Archive | September 2015

How to fix your children’s DIY decor

Suddenly the house goes quiet, and you walk into a room to find your children beaming proudly at you over a carpet full of nail polish, or trying to hide a pet which has been mysteriously dyed bright green. What do you do, besides want to pretend you didn’t see it? Well, at BetterLife Home Loans we know how much you love your home, so we’ve compiled a list of how-to’s to help keep your carpets, wooden floors, walls (and pets) stain-free, no matter how artistic your children want to get.

Food colouring:

Food colouring

Food colouring is a persistent stain. Hydrogen peroxide (tested on a less-visible area first, to ensure you don’t bleach the surface) can be applied to the stain, left for a few minutes, and then wiped with a clean towel. For stubborn stains, brushing the peroxide into the surface works well. Rinse using a cloth and water, then dry thoroughly. If it is on skin, let it fade naturally, or apply baby cream to the area.


Drawing on wall with crayons

A thick paste made from baking soda and water dissolves most kinds of grease (including tough pan grease). For wall drawings, dab some onto the stain before gently rubbing with a clean cloth, rinsing and wiping it dry. For wooden floors or furniture, a cloth and a few drops of mineral solvent will do the trick. Always test an inconspicuous area first before applying a cleaning agent, to ensure you don’t damage your house or furniture.


Drawing on wall with crayons

For clothes, scrape off excess paint then if possible, saturate the surface with isopropyl alcohol. Once this is done, scrape the area with a butter knife or your nails, then wash as usual.


Vaseline Mohawk

Vaseline may be your best friend for a diaper rash, but certainly not for your child’s hair. Normal shampoo won’t do the trick if your toddler decides to style themselves a Mohawk. Pat baby powder or corn starch (Maizena) into their hair to absorb the jelly, then wash with warm water and shampoo. Otherwise, mix some baking soda into regular baby shampoo, then wash and rinse out.

Nail polish:

Child painting nails

Blot up the excess lacquer, then apply a small amount of acetone to stain and blot again. Repeat the process until the stain no longer responds. If it remains, apply a small amount of hydrogen peroxide, sponge with cold water and blot dry again.


Blue Tack/Prestik

If Prestik is stuck in your carpet, saturate the area with a citrus-based cleaning agent, leave it to dry and soften, then pick off. Use a cloth and cool water to rinse residue.


Ink-stained shirt

To gently remove ink, use a little bit of baby oil, or olive oil. Nail polish remover and rubbing alcohol work quickly, but are less gentle. Dab some onto a cotton ball and wipe the area, but be sure to avoid the eye and mouth areas if possible. If you’re removing ink from dog fur, wash your pup with a mix of warm water and dish soap, then rinse with warm water.



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What’s the right age to buy your first home?

shutterstock_148425860This debate goes back and forth in every generation as young adults weigh up the fact that it’s never too early to start building equity and their worries about acquiring fixed property while job prospects are uncertain or the lifestyle they wish to pursue is undecided.

Of course buying young and paying off the mortgage as quickly as possible does allow people more flexibility when it comes to paying for their children’s education, and planning and saving for their own financial security as they get older.

But home ownership can also restrict choices when a better job opportunity appears or when a young owner wants to travel, and that is one reason why the average first-time-buyer age in SA has steadily risen over the past 10 years from 25 to 34.

However, there are still many prospective buyers who are in their 20s, and to help them decide one way or another, they may want to check the following:

Am I really committed to settling down?

Most homeowners can’t just “pick up and go” when they feel like it or when they want to change jobs, and also usually have additional responsibilities like regular maintenance and community involvement.

Am I financially ready to do this?

The majority of buyers need a home loan to finance their property purchase and to qualify, they need a sound employment record, proof of credit responsibility (a clean credit record), a sizeable deposit and, preferably, as few other debts as possible.

Can I afford to be a homeowner?

When you own a home, you need to budget for additional costs that you may not be paying as a tenant, including levies, rates and taxes, insurance premiums, maintenance and repairs – all in addition to the monthly mortgage repayment and the cost of utilities such as electricity and water usage.

In general, owning a home beats renting whatever the age of the buyer. The security of home ownership, the probable increase in value of property over the long term and the protection against rental inflation are great advantages.

But, for the young buyer particularly, other factors must be considered. Are you in a secure job that you genuinely enjoy? And can you afford a home that you will be happy to live in for a few years? Too many quick sales as a homeowner upgrades to a bigger house or better area can wipe out many of the advantages of homeownership.

However, positive answers to the questions above should help to resolve any remaining doubts about whether you’re ready to buy. And the peace of mind and enjoyment of living in and improving your own home will be the rewards.

Handy Tips for Moving


Of course, moving involves upending your physical life, but it shouldn’t have to completely upset you emotionally as well. You’ve finally found your new home – so here are some handy tips from us to make moving into it a little easier.

Ahead of the move:

As soon as you know what date you can move in, start making arrangements. If you’re using a moving company, book them as soon as possible, especially if you’re moving on a weekend.

  • Call your local supermarket to find out what day they get their big deliveries, then arrange with the manager to keep some of their boxes for you. Do that as soon as possible, so you can pack up all the rarely used odds-and-ends ahead of time. That way, you’ll be able to not only minimize the amount of things you need to pack up in one go, but also figure out ahead of time if you need more boxes. Keep in mind that heavier items should be packed in smaller boxes, and items should be layered by weight: heavy at the bottom, and light at the top.
  • That being said, try and make use of all the things you already have. Sheets and linen work very well in the place of newspaper or bubble wrap (for fragile items), and packing your belongings into travelling bags or suitcases will save you a few boxes, too.
  • Lastly, find out what the dimensions of your new house are in relation to your furniture, and draw up a “furniture plan”, so your movers know where to put everything.

During the move:

  • Invest in colourful stickers – one colour for each room of the house. Sticking a colour-coded mark on each box and a matching one on the door of the room it needs to go to can make the move a lot more organised (and keep the kids entertained, too, if you let them do the sticking).
  • You can also code the boxes (e.g. A1, A2, etc.) and then make a separate inventory list with their contents, if you don’t want your movers knowing what’s in each box. Alternatively, just write the contents of each box directly on it with a thick, black pen.
  • Pack one box to keep with you, with extras like light bulbs, toilet rolls, candles, screwdrivers, cellphone chargers, cash and important telephone numbers.
  • Remember a “first-night” box for the whole family, too: a spare change of clothes, toothbrushes and other necessities, as well as an emergency kit of painkillers, flu medicine, plasters and so on. You never know who might need it, and you want it to be easily found.
  • Bedding, blankets and cleaning products are also best kept in a spare box for immediate unpacking after the move.

With that, you should be all set for your big day. Best of luck, and enjoy your new home!

August 2015 Regional Infographic

BetterLife's regional real estate market figures for AugustProperty buyers are still taking home thousands of loans

In the past 12 months, more than R37 billion worth of homes have been purchased with home loans obtained through BetterLife Home Loans, South Africa’s biggest mortgage originator. These loans were given to more than 39 000 buyers, about 16 000 of whom were purchasing their first homes, explains CEO Shaun Rademeyer, with the average approved bond size being R791 000, 3.8% higher than in the previous 12 months.

A closer look at the numbers

According to Rademeyer, only 38% of buyers were able to secure a home loan without paying a deposit (a figure that has not varied for the past three years) and most of the homes purchased with these loans fell into the under-80sqm “affordable” category. For the remaining 62% of borrowers, the percentage of purchase price required as a deposit varied widely, depending on the cost of the property and the creditworthiness of the buyer, but most paid between 10 and 20%, he says. The BetterLife statistics, which represent 25% of all residential mortgage bonds being registered in the Deeds Office, also show that the number of home loan applications received showed year-on-year growth of 2.3% at the end of August, while the number of applications declined outright by the banks fell by a significant 14.9%.

Having a reputable bond originator on your side is a huge advantage

It’s important to note, though, that the decrease in the number of declined applications does not necessarily mean that the banks are lending more freely, or that it is getting any easier for prospective homebuyers to obtain home loans. “In fact, 49% of the applications for which BetterLife Home Loans obtained approval in the past 12 months were initially declined by at least one bank before being ‘rescued’ and approved by a different bank”, explains Rademeyer. This once again underlines the advantage, of applying for your loan through a reputable originator like BetterLife Home Loans. In this way, you’re guaranteed that your application will be prepared properly, motivated individually and that you’ll receive the best interest rate possible. “It is this meticulous process that has enabled us to sustain a 75% bond approval rate for the past 12 months when the industry average has been below 60%”, concludes Rademeyer.

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Make certain you know which stand is yours

shutterstock_220657927Imagine building a brand new house, laid out and finished just the way you wanted – only to find that it’s actually on someone else’s land and you’ve got to knock it down.

This dream-turned-nightmare is by no means unheard of in real life and illustrates the need for the increasing number of consumers who are buying vacant building stands at the moment to insist on accurate information regarding boundaries, beacons and stand numbers.

Frankly, most property buyers are not in the habit of checking on these “technicalities”, because properties in established suburbs are usually very clearly demarcated by boundary walls or fences – and often described by street address as well as their original stand numbers.

And actually there is seldom any reason for real concern in such instances, or even when you are among the first buyers in a newly-proclaimed estate or township, where the developers or their agents have erected clear stand markers.

The trouble usually occurs during the second phase of selling in a new area – quite possibly by a speculator who snapped up a block of stands at the outset and believes the time is right to resell them.

By then, the original stand markers may well have been taken down, or moved or lost as a result of construction work on surrounding land, leaving a site plan as the only indication of where stands lie and their boundaries fall.

It is all too easy, in such cases, to mistake one piece of vacant land for the one next door, or to visualise a stand being bigger than it really is, or to write the wrong stand number on a sale agreement – and for you to end up owning the wrong stand and even building on it.

However, most property sale agreements do contain a clause saying the buyer has familiarised himself with the location and extent of the land he is buying, and in these circumstances you really should insist that the developer or agent make it possible for you to do this before you sign the agreement – even if it does mean calling in a surveyor and having new beacons put up.

First-time buying in a sellers’ market

shutterstock_128196476Buying a home, particularly a first home, can be stressful. It can also be downright discouraging when there are stock shortages in most popular areas, prices keep rising and many listings are attracting multiple offers from competing buyers.

However, the answer is really not to give up and put your home purchase off until a later date, especially if you are a first-time buyer. The fact is that while home price growth may well slow down if there is another interest rate increase later this year, it is unlikely to stop, especially since there is still such strong demand and not a lot of new development at the moment to relieve the supply situation.

And the higher prices go, the bigger the deposit, home loan and monthly income you will need to buy your first home. In short, the longer you wait, the harder it will be to ever get into the property market.

This is not to say, though, that you should just jump in and buy the first property you see. Buyers today need to take a very systematic approach to securing the home they want at a price they can afford, so we suggest you work through the following steps before you even start house-hunting:

Make sure you are financially ready to buy. The first thing you should do is consult a reputable mortgage originator such as BetterLife Home Loans and seek pre-approval for a home loan so you will know how much you can really afford to pay for your new home. In the process of doing this you may find that you first need to clean up or improve your credit record before you can apply for a home loan. You will also be able to find out what difference it might make to the interest rate you are charged on that loan – and to your longer-term financial plans – if you could put down a bigger deposit before buying. Your originator will also be able to tell you how much cash you will need to cover the “hidden” costs of property purchases such as transfer duty, bond registration costs and legal fees.

Decide what kind of home you actually need. Think about your lifestyle and concentrate on finding a home to match. If you like to entertain, you’ll want a home with a well-appointed entertainment area. If you like to travel and don’t care much for maintenance, a townhouse in a secure complex may be more your style. If you’re handy and love DIY projects, an older property in need of renovation may be just the thing for you. If you are starting a family, you might want to acquire some extra space now so that you don’t have to move again too soon.

Approach reputable agents in the area in which you want to live. Their ears are closer to the ground than yours when it comes to new listings and they will be happy to try to match you to your dream home, especially if they know you are ready to buy and you can be specific about what you want.

At the same time, scour the online property portals and make use of their property price report services to compare actual sale prices in the areas you like, as well as their email and sms notification services that immediately advise you of new listings that match your search criteria. Pick out the ones you like and make appointments to view them as soon as possible.

When you decide on a home you would like to buy, work hard to make your offer the most attractive. Remember that even if there are several buyers competing for the home you want, you may not have to offer the highest price to secure the deal. Make sure the seller knows how much you like the home and how ready you are to buy. Keep contingencies to a minimum and be prepared to compromise on moving dates. Sellers want their homes to go to buyers who really appreciate them – but they also want trouble-free transactions.

Your best home improvement bets of the year

Blog image 23.9.15
First impressions definitely count among homebuyers, which is why prospective sellers often feel the need to make some improvements before their properties go on show.

However, they do need to know that while these improvements may well add to the appeal of the property, most will not add as much to the sale price as they cost to complete, according to the 2015 Cost v Value Report* just released by Remodeling magazine.

The report is based on a survey conducted among thousands of estate agents in which they are asked to estimate the resale return that homeowners are likely to achieve on the year’s most 36 most popular home improvement projects.

And more often than not, according to Remodeling Editor-in-Chief Craig Webb, the simpler and less expensive the project, the higher its cost-to-value ratio – although only one will currently deliver a resale return of 100% or more. This is the replacement of a standard wooden front door with a steel door to improve security.

In the mid-price range, the next most worthwhile projects that SA homeowners might consider are:

  • Garage door replacement (88,4%);
  • Addition of a wooden deck (80,5%);
  • Minor kitchen remodel (79,3%); and
  • Window replacement with wooden windows (78,8%).

Other popular choices, such as the addition of an extra bathroom, or even the installation of a back-up generator to cope with loadshedding, will give homeowners a resale return of less than 60% – so it is fair to say that they are not really worth doing unless you are going to stay on in your home to enjoy them yourself.

In the high-price category, the only improvement project likely to deliver a resale return of more than 80% this year as a luxury garage door upgrade.

In short, homeowners who are planning to sell should really think twice before embarking on any major additions or alternations in order to entice potential buyers.

They may well be better off just making sure that the property as it stands is in excellent condition – and putting their renovation money towards the deposit on their new home.


Pantone Colour of the Year 2015: How to Use Marsala in Your Home

Marsala has been crowned as one of the most infamous Pantone Colours of the Year by the all-ruling democracy of The Internet. Happily, however, designers and decorators all over the world have pitted their wits against the colour, and displayed how beautiful and versatile it actually is. Below we’ve collected some of our favourite ideas on how to use this gorgeous, warm shade in your home.

Bounce off the walls

Marsala wall & deco

Marsala wall

Don’t be afraid to get a little crazy with your wall colour – Marsala is just bright enough to keep things interesting, while offering enough depth to not “over-do it”. As you can see, it works stunningly well with gold accents, as well as wood and neutral colours, like shades of cream or brown.

 Take the floor

Marsala rug

A well-placed Marsala rug can add just the right pizazz to an empty-looking room. The sultry colour exudes winter warmth and naturally, a rug will keep a little bit more heat in your home by covering a tile floor.

Marsala rug

Go through the roof

Marsala Ceiling

Every new generation of designers loves going against the rules of the previous one: painting a striking ceiling is the latest in-thing and the mark of true modernity. This ceiling is coupled with loads of white, cream and sand accents, as well as patterned wallpaper, which all combine to make the room feel spacious despite the “painted ceiling” taboo.

Part of the furniture

Marsala Accents

Ideas for Marsala furniture in your home range from couch covers to painting a signature bookshelf or cabinet this wine-red hue.

Marsala Couch

Pair it with lighter hues of cream, sand and camel for a lighter feel, or deepen it with a touch of chocolate brown for a more demure atmosphere.

Marsala Two-seater

Furniture in an interesting shade can add some colour without completely embodying the room. If you don’t want to take the plunge right away, try painting a small side table or cabinet first – you’ll be itching for more soon after.

A little here and a little there

Marsala flower arrangement

A wonderful way to combine the colour into your décor without anything too permanent is to add touches of it to your existing layout.

Marsala detailed scatter cushion

Scatter cushions are king. Go crazy with different patterns and sizes to spice up a modern look, or opt for a lush Marsala throw-rug or two. You’ll be winter-comfy and stylish all in one go.

Ombre Marsala/Cream scatter

If you’re dreaming of a stylish new studio to re-do with Marsala, but the home you’re in isn’t providing any inspiration, try our home loan calculator, or speak to one of our friendly estate agents today.


Image Credits:

Oxford Design studio

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