5 tips to reduce the cost of home ownership

Getting into the property market is the first great hurdle, but once you are there, staying on top of the expenses and maximising the value of your investment can be just as challenging. Property owners should always try to find the balance between keeping their property well maintained, cost effectively, and retaining its value by making improvements to it in ways that will increase its value over time. Here are five ways you can do one or both of these things.

1. Reduce your operating costs
Look at ways you can reduce energy and water usage in the property, through energy efficient heating, cooling and lighting. Things like bathroom fittings, appliances with high energy efficiency ratings, and replacing halogen downlights with LED bulbs can make a significant difference. You can find out more information about this on the Australian Government’s Your Energy Savings website. Savings in these areas will free up extra money to contribute to your mortgage, or to be put towards repairs, maintenance or upgrades.

2. Get nature on your side
Some of the best ways to reduce energy usage come from the natural environment – they are also free, once you put them in place. Ideally you would implement them when the property is being built, but if you buy an existing property it is also easy enough to make adjustments to maximise your home’s use of sun, rain and light. A low maintenance and water efficient garden is a good first step, along with rainwater tanks and clean, functional guttering. Double glazed windows with aluminium frames will reduce heat loss and maximise warmth of winter sun in the colder months. Properties that are north facing will enjoy more natural light, reducing the need to use lights and also increasing the internal temperature of the home in the colder months. Heavy duty curtains and or blinds, pulled down in the middle of the day, can help keep the property cooler in the warmer weather too.

3. Maximise government incentives
Property owners are entitled to a variety of rebates, grants and offsets at various stages of their investment journey, from the federal government and possibly from your local council or shire too. Research what you are entitled to before you purchase (property, appliances, solar panels etc.) and contact a financial advisor to make sure you haven’t missed anything. For example, the 2017 super housing measures provided bonuses for first home buyers and downsizing retirees. Incentives for electricity and gas can also be found on the Australian Government’s Your Energy Savings website.

4. Keep on top of repairs and maintenance
Structural issues caused by pests, leaks and water damage should be regularly checked and dealt with. Schedule regular building and pest inspections and get advice from the inspector at the time about how regularly you should repeat those inspections, based on the needs of your individual property. Termites, mould, and rising damp can all damage the structural integrity of your home, not only impacting on its value, but also dissuading buyers and more importantly lenders, when it comes time to sell.

5. Restore and renovate to add value incrementally
Older properties (pre 1970s) may still contain harmful materials such as asbestos or lead paint, so do yourself and your home a favour by professionally removing and replacing these with eco-friendly alternatives. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on the property market throughout the year, see what kind of properties are selling and how they compare to yours. It can be financially difficult to invest in a lot of renovations, all at once, when you eventually decide to sell, so why not plan ahead and invest in one or two small upgrades a year, over a decade or more. You may find that adding a study or an extra bedroom will become a valuable addition. Other things such as converting an outdoor patio into extra living space, adding a timber deck, or upgrading fencing or paving for example can all improve the value of your property by the time you decide to sell.