Category Archives: House & Home

Paying Stamp Duty Feels Like a Punishment for Moving House

In most parts of Australia, real estate prices are through the roof. It’s one thing to pay market value for a home; having to pay even more on top of that is a whole other matter. After paying so much money to own even a very modest house, most buyers are irked by having to pay stamp duty. Indeed, the tax seems like nothing short of a punishment in most instances. That’s especially true when you consider its origins versus what it’s ostensibly used for today. Should the stamp duty on real estate purchases be eliminated? Most Australians would respond with a resounding yes.

In the earliest days, the stamp duty that was assessed on real estate transactions was used to cover the costs of filing and stamping the associated paperwork. At that point, it seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do, and it wasn’t all that expensive. Times have changed, though. These days, most Australian states and territories generate huge amounts of revenue by collecting the tax from home buyers, and the money is used for much more than filing and stamping paperwork. In fact, it could be argued that much of what’s collected isn’t used for real estate matters at all.

First home buyers tend to have the hardest time buying real estate in Australia. House prices are sky high, and those just starting out don’t often have a lot of money at their disposal. After scrimping and saving for years to amass a decent deposit on their first home, young people are thrown for a loop upon realizing that they’ll also need to come up with a considerable percentage of the value of their new home to cover the stamp duty. Sure, most territories and states waive huge portions of the duty for first home buyers; some offer concessions that eliminate it entirely. Still, asking those with limited means to come up with even more money in order to buy their first homes is hitting below the belt.

Will the stamp duty for real estate purchases ever go away? Considering how much state and territorial governments rely on the revenue that seems highly unlikely. Still, adjustments can and should be made. Rather than charge a percentage of the total value of a very expensive home, for instance, the duty could be a flat rate that’s a lot more reasonable. Whether any changes ever happen, however, is a whole other matter.

Safety Net: 4 Real Estate Laws You May Not Be Aware of

The financials of real estate can be extremely complicated. Whether you’re a real estate agent or a client, buying a new home or selling property, renting out your second home or trying to secure a lease, the ins and outs of real estate laws are complex. But there are some handy laws meant to protect your interests you might not have known about.

The Patriot Act

You may not have known that the Patriot Act requires real estate professionals to report transactions (either a single transaction or a series of related transactions) from which they receive $10,000 or more. Mortgage lenders, among other institutions, are required by the Patriot Act to implement safeguards against money laundering and terrorist transactions. Real estate professionals are not currently required to do the same, but that may soon change. This is meant to protect against terrorist transactions happening in the United States.

Equal Credit Opportunity Act

Most people need credit to pay for or finance purchases in their lives. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act protects individuals needing credit from being against based on race, gender, age, receipt of public assistance, and more. The only valid criteria for evaluating whether or not a person is eligible for credit are things like income, debts, and credit history. If you need legal assistance, instead of trying to figure things out all on your own, reach out to someone like John R. Campbell Jr.

Home Mortgage Interest Tax Deduction

If you’ve got a mortgage on your house and you pay interest on it, you can deduct that interest from your taxes. There are guidelines as to which types of mortgages qualify. For example, mortgages taken out before 1987 grandfather these laws, and so the interest is deductible. Mortgages taken out after 1987 have to fit certain purpose and financial stipulations. Your mortgage must be on a qualified home, which means your main home (in which you live most of the time) or your second home (like a house, condo, or trailer).

Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act

Title VIII, the Fair Housing Act, prevents housing discrimination. You can’t be denied the sale, rental or financing of a dwelling based on race, gender, disability, and other considerations. The Fair Housing Act also puts provisions in place so that victims of housing discrimination can bring effective legal action. Additionally, Title VIII prevents general housing rules, like a dwelling with a no pets policy, from being twisted to exclude disabled people, such as someone who requires the assistance of a seeing-eye dog. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development enforces Title VIII.

Now you know that there’s a part of the Patriot Act designed to protect real estate specifically. Discrimination based on race, gender, disability, age, financial circumstance, and other aspects, is prohibited by more than one law, and if it happens to you, you’re absolutely entitled to legal assistance. Plus, if you have a mortgage, you can save money on your taxes by deducting the interest you pay.

Create a Private Oasis with Landscaping Ideas That Also Increase Your Home’s Value

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” This is the opening line of Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall,” which suggests that while privacy is often necessary, the means to create it are not always visually pleasing. Later in the poem, he suggests that his apple trees and his neighbor’s pines, natural landscaping, offer privacy enough to not need a wall. Whether you’re looking to sell your home or just increase your privacy, landscaping can significantly increase your home’s value and your enjoyment of the property.

To fence, or not to fence: Consider the benefits of using landscaping for privacy

There are several advantages to choosing landscaping for privacy instead of typical fencing. Privacy landscaping creates a retreat for your family, and can increase your home’s value (making it a great tip for selling your home).

  • Landscaping for privacy may be more affordable than conventional fencing options and is just as affective at reducing unwanted sound
  • Landscaping ideas like lilacs or rose bushes are more aesthetically pleasing in shape and color than wooden or chain-link fences
  • Zoning regulations are often less strict with respect to allowing natural landscaping versus fencing
  • Landscaping provides the same privacy as a fence but is not as permanent or restrictive

Create a backyard getaway with a variety of plants

Landscaping for privacy offers diverse options, including shapeable hedges and loose layered borders with smaller shrubs. Consider the layout of your home and garden to find the best design option for your yard.

  • Yews, Privet & Boxwood: If you’re looking for the typical straight hedgerow you should consider these shrub varieties. Keep in mind how much shade and water they need and trim them so the bottoms are wider than the top to provide adequate exposure to sunlight. Also consider how high you want your hedge to grow as certain shrubs have a maximum height.
  • Evergreen or deciduous: Of course it doesn’t have to be one or the other and most loose borders will benefit from having both, but be sure you know the difference. Even though burning bushes look beautiful when they turn colors, as deciduous shrubs, they lose their leaves in winter. Arborvitae on the other hand is a lovely cone shaped evergreen that will hold its color all year and might be the perfect addition to your landscaping. Other colorful additions to consider are deciduous lilacs and rose bushes, or evergreen butterfly bushes that will attract some fluttery friends in the summer.
  • Fruit-bearing trees & shrubbery: If you have the space for it, consider planting fruit trees on your property and benefit from the shade and the snack. Even if you don’t have room for a small orchard, consider berry bushes or grape vines for a fruitful property line.

 Finance your landscaping project with a home equity loan

While you may not think planting a hedge could increase your home’s value, increasing the privacy of your property with landscaping is a helpful tip for selling your home. This is because “living” fences are often easier to remove or adjust. No matter how long you plan to be in your home, consider borrowing off the equity in your mortgage with a home equity loan to finance your landscaping ideas. Not only will natural landscaping provide your family with a quiet space to relax, but a simple, low-maintenance hedgerow may also benefit future buyers.


Sponsored content was created and provided by RBS Citizens Financial Group.