Archive | December 2012

Awe-inspiring festive home decorations

Marvel at these wonderful home decorations from around the world. Lights, trees, baubles and reindeer… see the glitz and glam of the festive season, and perhaps get inspiration for next year!

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A classically decorated red and white home. This home seems straight out of a story book!

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A less classic, but more festive, home. Giant snowmen, candy canes and Santa on the roof. This home screams ‘Fun!’

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A tastefully decorated shop window.

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It’s not Christmas unless you have a life-sized reindeer tacked on to the roof of your car.

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These outdoor decorations are fantastic, and seem to have been done by a perfectionist.

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Tasteful wasn’t really on the agenda here, but ‘wild’ might have been.

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A simple and clean, but still quite ostentatiously decorated home. Though we aren’t entirely certain if those are flamingos or reindeer.

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This home is decorated like a castle, and even has a princess crown on top!

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Can you guess the theme? We are not sure what is happening here, but clearly Santa, his reindeer, a snowman and all the wintry creatures decided to have a party.

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Speak to the neighbours before you buy

Neighbourhood

Often when looking for a home, people neglect to do a proper scout of the area, especially if the home is exactly what they are looking for. Finding out about your new neighbourhood is important as you do not want to end up disliking the area or the people who live there, or even worse, realising that it is not as safe or convenient as you had originally thought.

You can find out a lot about your new neighbourhood by doing a thorough research of the surrounding area; you can see if there are children playing in the streets, whether the neighbours are friendly, which schools are nearby as well as various other aspects that are important to you.

Meeting and chatting to the neighbours can give you even more information about the area you want to live in – information that the seller may not disclose to you. You may also discover that your neighbour is not your cup of tea, or that you do not get along very well.

Meeting the neighbour can also give you great insight into crime levels in the area from the perspective of a local, you can also discover how close you are to amenities, restaurants, see what noise levels are like, and if the home you are going to buy has any existing problems that you are not aware off.  You may even discover issues with the actual neighbourhood that have not been divulged by the seller such as its proximity to an industrial area or the airport.

Make a list of questions you want to know about where you will be living. Some questions you may want to ask are:

  1. 1.     What do you like best about living here?
  2. 2.     What do you like the least about living here?
  3. 3.     How long have you lived in the neighbourhood?
  4. 4.     Have you had any problems living here?
  5. 5.     Has the owner mentioned any problems with the house?

So if you are on the look-out for a new home, remember to keep these details in mind, especially if you find a home and fall in love with it. You do not want to be blindsided with the joy at finding the perfect home, only to discover that there is an airport around the corner and aeroplanes are flying over at all hours of the day.

8 Ways to sell your house faster

Image courtesy of My Home Agent

Apart from baking cookies prior to viewers stopping by, making sure all the lights are on and finding a super-savvy real estate agent to back you up, there are a few other, lesser-known and more creative ways to make sure your house gets ‘SOLD’.

  1. Get snap-happy when doing online listings. A recent real estate study showed that listings with more than 6 pictures are twice as likely to be viewed by buyers compared to listings that had fewer than 6 pictures.
  2. Post a video love letter about your home on YouTube. Walk through your home and down your street telling prospective buyers about your favourite places in the area and your favourite parts of the home.  Buyers like to know that a home was loved and looked after, and it might help them to picture themselves in your shoes.
  3. If you know of a local message board or you belong to a neighbourhood email list, send a link to your home’s online listing to your neighbours. Invite your neighbours to your open house and let them talk to prospective buyers, they might  even invite some house hunters they know who have always wanted to live in the area.
  4. Use Facebook. Facebook is the great connector – you know how quickly a popular video can go viral, now imagine how far word of your great house can spread if your friends, and your friends’ friends start talking about it.
  5. Include some other assets in the deal. This can make your house stand out in the mind of the buyer, especially if it is relevant to the property or something coveted by the buyer. Think custom fitted drapes, new kitchen appliances or a mounted TV in the bedroom.
  6. Keep up the condition. Make sure your house looks as good as you can afford to keep it. Get rid of any pests, make sure that none of your windows are broken,  the paint is fresh and the doorknobs are new.
  7. Stage your home and your garden. Real Estate Agents know how important it is to ‘stage’ a house so that others can imagine living there. For example, put a fruit bowl on the kitchen counter, clean cushions on the patio furniture and fresh cut flowers in the lounge.
  8. Pretend you are moving out and take all the things that make your home ‘yours’, this includes family photos, memorabilia and tacky collectibles. Buyers want to visualise your house being their house – and it is difficult for them to do that when there are reminders of your life everywhere.

Should you be buying a property on auction?

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Property auctions are typically seen as the playing fields of professional real estate investors more than they are for first-time buyers. You do not need to be a property tycoon  to reap the benefits of purchasing a property on auction,  but you do need to be equipped with enough information to ensure that you are making the right decision.

Here are some things you should know- and think about- before you catch auction fever:

1. What is the reason for properties being auctioned off?

There are two reasons, firstly, if the homeowner does not pay his bond for several months, the bank will file a notice of default. If the homeowner still does not pay his balance or renegotiate the loan, the home can be put up for auction. This process can take as long as a year, sometimes longer.

The second reason occurs when the owner does not pay property taxes or becomes severely indebted in terms of their other tax obligations. In these cases, it is the tax authority that seizes the property and not the original bond lender.

2. Where does an auction take place?

Auctions take place at the locations chosen by auction companies and can occur on the auctioned property in question. Additional information about upcoming auctions can also be found online

(see http://www.property24.com/auctions or http://www.privateproperty.co.za/auctions)

3. Does the highest bid guarantee ownership of the property?

Not necessarily, it will depend of the kind of auction you are attending. There are two types of property auctions. In a ‘subject to lender confirmation’ auction, the lender (bank or tax authority) does not have to accept your offer even if you are the highest bidder. In an ‘absolute’ auction, you will be entitled to the property if yours is the highest bid.

4. What is the starting price for an auction?

The starting price of the auction may be the balance remaining on the unpaid bond, or it could be an even lower amount designed to spur the bidding process. In the case of a foreclosure auction, the lender is not allowed to profit from the auction. Often, these properties are sold at a loss, but if there is any profit, it is meant to go the homeowner after the mortgage and any other debts are paid.

5. Is there any opportunity to view the property?

Some auction companies have an ‘open house’ event scheduled prior to the auction and others only allow you to drive by and see the outside, therefore it is advisable to  do your own research  regarding the listing online.

Often there is not much opportunity to see the house in as much detail as if you made use of a real estate agent. It is important to remember that while it is possible to find ‘hidden gems’ at property auctions, it is possible that the house has not been maintained due to the previous owner’s financial constraints.

Because auction properties are sold ‘voetstoots’ (as they come), you will be committing to any structural, maintenance or decorative issues that the property may have- whether or not you were aware of them at the time of purchase.

6. What does the financial obligations entails?

Many bidders at property auctions are real estate investors who can afford to pay cash, so you should make sure that you are attending an auction that allows financing and get pre-qualified ahead of time.

Winning bidders will pay auction fees and bidding fees, as well as having to put down a large deposit on the property before leaving the auction site. The winners will then go through escrow and closing, just like with any other property purchase.

Because of the extra risk involved and because fewer people may be interested in the property than if it were available through traditional channels, property prices can be lower at an auction, but buying a property at an auction still requires a lot of cash up front.

Even if you win the auction, you will not be allowed to purchase the property in some cases, like a ‘subject to lender confirmation’ auction. Similarly, the auction could have a hidden reserve price that sets the limit on the minimum acceptable price.

7. Is buying a property on auction worth my while?

Going to property auctions can be a good way for very savvy house hunters to find a good deal, but there is a lot of risk attached to buying an auction property and, even with all the other drawbacks, a lower price on the home is not guaranteed.

Do as much research as you can and try not to so caught up in the belief that you are getting a ‘good deal’ that you overlook the issues that will make the house a burden, instead of an asset, in the future.

The BetterBond Beautiful Rooms Competition Terms and Conditions

By entering the Competition and/or accepting any prize, all entrants and winners agree to be bound by the terms and conditions below.

  1. How to Play – The BetterBond Home Improvement Competition (The Competition) commences on the 11th December 2012 and ends on the 11th January 2013, 17h00 (“Period”), inclusive of both dates. The winners will be personally notified telephonically or via email weekly with exception of the the winners on the 21st and the 28th of December and the 4th of January, who will be notified after the 7th of January.
  2. To qualify as an entrant in the Competition you must be a citizen or permanent resident of South Africa, currently residing in South Africa and be in possession of a valid South African identity document, and be 18 years old, or older, at the date on which you enter or, if a minor, you must be assisted to the extent necessary by a parent/legal guardian.
  3. To enter the Competition you must visit the BetterBond Facebook page on http://www.facebook.com/BetterBond  and click on the competition app tab on the page. By submitting your details at login and entering the competition you agree to allow BetterBond to use your name on related Facebook competition posts, and also to contact you regarding any prize that you may have won.
  4. Entrants must submit original photographs of their home or the home of a friend or family member.  ‘Unoriginal’ images (i.e. downloaded, copied, scanned or replicated from the original source in any way) will not be considered valid entries. These photographs must be voted for by other Facebook users and the pictures at 17h00 on the Friday ending of the first four (4) weeks will be eligible for the weekly prize of R1 000 in Yuppie Chef or Builder’s Warehouse vouchers.  The photo with the most votes at 17h00 on Friday 11th January, 2013 will be eligible for the grand prize of R10 000 in Yuppie Chef or Builders Warehouse in-store account.
  5. By opting in to future communications, you also authorise BetterBond to contact you with regards to future specials and promotions. You may opt out from these communications at any time by selecting the provided opt out option.
  6. Any entrant found to have cheated during the course of any competition, or in any way attempting to cheat the system will be immediately disqualified and banned from further participation in the competition and any further competitions or games organised by the promoters, BetterBond and its agencies. The competition is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. Facebook is completely released of all liability by each entrant in the competition. Entrants will be providing information to Organisers and not to Facebook.
  7. Prizes – Entrants stand a chance of winning one (1) Grand Prize of a R10 000 Yuppie Chef or Builders Warehouse in-store account or one (1) of four (4) secondary prizes of R1000 in Yuppie Chef or Builders Warehouse vouchers.
  8. All prizes, including the weekly vouchers, will only be delivered after the end of the Period.
  9. Prizes are not exchangeable or redeemable from BetterBond for any alternative form of compensation. All prize winners will be contacted within seven (7) days of the end of the Period. Prize winners will be given a period of 7 (seven) working days to respond to this or any email communication and claim their prize. If the prize winner does not respond within this period, an alternate winner will be selected from the entry pool according the number of votes received. The Organisers reserve the right to change these proceedings without notice.
  10. General – The promoter of the Competition is BetterBond and/or its agencies (“Organisers”). The Organisers will interpret the Rules in their sole discretion and reserve the right to amend the Rules at any time. The Organisers, their directors, members, partners, employees, agents, consultants, any other person who directly or indirectly controls or is controlled by them or any supplier of goods and services in connection with the Competition and their spouses, life partners, parents, children, siblings, business partners or associates are not eligible to participate in or enter the Competition. No entry is valid until a validation process determined by the Organisers has taken place. The winners of the prizes shall be chosen at the end of the Period by number of votes and will be monitored by the judges.
  11.  The selected entries will, subject to the Rules, be declared the winner of the prize/s. Each winner will be contacted after they have been selected. In order to claim the prizes, the winners will be required to supply the Organisers a valid South African Physical Address, ID Number and Contact details to facilitate the delivery of the prize. Upon receipt of the completed and legible details, the prizes will be delivered according to the details provided.
  12. Should the winners of the prizes fail to submit the aforementioned details after 7 (seven) working days of the prize being awarded, the prize will be forfeited. In the event of a dispute, the decision of the Organisers will be final and binding and no correspondence will be entered into. By entering the Competition and/or accepting any prize, the entrants and winners hereby indemnify, release and hold harmless the Organisers (including their subsidiaries, holding companies and affiliates), their directors, employees, agents, suppliers and contractors (“Organiser Parties”) from and against any actions, claims and/or liability for injury, loss or damage of any kind resulting in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, from participation in the Competition, and/or the use, acceptance or possession of a prize, and/or participation (or non-participation) in a prize-related activity. The Organisers may require the winner (at no fee) to be identified, photographed, filmed and the aforementioned to be published in any media, subject to the winner’s right to decline participating in any such marketing activities. The Organisers reserve the right to terminate the Competition with immediate effect, without notice. In such event, all entrants hereby waive any rights which they may have against any Organiser Party and acknowledge that they will have no recourse or claim of any nature against the Organiser Parties. The prizes are not transferable. The Organisers reserve the right to substitute any prize with another prize of similar value. The Organisers are not liable for any technical failure that may result in an entry not being successfully submitted. Any prize is accepted by a winner at his/her own risk and the Organisers are not liable, at any time, for any defect in the prize.
  13. By using this application on your Android device you agree to be bound by the Google Policies found at the following link: http://www.google.com/intl/en/policies/
  14. By using this application on your Apple Device you agree to be bound by the Apple End-User License Agreement

Direct all Competition queries to jade@thatsitcom.co.za or carla@thatsitcom.co.za

The latest Terms and Conditions will always be available via http://www.betterbondblog.wordpress.co.za

7 Common Bond Application Mistakes to Avoid

signing

Buying a home is one of the most rewarding- and stressful- things any of us will ever do. As this is likely to be one on the longest term- and most valuable- assets you will ever own. Therefore, make sure that you take the time to avoid these common mistakes when it comes to applying for a bond for the first time:

1.     Not reading the loan documents

While it is true that a bond originator like BetterBond will help you through every step of your home loan, it is still your signature on the bond application documents at the end of the day, and so it is your responsibility to ensure that you understand and comply with all of the clauses in your contract. If you do not understand something, ask your bond originator, estate agent or lending institution to help you before you sign. Ask as many questions as you have to.

2.     Not locking your rate

As you might have already read in one of our previous posts, What a Difference a Rate Makes, having a fixed home loan rate makes all the difference in the long run. Mortgage rates change on a regular basis, so if you get a mortgage quote that works for you, make sure that you tell your bank, lender or broker to lock it before you lose it.

3.     Not comparing loans

Not taking the time to compare loans from various financial service providers is a mistake many first time buyers make. Do not go with the first bank that pre-approves you for a home loan, shop around until you find a loan that you can live with happily for the next 15-20 years.

Consider using a mortgage broker or a bond originator who can help you compare the loans and repayment amounts from a number of banks concurrently, and find you the lowest rate with the best terms.

4.     Not getting pre-approved

Imagine the disappointment of finding the home of your dreams- and then finding out that you do not qualify for the financing to purchase it. Avoid disappointment and prepare in advance by getting pre-approved for your home loan.

Mortgage pre-approval means that the bank references your credit and looks at your income, assets, employment and your debt-to-income ratio to determine how much you can afford. Once you are pre-approved, you will know exactly how much you can afford to spend on your new home, and you will also have physical proof from your lender to show the seller that you are serious about the property.

5.     Not looking at the total costs 

When you buy a house, you are committing to pay for more than just the listed price of the property. Your bond payment includes interest, taxes and insurance.

Prospective homebuyers often mistakenly do not factor their property taxes and insurance premium into their overall mortgage budget. In addition, you should also prepare for transfer duties, conveyance fees and bond initiation costs that will add to the overall amount you will have to pay during the purchase of your property.

6.     Not watching your appetite for credit

If you are trying to apply for a new credit card, or vehicle financing at the same time as applying for a home loan, you could be biting off more than you can chew in terms of debt. Having more debt will also make you a greater credit risk, which will affect your pre-approval eligibility, and could also affect your interest rate should you be approved.

7.     Not checking your credit to begin with

Before you even attend a single open house, you should have a very good understanding of what your credit rating is and what your ceiling is for your monthly bond repayments. If you are not sure about your credit standing, make sure you check it out long before applying for a loan. Try to give yourself enough time to pay off your debts and improve your credit score if you have to, as this will improve your chances of getting pre-approved.

For advice or assistance in applying for your home loan, contact BetterBond.

Protect Your Home While You’re on Holiday

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So you’ve booked your flights, your accommodation and your activities. Maybe you’ve even started packing your suitcase in anticipation of the December break- but no matter where you’re heading off to at the end of the year, remember: You might be on holiday, but criminals aren’t.

Here are a few things to keep in mind in the next few weeks to protect your home from theft:

  • Make your home look like someone is living in it, e.g. don’t close your curtains. In daytime this shows your house is empty. If you have an automatic timer that will turn your lights on at night, that’s great, otherwise consider paying a house-sitter you trust or a neighbour to check in and make your home look occupied while you’re away
  • Cancel all your mail subscriptions- or get your friendly sitter to pick up your mail. A pile of unopened envelopes on the stoep is a sure sign there’s no one home
  • Avoid discussing holiday plans where strangers may hear details of your absence from home
  • Try not to take a taxi to the airport. If you do, use a taxi company you can rely on, don’t discuss your holiday plans and make it sound like you have a house-sitter, whether you do or not
  • Cut the lawns and trim back any plants on your property that thieves could hide behind
  • Leave important documents and valuable items with other family members or a bank. Alternatively lock them in a safe
  • Avoid discussing holiday plans on social networking sites – if your posts are publicly visible, burglars can use any information you post on there to their advantage
  • Do not put your home address on your luggage when you are travelling to your holiday destination. A house number and postcode will suffice if you want to label your luggage
  • If you normally leave valuable bicycles or similar items in your shed, consider putting them in the house. Garden implements and tools can also be used by criminals- so consider locking up your shed while away
  • Make sure that you lock all outside doors and windows and set your burglar alarm if you have one
  • Ensure that you are completely covered by your insurance company for all forms of theft, fire and damage which could occur while you are away.

To ensure that you have the right home contents insurance policy at a premium you can afford, be sure to contact BetterSure on  0860 006 001

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