of what’s hot, and what’s not. The right rental market advice can help prevent expensive mistakes and difficult to rent purchases.
  • Sellers – thinking of selling in the New Year?  When is the right time?  First quarter?  Second quarter?  When?  Talking to a real estate professional early on lets you plan your strategy with confidence and in good time to achieve your goal.

Brigitte Stills of Stills Properties brings over 38 years of real estate and property management experience to dispensing her advice on these topics and responding to listener questions on Sydney Real Estate.

Send your questions in beforehand (time-constraints prevent us taking queries live on air), to:

Settle back with a mix of music and real estate on 99.3FM then have yourself a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


Prepare now for new residential tenancy laws

The NSW Parliament recently passed a number of amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act 2010. With over 30% of the NSW population renting, these changes are designed to make it easier for tenants to make a rental property feel like home.

For landlords, it creates an opportunity to attract and retain high quality, long term tenants – providing greater income certainty on their investments.

The new laws also improve protections for victims of domestic violence.

The implementation date for the Residential Tenancies Amendment (Review) Bill 2018, is expected to begin in the first half of 2020 so it’s important all landlords start planning now.

The Reforms in summary

A. Minimum standards identified

At the beginning of any tenancy, all properties will need to meet 7 minimum standards to be deemed fit for habitation. These standards will also need to be maintained throughout the tenancy (by way of repairs). While not an exhaustive list, these standards are considered the minimum baseline.

The 7 minimum standards are:

  1. The property must be structurally sound
  2. Each room must have adequate natural or artificial lighting (the exceptions are storage rooms or garages)
  3. There must be adequate ventilation throughout the property
  4. It must have an electricity and/or gas supply with adequate electricity and gas outlets for lighting, heating and appliances
  5. The property must have bathroom facilities (including toilet and bathing facilities) which provide user privacy
  6. The property must be connected to water supply infrastructure for the supply of hot and cold water for drinking, washing and cleaning
  7. The plumbing and drainage must be satisfactory

B. New resolution powers & rectification orders

The property management industry is plagued by disputes over repairs and maintenance issues along with claims of property damage caused by tenants. The new legislation is designed to reduce these problems by providing NSW Fair Trading with greater powers – including the ability to issue rectification orders.

C. Rent increases limited for periodic leases

Rent increases for periodic leases (that is, where the tenancy has no specified time limit) will be restricted to once every 12 months under the new laws.

D. Protections for victims of domestic violence

Tenants who need to escape a violent partner will be able to terminate their tenancy immediately and without penalty. In addition:

  • The victim/s will not be held accountable for any property damage that occurred during a domestic violence incident
  • The same is true if they are a co-tenant who is not the perpetrator
  • If a tenant terminates a lease because they are a victim of domestic violence, the landlord or their agent are prohibited from adding their name to the tenancy database

E. Separate meters for granny flats etc.

With the rise of dual occupancies, granny flats and the like, the Residential Tenancy Amendments include a new definition for “separately metered premises”. The purpose of this amendment is to reduce the number of disputes between landlords and tenants over who pays for water, electricity and gas.

F. Other changes

The amendments are quite comprehensive and include a number of other changes including:

  • The introduction of penalties for landlords or agents if they fail to provide the tenant with a property condition report at the beginning of the tenancy
  • Mandatory set fees for breaking a fixed-term lease
  • Penalties for landlords who fail to repair smoke alarms
  • Clarification on taking photos and videos during inspections and publishing them to advertise the property for re-lease or sale
  • Stopping database operators charging tenants to access their own information

Take care of your tenants and they’ll take care of your property

Your investment property is a valuable asset so it’s only natural you want to ensure it’s providing a great return on investment, with tenants that will take care of it.

This new legislation is designed to help you do that by providing tighter guidelines on what’s acceptable from both a landlord’s and tenant’s point of view.

For an informed and conscientious property manager to look after your investment needs, call Brigitte Stills on 1300 091 638 or email propertymanager@stillsproperties.com.au She’s been looking after landlords and their properties for over 30 years.


The 3 essentials of stress-free property management

Purchasing an investment property is exciting but also a large financial commitment. Whether you own one or several, you need tenants who are reliable, care for your property and pay their rent on time.

Some landlords choose to manage their own rental properties while others use a professional property manager. Whatever you choose to do, there are 3 essential elements to ensure your property investment generates good rental returns.

1. Securing the best tenants

Problematic tenants are costly and time consuming. It takes careful, strategic marketing and thorough screening of all potential tenants to ensure you quickly eliminate any troublesome ones.

The best tenants will respect your investment and treat it as if it was their own home. They will take good care of the property, promptly report any maintenance issues and pay their rent on time. Ideally, they will want to continue on in the property for years to come.

2. Minimising vacancies

Once you secure a great tenant, you’ll want to keep them for as long as possible. Therefore, tenant retention should be your top priority. Longevity in a tenancy equates to better returns on your property investment.

Relationship building, good communication and knowledge of the rental laws are the keys to building a long-term tenancy. It’s also important for any maintenance requirements to be dealt with in a timely manner.

3. Caring for your Investment

Regular property inspections are essential to ensure your investment is being looked after and any necessary repairs and maintenance addressed.

When carrying out routine inspections there are a number of things you should be looking for:

  • Is the tenant sub-letting the property?
  • How many people and/or pets are living at the property? Does this comply with the rental agreement?
  • Has furniture been placed to hide any damage?
  • Has the property been cleaned adequately to ensure there are no issues at the end of the tenancy?
  • Are smoke detectors in place and operational?

In most cases, tenants simply need education on their responsibilities for caring for the property.

Maximising the rental return on your investment property doesn’t happen by accident

Every landlord hopes their investment property appreciates so they see increases in their rental return. But successful, stress-free property management is never a “set and forget” investment. It takes active management and open communication between the property manager, landlord and tenant.

If you are looking for an experienced, knowledgeable and dedicated property manager, contact Brigitte at Stills Properties. She’s been managing investment properties for landlords for over 30 years.

For further information or to discuss your investment needs, call Brigitte Stills on 1300 091 638 or email propertymanager@stillsproperties.com.au


How to make your property stand out in an oversupplied rental market

Recently, I met with the owner of a two-bedroom apartment in Neutral Bay who was struggling to attract tenants. He pointed to the flood of new properties in the area and believed his older apartment wouldn’t be able to compete in an oversupplied rental market.

While an oversupply means renters have more choice and bargaining power, as the landlord, the onus is on you to ensure your property stands out and is worth bargaining for.

Here are seven ways to make your property stand out in an oversupplied rental market to secure a great tenant and fetch the highest rent possible:

1. Create great first impressions, inside and out

First impressions matter when a prospective tenant inspects your property. Inspecting tenants are more attracted and willing to pay the asking price for a well-presented property.

While inside should be tidy and uncluttered, the outside is typically the first thing people see. So, it’s important to take into account the exterior of the property, including the lawn, paths, railings, gutters, and fencing.

If you own a strata unit, you should consider the condition of the common property, such as the foyer, stair wells, elevators, driveways and gardens. Speak with the owner’s corporation to ensure repairs and maintenance are upheld. The state of the building will influence the way prospective tenants perceive your unit.

2. Make it sparkle

Set a high standard of cleanliness. Make sure the property is clean, fresh, and hygienic in your listing photographs and on inspection day. The new tenant will know the condition the property must be in when they hand back the keys.

Consider having the carpets and window coverings professionally cleaned and removing grime and dust from windows and fly screens to allow in more light.

Rid the property of any odours, such as cigarette or pet smells, which can be easily detected by inspecting tenants.

2. Enhance the best features

Use professional photos to capture the features of your property in the best light and from the best angle. Professionally photographed properties stand out online; they grab the attention of prospective tenants, drive more enquiries and can result in getting your property leased faster.

To gain an even greater edge in a competitive market, you may want to consider property styling to enhance the ambience and functionality of your property – virtual stylists are an easy and affordable option.  

Stylists and experienced real estate photographers understand what appeals to tenants and know how to enhance the attractiveness of your property to maximise your listing.

3. Focus on the strengths

Marketing the property with an accurate description is essential but it’s also important to include stand out qualities of the property.

While you must include the essentials such as the number of rooms, specific features and rent cost, your description should also include attractive features that will appeal to a broad segment of tenants. This may include views, family-friendly street, proximity to transport, easy access to shops, schools, hospitals and other amenities.

If you’ve recently renovated, upgraded the appliances, or installed a pet door, make it known. This additional information could set your property apart from the one around the corner.

4. Fix what is broken

Make sure your property – from the front path to the back fence – is in good working condition. Which would you choose if you had the choice to rent a property in need of repair or one in perfect working order?

Fixing what is broken and doing small repairs and maintenance prior to inspection could prevent a bigger, more costly problem down the line. And could also cause less interruption and frustration for the tenant.

5. Tend to the small things

While tenants tend to prefer a new property, well-renovated and well-kept homes are often equally as appealing. Tending to the small, but important aspects of your property can add value.

If your property is tired and dated, interior cosmetic renovations are a cost-effective way to refresh the look and feel of your rental. This could include giving drab walls a fresh coat of paint, replacing well-worn carpet and updating lighting and other fixtures. These small things can add to the appeal of your property and potentially increase rent.

Before beginning any cosmetic renovation it’s a good idea to seek advice from your property manager about which improvements will deliver the best return.

6. Know the rules

Even in a competitive rental market it’s crucial that all aspects of your property meet current regulations, safety guidelines and efficiency standards. This includes pool fences, railings, balconies, blinds, windows, smoke detectors, and electrical and water. It’s important that you make certain all are in adequate working order prior to having new tenants. Ensure that all electrical wiring and power points are safe, including electrical appliances to be included in the tenancy. And be sure to take out comprehensive insurance cover on the property prior to the inspection, including public liability. Your property manager will be able to advise you of the laws relevant to your property.

I’m Brigitte Stills of Stills Properties. Contact me on 0419 426 038 if you’re looking for, or have, a property for let. Or, if you’re an Agent/Property Manager searching for more tips on how to succeed in a difficult rental market with pro-active marketing of the properties on your rent-roll.