Fine Tune Your Commercial Real Estate Crystal Ball

Don’t you wish you had a crystal ball that showed you what is to come in the future? A simple wave over the crystal ball, the mutter of a magic word, and your entire future is there, revealed in front of you. Now that you know what is to come, you can prepare and move accordingly so you can be ready for what the now identified future holds.

Unfortunately, this crystal ball does not literally exist, but in commercial real estate there are many tools that you can use that act like a crystal ball. They can show you the future in an indirect way so you, too, may pla
n and move accordingly in order to take advantage of the market place.

Fining tuning your commercial real estate crystal ball is really a matter of paying attention, doing some basic research, and being on top and aware of all elements in your comfort zone, or concentrated area of focus and influence. It does take vision and an element of creativity to really fine tune your crystal ball, and, for some, it is the best aspect of commercial real estate! Being able to predict, envision, and then create something that at one time did not even exist, not even in an idea, and then search out the resources to create and put the plan in motion is a commercial real estate insider’s dream.  When done effectively, it can be very satisfying and lucrative!

You should already be doing many things that assist you in predicting and planning for the future, which is extremely important in commercial real estate. If you can see an opportunity coming before it actually presents itself, then you are able to prepare for that opportunity before anyone else, and reap the benefits. These things may include driving the streets of your community to see what land and buildings are for sale, what centres are vacant for leasing, attending planning and zoning meetings, reading the local newspaper for economic and real estate changes or trends, as well as researching other cities and how their market may affect yours in any way, shape or form.

As a real estate insider, it is pertinent that you are up to par, and even an expert in your comfort zone. These things listed above are how you are constantly informed and a step ahead of other real estate people, as well as your own market.

Besides doing these things religiously, and always analysing the data that you collect, there are a few other specific tools that will allow you to see into your commercial real estate future and identify opportunities that others will miss.

The first is a city’s or town’s future land use plan or map that shows the future zoning and use for all the land within a city or town’s limits. Some cities may not have one if they are too small and not looking for growth. However, most cities do have master use plans that are used to dictate the entire future of a city’s economic make-up.  The reports that go along with these offer a wealth of demographic information as well which provides great insight into the future development of an area.  For example, here is the link to the Melbourne Growth Plan documents . In addition, check out the actual planning websites for your specific state, city or region. Here is Victoria’s .

These maps and report are used to plan for growth so that all elements of a city or town are controlled. Zoning and use may change for operating properties; others may remain the same. There is the possibility of raw land to be annexed into the city, having a specific use, offering huge opportunities to the commercial real estate investor. There may be a need to tear down or renovate old properties, and develop them for a different use.

The possibilities of what a future land use map holds is gold in the eyes of an investor, and extremely important to all those working in commercial real estate. Refer to this map, and actually visit the locations of where there is change to identify opportunities. As every area is different, you will be amazed as to what opportunities will unveil themselves when you bring to it a little vision, creativity, and insider information regarding the zoning and use of a property.

Another tool to see into the future is the economic forecast for your area. By looking at both the past and future per capita income, population growth rates, housing costs and other such data that can be found via the Bureau of Statistics, you can see the overall economic environment of your city or town and how it is performing.

Perhaps a continuing decrease in population means people are moving out of the area, telling you not to invest in new home or unit development in that area. Or, the growth has been so extreme that the area is in desperate need of commercial property in order to support the influx of people. You can definitely plan on how you are going to move in the market with this information by your side.

The final tool I urge you to utilise when predicting your commercial real estate future is already approved infrastructural changes within your city. This will require you to attend city and town meetings regarding zoning, planning, development, etc. There could be discussion of a new development a year or more before it actually occurs, and once you hear about it, you can start putting your own ideas into place.

As I am sure you already know, large, influential, infrastructural changes can greatly increase the land values of properties that surround them. For example, a large shopping centre being developed will increase the value of all the land surrounding it, as well as possibly call for a greater demand of residential units, and an increase in the rental prices that can be charged according to the new market.

Let’s say that you hear two years in advance about a shopping centre that will begin development after it is approved. You are then going to get a jump on all competition, look at the site, the land surrounding it, and the opportunities it may offer. Can you purchase the now extremely cheap land adjacent to this site, or perhaps the poor performing units nearby in anticipation of this new development so that you may benefit from the price increase this major infrastructural change is going to cause?


These things happen all the time, and I urge you to be a visionary and look to the future. After all, this is where a majority of commercial real estate profits are made- by creating something that either wasn’t there, or improving upon what is there.

As you can see, you may not have a crystal ball that does all the work for you, but I promise that if you use these tools and follow these guidelines, you will be preparing yourself for great opportunities that others, quite simply, will overlook. It will take some effort and constant dedication. However, the results that you yield will be worth it. Actually, it is much easier to be the first mover, rather than suffering the increased land prices and changes after a development is already in place or even underway.

Realise your power to predict the future and plan your goals accordingly! You will be successful with these tools, so implement them today.

Author: Melanie Burns

To discuss this article or anything else to do with your finances, please call our office today on 0434 087 735 or email us and we will be happy to assist you.

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Don’t you wish you had a crystal ball that showed you what is to come in the future? A simple wave over the crystal ball, the mutter of a magic word, and your entire future is there, revealed in front of you. Now that you know what is to come, you can prepare and move…

Demystifying mortgages – 12 myths about lending every first home buyer should know.

Myth #1
You need at least 20% deposit to get a mortgage         
In today’s market that is not necessarily true.  While it is correct that having a deposit is the ideal situation, if you are currently renting and just cannot save enough for a deposit there are many lenders that offer low deposit home loans.  Borrowers can often borrow up to 95% of the purchase price which is a tempting offer for any first time home buyer wishing to get into the property market. A low deposit home loan may often attract higher interest rates or more stringent policy restrictions but if you are confident you can afford the repayments then you can achieve the dream of owning your first home with a minimal deposit.

Myth #2
Fixing your rate is safer than a variable rate
When interest rates are high, many are tempted to fix their rate to protect against further hikes.  All is well with the world and as a borrower, you feel incredibly happy that you are not affected by the next huge rate increase.  The problem here is that if rates fall, you end up paying a higher interest rate compared to the variable rate.  Fixed rate home loans do offer some security in an uncertain market, and also allow borrowers to know exactly what their mortgage repayments will be for the next one, three or seven years. Everyone is different and has varying financial requirements so talking through your options with a mortgage broker is recommended.

Myth #3
A bad credit history means you won’t get a home loan
Let’s get one thing clear.  A bad credit history is not good.  Any missed or default payments on credit cards or mobile phones are recorded.  Even if the amount was small or years ago, it affects your credit rating.  However, not all is lost.  Lenders will consult your credit history and feed this into their own credit scoring system.  If it turns out there are issues, the lender may take a closer look and may still approve a home loan if you meet the requirements.  Similarly, non-conforming lenders provide an alternative option for borrowers who have been refused finance by traditional lenders.  Non conforming lenders are an ever expanding avenue and offer in many cases quite competitive products providing opportunities which were once deemed impossible.

Myth #4
I can still get a home loan even though no income, because I have several assets
Yes, you may have a collection of stamps from the 1920’s to be proud of, but it’s not going to convince a bank to lend you $400,000.  Assets aren’t the same as income, and it’s your regular income that lenders get excited about.  Lenders will only lend as much as people can afford to repay, and a first time home loan is a big commitment. The amount of income earning capacity you have will ultimately determine how much you are able to borrow.

Myth #5
Get the lowest rate possible
Be cautious with low interest rates.  A cheap rate is attractive, especially to first home buyers, but take note because these low rates often come with less features on the home loan, reduced flexibility and higher fees. They may only be an introductory rate and once that honeymoon period is over you could find yourself paying a much higher rate.  Often a loan with a slightly higher rate but more features will save you money over the life of the loan.

Myth #6
Credit cards are okay if I pay them off.
When it comes to credit cards it’s not all about the balance on your card, or cards, it’s the total available credit that counts. Having a large range of credit does not necessarily equate to a good credit history.  Often it’s the credit card limit, not the balance that counts.  So even if you pay off all your credit card debts, if you still have a high limit this can affect your servicing and chances of approval.

Myth #7
I can roll my personal debts into my mortgage
So you have a car loan and credit card debts, and you want to roll all of these into your home loan?  Makes sense, as the interest rate on your mortgage will be lower than your current rate.  But, first home buyers are not usually able to just throw all their debts together like this.  Usually you have to build up equity in the property and then use this equity to service the additional debt.

Myth #8
A low-deposit home loan means you don’t need any savings.
This one is most certainly not true.  First home buyers get excited and tend to think that a 95% per cent loan means that they do not have to pay much money upfront.  But, a 95 per cent home loan only covers most of the cost of the property, and not all the purchase costs such as stamp duty, legal fees, property inspection fees and lenders mortgage insurance (LMI).  You will still need some savings to cover these costs as well as the 5% deposit.

Myth #9
Start by paying just the minimum amount
Many first home owners pay only the minimum monthly repayment, as they adjust to the new financial commitment.  However, at the start of the loan you are really only paying interest so by paying more than the minimum, you quickly reduce the amount of interest and principle on the loan.  As interest is calculated daily, repaying twice a month instead of once per month can also save you thousands in interest.

Myth #10
Mortgage insurance protects the borrower
Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI) protects the lender, not the borrower.  Borrowers who can put down a 20% deposit should not need to pay LMI but borrowers with any less than this will pay LMI to the lender.  The less deposit you have, the higher the premium.

Myth #11
Offset accounts save you money
Home loan offset accounts are a great idea, but only for those borrowers who are responsible with their money and have a regular income. If you have a shoe addiction or tend to buy all your mates extra rounds at the pub, you may want to think twice about offset accounts.  Your income goes straight into your home loan account, pays your mortgage repayment and then you can use the extra funds for other expenses.  However, if you have bad spending habits you could end up spending more.  Be careful not to end up in negative equity because you didn’t monitor your spending.

Myth #12
Refinancing saves you money
Perhaps you have just bought your first home, and you are enjoying all the benefits of your own home.  Your first time mortgage is going well, but perhaps you fixed your rate six months ago and now rates are coming down, or maybe you want to switch to a different lender.  Refinancing sometimes costs money. In the way of exit fees for existing home loans, and settlement fees for the new loan.  However, the market is quite competitive currently and some lenders are giving all the power to the home owner.  Shopping around and refinancing your home loan can save you thousands over the life of you loan, but can also end up costing you more, so talk your possible choices through with a mortgage broker before making your decision.

Author: Melanie Burns

To discuss this article or anything to do with your finances, please call our office today on 0434 087 735 or email us and we will be happy to assist you.

Myth #1 You need at least 20% deposit to get a mortgage          In today’s market that is not necessarily true.  While it is correct that having a deposit is the ideal situation, if you are currently renting and just cannot save enough for a deposit there are many lenders that offer low deposit home loans. …

10 Things that can derail your mortgage application

Getting finance is tough enough, even without having your application sent back due to errors. Here are ten things to help clear the air.

 1 Not being honest about your financial position

Missing bill payments is the number one reason mortgage applications get knocked back. Missed credit payments can be particularly costly. Your credit history should be squeaky clean if you want a home loan. Generally, a default is listed on your credit file after three months of missed payments on a debt commitment. One simple default, say, on a phone bill, could hinder you from receiving a home loan approval for a good five years or more. The easiest way to avoid this is to pay your bills on time, every time. Take the time to check your credit file prior to making your application through websites such as

What if you’ve had problems in the past? If you’ve had a default, let your broker know upfront and they can select a lender that is OK with it.

2 Not including all your expenses

Forgetting to mention that emergency credit card is also a common problem, and can derail an application. Make sure you disclose all credit cards and hidden expenses – or even expenses relating to your kids. When a lender gets your bank statements, they will see all the payments to the various credit card companies, childcare expenses and school fee payments. If a lender were to see this, they would likely decline the loan due to non-disclosure. It’s best to be honest upfront and get an approval that will be honoured.

3 Employment woes

Lenders like their borrowers to have a relatively stable recent employment record – at least six to 12 months or more in their job, receiving regular income. If you are looking to change employers at the same time you are looking to buy a property, seriously reconsider. Stay at the same company at least until you have the mortgage. But if you must change jobs, ensure you have enough money saved to cover mortgage repayments and living expenses for a few months or even more, should the job not work out.

4 Paperwork snafus

The paperwork that lenders require can be significant, and it is important to get it right: sending in your application without the documentation required by the lender can result in the loan application going back and forth to the lender a number of times without result. At worst, it can derail purchases altogether.

If you only send in part of the information the bank asks for, you end up getting a conditional approval that has lots of conditions. When you find a property and send in the remaining information, the lender may not like something that they see and then has an opportunity to decline your loan.

Using a mortgage broker to handle the paperwork is probably the quickest and simplest way to ensure you get it right first time. But if you’re going it alone, be sure to read the lender’s instructions very carefully several times. And, if you’re putting in a joint application, you’ll need to provide evidence for each applicant.

Make sure you send in the actual documentation that the lender asks for, not substitutes. Aussie Home Loans often sees clients send in ATO tax assessment notices in place of group certificates, or bank statements showing a borrower’s pay being deposited in place of physical pay-slips.

5 Not knowing your limits

It’s all too easy to get caught up in enthusiastically hunting for property without knowing exactly how much you can borrow. This is even more serious when a buyer has made a successful offer at auction and suddenly can’t come up with the rest of the dollars, because they can lose part or all of their deposit.

Avoid disappointment by seeking out a loan pre-approval before looking for property. These are usually valid for three to six months. For pre-approvals dating from last year, you should check it is still valid, as new credit industry regulations came in at the beginning of 2011.

6 Not knowing lending criteria

Lenders and the mortgage insurers behind them work to a wide range of criteria when deciding whether to approve a home loan. They often have restrictions around property sizes, postcodes, high density buildings and other aspects. For example, many lenders put restrictions on the maximum amount they will lend on properties in regional towns, so you may need to come up with a larger deposit. Make sure you know the rules before heading out on the hunt – otherwise you could find extra conditions on your loan or your application denied altogether.

The simplest way to do this is to seek out a pre-approval before looking for property. However, not all pre-approvals are created equal. You should ensure you get a ‘fully assessed’ pre-approval. Some lenders issue an automated pre-approval without any assessment; this usually has a page of disclaimers and is pretty worthless.

7 Not shopping around

Simply not considering all your options in the first place could derail your application. Different lenders offer vastly different loan amounts. Don’t just take the largest loan you can get, either. Don’t be tempted to go with the lender that will lend you the most, as you may quickly find that you are stretched beyond your limits, particularly if interest rates rise, and need to sell up. Once you know what you can honestly afford, extend your search beyond just one or two lenders.

8 Not getting the right loan structure

A mistake many people make is they look for the lender with the cheapest interest rate and then try and change their position to fit that lender’s policy. That’s like going to the $2 shop to buy a suit and then trying to tailor it to look and fit you better.

It’s much wiser to map out your desired loan structure and features first, then start shopping around for lenders who will approve the loan structure at a low rate. Getting the right loan in the first place is particularly important for investors, who often need to make use of loan features like offset accounts and redraw facilities – and can save you from costly interest payments and refinances further down the track.

9 Dinky deposits

Three years ago, it was possible to buy a house without having to put any money down. However, the days of 100% home loans are gone, and almost all lenders require a home loan applicant to have a genuine savings deposit of at least 5%. While some investors will be able to leverage equity in their existing home, it can present problems for first-timers pulling together cash for an investment – especially when you factor in extra purchase costs.

The answer? Do your homework. Get a handle on how much you really need before committing to a purchase – and then add a buffer of at least 5%.

10 Purchase cost pain

As mentioned above, there are a wide range of purchase costs in addition to your deposit, including (but not restricted to): lenders mortgage insurance, stamp duties, legal costs, application fees, solicitor fees and inspection fees. It’s easy to forget all the fees that mount up, and they can easily derail your cash flow projections.

You don’t want to find out on the day of settlement that you are $30,000 short. Do a cash flow summary well before you exchange on a property to ensure that you have enough cash to fund the purchase and associated costs.

Experienced friends, family, mortgage brokers and real estate agents can advise you about the costs you’ll need to pay. They can also give you an insight into ongoing costs, such as land rates, strata management costs, maintenance, insurance and property management.

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Getting finance is tough enough, even without having your application sent back due to errors. Here are ten things to help clear the air.  1 Not being honest about your financial position Missing bill payments is the number one reason mortgage applications get knocked back. Missed credit payments can be particularly costly. Your credit history…