The start of the year is the perfect time to take stock of one’s property. As many people find this a perfect time to ‘recalibrate life’, making a list of what needs to be done, both in the short and long term, is a good way to start the process. “You can then allocate both time and resources, prioritising, rather than waiting for things to mount up,” says Carolyn Purnell-Webb, Partner and Manager–Property Manager Division at Kay & Burton. “It’s equally important to reflect on last year’s program and the things that perhaps didn’t work out as expected,” she adds.

At the start of the year, a strategy needs to be set in place for landlords to ensure budgets can be allocated to work that may be required for the year ahead to keep rental returns at a maximum. During the quiet time, landlords should inspect their property and start getting quotations for work that may need to be done in the course of the year. This may also coincide with a landlord’s property inspection (if this hasn’t been undertaken in the last six months as permitted by legislation). “Even small improvements made to a property can generate a greater rental return.”

Going through one’s property files at the start of the year should include looking at insurance policies one has in place for the designated property. “Did you know that if a property is left vacant for 30 days, an insurance company may not cover you?” says Purnell-Webb, citing the recent issues people are facing with bushfires around Australia. As well as understanding what is and what is not covered, there’s also the important ‘landlord insurance’, covering the loss of rent should a tenant default. Landlords should also factor in the potential increase in insurance costs that could affect everyone this year, given the devastating bushfires.

The start of the year is also a time for landlords to look at their refinancing options. They may find that the rate could now well have a two in front of it, making a $500,000 mortgage considerably more attractive. This obviously needs to be balanced with any exit charges or other changeover costs. Maximising tax deductions should also be considered. “We can assist you in obtaining your tax depreciation schedule to maximise tax benefits, if it’s something that you don’t have time to look at,” says Purnell-Webb.

For those on the ‘other side of the fence’ looking to lease a new home, January is an extremely busy month. Whether it’s people moving from interstate and starting new jobs, or those living in Melbourne wanting to be closer to their children’s schools, there are generally more people looking than available properties to lease. Given the competition, it pays to do some groundwork well in advance of filling in long application forms. “If you are coming from interstate, ask family or friends to look at the property in question before taking it further,” says Purnell-Webb. They should understand that they may be one of many who have also applied for the same property. With this competition, it’s imperative that the application is completed fully, without gaps in information. It’s also important that excellent references accompany your application so that a prompt and positive response is more likely.

As with any transaction, a lease is a relationship between two parties, and as such, can often be negotiated so that both are satisfied with the outcome and be more likely to enjoy a longer and happier tenancy. The prospective tenant should also make a wish list starting from the more obvious items, such as number of bedrooms, off-street parking, heating and/or air conditioning and whether pets are allowed, something that will be harder to prevent after July this year, when a landlord will need to apply to VCAT to show good cause why pets would not be permitted. A checklist and a drive by the property to ensure that the location and neighbourhood appeal can save lots of time on busy Saturday open days. Also, being prompt and attending at the beginning of the allocated time of the open house can ensure maximum time to assess the suitability of the property.

So don’t wait until the year unfolds, getting distracted with the day-to-day events that are part of life.  If you have any questions, contact the property manager or leasing consultant who Purnell-Webb says, “Are always there to help.”

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