5 ways to help reduce on your energy bills

The colder months are upon us, and higher energy bills tend to be part and parcel. However, just a few small changes can help make a difference to your energy bill. Here are five ways to help cut costs…

1. Keep an eye on your thermostat settings

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Although it can be very tempting to increase the temperature on your heater or air conditioner on those chilly mornings and evenings, every 1°C higher than 20°C could increase your heater’s running costs by 10%. If your air conditioner has a timer, try and only set it to activate during periods when people are normally home during the day. If you leave it on all day, you could be in for a rude shock when the bill comes in.

2. Ensure all drafts and leaks are sealed

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Protecting your home against drafts and leaks, you can help to reduce your energy bill. Some key places to ensure are sealed up include any cracks or gaps around doors, windows, electrical outlets and floorboards, especially in older homes.

3. Shut in the heat

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Close off particular areas in your home, like your living room or bedroom, when your heater is on to reduce the area you need to heat. If this isn’t an option due to your floor plan, just closing the doors to your laundry or bathroom can prevent up to 75% of heat loss, which makes a huge difference to your energy bill.

4. Decorate for warmth

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Use floor rugs and blankets to help create a sense of coziness in your home. In the bedroom, add an extra blanket cover, or an electric blanket, instead of spending money on heating the room. We also recommend closing curtains and blinds when trying to keep a room warm, to help insulate against heat loss. For more ideas on decorating in the colder months, click here.

5. Focus on your hot water usage

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Hot water usage is often a major culprit when it comes to pushing up your energy bills. To combat this, we recommend setting your washing machine to a cold wash, and reducing your shower times to under 5 minutes.

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Pallet Pets

With the price of designer doggy beds going up and up, many savvy dog owners are taking matters into their own hands and embarking on DIY projects!

We found some great pet bed ideas using the standard wooden pallets. Pallets are easy to obtain, usually free and you can virtually create any design or sized bed your furry friend needs!

These pallet beds will be sturdy, comfortable and long-lasting. Here are our favourite ideas from the awesome people at iheartdogs.com.

#1 – The Basic

If you’re looking for a regular-looking dog bed that’s easy to put together, this one is for you. It goes with everything in the house and can be made to fit any size dog.

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#2 – Wheelie bed

Want something a little more mobile? Pallet beds can get heavy depending on the size of your dog, so adding wheels will help you move it around the house as needed.

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#3 – King Size

This pallet bed has a large, open feel that your dog is sure to love. Plus, it looks neat sitting around your house!

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#4 – Frame frenzy

There are plenty of ways to add your dog’s name to a pallet bed and we LOVE this idea of adding your dog’s initials using cut-out, painted wood pieces.

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#5 – Doggie Futon

For those wanting a smaller bed that doesn’t take up as much wall space, you can use a flat pallet and leave the openings for storage underneath. Since there aren’t any sides, it’s a little more inconspicuous but just as cool and comfortable as the others!

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#7– The mini

For tiny dogs, this cozy little pallet bed offers everything they need. Cute and comfy, you can design it to match your room and make it look like your own bed!

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Photo credit: 9pallets.com

** WARNING **
When choosing pallets, stay away from ones that have been painted or a showing a green/grey tinge associated with pressure treated wood. They may have been processed with CCA (Chromated Copper Arsenate) which could be harmful for your pet.  A safe bet is better quality pallets, used to move materials that are not allowed to get wet – like furniture, and retail boxes.  Keep your eye out for ones that look like clean wood, white or yellowish.

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Simple ways to clean your windows

160940923Are you guilty of neglecting your windows?

Let’s face it, few of us enjoy cleaning windows, but getting  the job done needn’t be so daunting… There are simple ways to get your windows looking great in no time, and once they are squeaky clean, you will be glad you did it!

Here are our favourite tips:

•Use distilled water only                     Distilled water, unlike regular water, will not contain the minerals that can become trapped on the glass and cause marks.

•Try a natural vinegar-water solution       It’s simple yet very effective compared with standard window cleaning products found on the shelf. Better still, its an eco-friendly option for your home.

•Use newspaper to wipe your glass                                                                                                        Don’t throw this morning newspaper out just yet!  After spraying with your chosen solution, scrunch some newspaper up and rub in circular motions until solution is absorbed and windows are streak free.

And lastly…. Don’t forget to clean the outside of your windows along with the screens which can get very dusty!

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Gardening tips for autumn

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Now is the perfect time to prepare your garden for the chilly months ahead, and help make sure you enjoy a blooming garden come spring time. So what autumn gardening jobs should you put on your to-do list?

  • Pruning

Pruning herbaceous perennials, shrubs and bushes is very important this time of year to remove dead and diseased wood, encourage blossoms and fruit come spring time, and generally tidy up the look of your garden. It’s important to understand the type of plants in your garden, to know when it is the optimal time to prune, as some plants have already set their spring buds and do not require a heavy prune. You can find out specifics on your plants online, at your local plant nursery, or sometimes you can even see the spurs and buds on the branch. We also recommend keeping your pair of secateurs sharp to avoid prolonging the healing process due to bruising and tearing.

Another great tip to avoid potentially carrying infections and disease from one plant to another during pruning is to dip your secateurs or clippers into disinfectant (such as bleach) and then wiping away any excess, before moving on to another plant.

  • Trim hedges

Hedges can begin to decay due to damp in the wetter months if they are not properly trimmed back. Just be sure not to cut back the plant too far, as it will not properly recover over winter, leaving you with a bare hedge! As a general rule, do not prune more than a third of the plant off. To let as much sunlight in as possible, you should also remove any leaf build-up, sticks and debris, from the hedge.

  • Focus on your lawn

The cooler nights in Autumn tend to slow the growth of grass blades. However, if properly tended to, the roots of the lawn will continue to grow in the warm soil, creating a strong root system. We recommend using slow release lawn food at this time and raking away any leaves and debris so sunlight can get through. You can also scatter lawn seed in areas which need some extra care.

It is also a good time to aerate any parts of the lawn that may become compacted due to heavy rains or traffic. Simply use pitchfork prong ends to loosen up the soil.

  • Plant bulbs

Planting bulbs in autumn might not seem like an obvious job, but bulbs planted now will see their flowers germinate from the soil at the right time in spring, so you can enjoy beautiful colour in your garden.

  • Plant and transplant

If you’re looking to shift established plants, or plant new plants, autumn is a great time to do so. The soil is still warm from the summer, and there is also increased moisture due to autumn rain, all of which will help new and established plants adapt to their new environment. For some plants even, such as roses, autumn is the ideal time to plant.

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Natural cleaning solutions for your home

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Store-bought household cleaning products can expose you and your family to a range of toxins, which is why making the switch over to natural cleaning is a great alternative. Not to mention they are also a cost-effective option that can save you money in the long run.

Unfortunately, harmful chemical ingredients like hydrochloric acid and chlorine bleach, which are highly caustic and corrosive, are the norm in many products you find in the cleaning aisle. Natural, greener options that you can make yourself* instead will help you to eliminate those unnecessary toxins from your household, and we’ve got some basic recipes to help you take the first step.

*We always recommend testing your formula on a small, hidden patch to see how your particular surfaces and flooring react to the mixture. As with any cleaning product (natural or not) do not ingest, keep away from eyes, consult your doctor if irritation occurs, and always keep out of reach of children.

Bicarbonate soda

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Bicarbonate soda (also sometimes referred to as baking soda) has excellent natural cleaning properties.

To get rid of the grit and grime that builds up in your oven, all you need to do is combine bicarbonate soda and enough water to form a paste, and spread it over the bottom of the oven. Leave the mixture to sit for a few hours (the longer the better), before wiping away with a damp cloth. Before using your oven, make sure that all the bicarbonate is wiped away, otherwise it may start to smoke.

To help unclog a smelly sink, pour half a cup of bicarbonate soda into the drain and follow with 1 cup of white vinegar. Leave it for 10 minutes or so, before flushing with water. The bicarbonate soda and vinegar combination will help to scour the drain and get rid of common blockages.

Bicarbonate soda can also be used to clean and deodorise your carpet. Simply mix 10-15 drops of your favourite essential oil per cup of bicarbonate soda and mix well to break up any lumps. Use a sieve or shaker bottle to spread evenly over your carpet and let sit for 30 minutes to an hour. Then use your vacuum cleaner to suck up the bicarbonate soda to reveal clean and fresh-smelling carpet!

Lemon

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Lemon is a great alternative to harsh cleaning products, as the natural acidity helps to effectively cut through grease and grime. And it also works well as a rust stain remover! Slice a lemon is half, dip it in a bit of bicarbonate soda, and then use as you would a cleaning cloth to wipe over counter tops to get your kitchen sparkling. Once dry, simply wipe over with a damp cloth and voila!

You can also tackle lime scale with lemon juice, but rubbing a cut lemon over your taps and handles, and leave to sit for an hour or two. Then, wipe over with a wet cloth to get rid of any residue, and taps and shower heads will be good as new.

If you have a garbage disposal that is not smelling so fresh, simply cut a lemon in half and grind down into the garbage disposal with the water running. You’ll be left with a nice aroma and the acidity will help clean it out.

You can also add 1/2 cup of lemon juice to your rinse load, to brighten your whites and add a fresh, natural fragrance to your washing.

White Vinegar

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If you’re looking for a natural way to clean your dishwasher,we recommend filling a microwave-safe bowl with two cups of vinegar and setting it on the top rack, before running the ‘clean me’ cycle.

White vinegar is also great at deodorising your microwave. Fill a microwave-safe bowl with 1/2 cup of vinegar and 1 cup of water, and cook just long enough to bring it to the boil. It will also help to soften any baked on splatters, so you can wipe them away easier.

If you have laminate floors and even those so-called ‘laminate floor cleaners’ still seem to leave streaks and spots, white vinegar is a great alternative. Simply mix equal amounts white vinegar and hot water and clean as normal for a shiny and streak-free floor.

Essential oils

Just a one or two drops of essential oils doesn’t seem like much, but these potent grime-fighters pack a serious punch! For a natural clean, we recommend stocking up your essential oil supply, starting with the classics; tea-tree oil, peppermint oil, lemon oil and eucalyptus oil.

  • Lemon:

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Antiviral, antimicrobial, bactericidal and pleasant-smelling to boot, lemon essential oil is a great one to have in the drawer. Add a 5-10 drops per 1 cup of water in a spray bottle and easily clean your surfaces with it.

 

 

 

  • Peppermint:

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Peppermint oil has excellent antiseptic and antibacterial properties. It can even be used to deter ants by adding 10-15 drops to 1 cup of water in a spray bottle and spraying it wherever you see them pop up.

 

 

 

  • Tea Tree:

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Tea Tree Oil is another natural bug repellent, simply use the same measurements as you would with peppermint oil in a spray bottle, and use in and around the house.

You can also make homemade antibacterial soap with tea tree oil, by adding a few drops to some liquid castile soap into a soap dispenser.

Tea tree oil can also be used as a natural toilet cleaner, by combining 1 cup of white vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon of tea tree oil in a spray bottle. Spray onto the toilet bowl and let it sit for several minutes. Then sprinkle 1/2 cup of bicarbonate soda in the toilet bowl and scrub clean with a toilet brush. A hint for tea tree oil is to keep it in a cool, dark place as direct sunlight and heat can change the chemical components of the oil.

  • Eucalyptus:

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Dust mites be gone! Use a few drops of eucalyptus oil mixed with 1/2 cup of bicarbonate soda and sprinkle over your mattress. Leave it for as long as you can, before vacuuming it up. This little combo is a natural way to keep the bed bugs away.

 

 

 

Rubbing Alcohol

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Rubbing alcohol is usually found in the medicine cabinet as it is a powerful disinfectant used in first aid situations to kill harmful bacteria. Rubbing alcohol is generally made up of approximately 70% isopropyl alcohol or ethanol and 30% distilled water. It has a strong smell, so wherever you use it, make sure there’s good ventilation.

Tackle shower screen soap scum by combining 2 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol, 5 drops of peppermint oil, 2 tablespoons of white vinegar and 2 cups of water in a spray bottle. Spray onto the shower screen and use a microfiber cloth to buff away any grime.

Rubbing alcohol is also a great one to have on hand if your stainless steel appliances need a clean. Simply add enough rubbing alcohol to wet a microfiber cloth and wipe over any fingerprints or marks. The rubbing alcohol will soon evaporate, leaving a streak-free finish!

Do you have any natural alternative cleaning tips and tricks you’d like to share? We’d love to hear about it! Leave your comment below.

 

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Right on Target

By Warren Littlefair – Peard Finance General Manager.

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WOW – Can you believe we are into the third month of the year already?

To most of us it seems like we have just got over the Christmas hangover, got a small suntan and forgotten about all the new year’s resolutions we promised ourselves we would stick to this year. Remember those ones? Lose weight, go on a holiday, buy a new house, save more, pay down debt… Feeling a bit guilty now? I know I am. I think I failed at all of them or at the very least got them around the wrong way. Hmm, gain weight more like.

The time most of us think about our new year’s resolutions is, well, new year. By January 3 they are out the door until you roll out the same ones on, let me guess, December 31.

Why do most of these fail, you ask? Frankly most of them are just a thought bubble without putting any plan into place about how you are going to get there. It’s a bit like turning up to the airport to go on a holiday and you haven’t booked your tickets. It’s just not going to happen.

Let’s turn this around back to finance. We’ll start with the easy one. OK, it’s actually the hardest one. Pay down debt. The starting point for this one is to work out how much debt you have, what sort of debt it is and how long it is currently taking you to pay it off.

Here’s a bit of a tip – look at your credit cards first. Concentrate on paying the smallest debt off first. Cut the card up. Then move onto the next smallest one. Just make sure you are still making payments on your other debts. As you pay one debt out, don’t spend the spare money but put it towards your other debts. Soon you will have a couple of debts out of the way and be in a position to put some decent cash towards your larger debts. It sounds easy but you need to keep disciplined to do it.

Next up, buying a new house. This is a pretty hard one to work out but can be easy in the same breath. Work out what you need in a house – OK, and what you want as well. Then work out if you can afford it. If you can’t afford it then you need to either lower your expectations a bit or find some more money.

Now you know what I’m saying when I said it is a hard AND an easy decision. There’s no point wasting years looking for the perfect house you can’t afford. Set yourself a time frame to find what you are after. Many people waste time looking for the perfect house, waiting for the perfect house etc to wake up one day and have never got anywhere with their plans.

Save more. In theory this should be the easiest of all, but in reality is one of the hardest. Set small targets to start with. Don’t bite off a huge savings goal if you are never going to meet it. There’s no point wanting to save $20,000 in a year when you earn $25,000 a year.

So make the savings target achievable, be honest with yourself about how much you can save each week and stick to it. Put it into a bank account you don’t have instant access to. Look at it grow and be proud of your achievements. Next, on to the last new year’s resolution – losing weight! Sorry but I have absolutely no advice on that one.

Good luck with the financial goals and hopefully you won’t be having the same conversation with yourself on Jan 1!

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How to attract tenants to your rental property

Vacancy rates have continued to climb in the Perth rental market, with the oversupply of rental properties leaving plenty of choice for tenants. Now more than ever, it is important to assess if you could be doing more to attract tenants to your property.

  • Focus on appealing to tenants, not investors

535677175.jpgAs a landlord, your main objective is to have your property tenanted, so it makes sense to appeal to them and not investors.

Tenants typically want a property that is comfortable, low maintenance and good value for money. Therefore, it pays to do you best to meet the wants and needs of prospective tenants, especially in this market where the tenant has a lot of choice.

  • Invest in professional photography

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Like any good marketing campaign, professional photography is one of the best ways to attract tenants to your property.

High quality images that showcase the best features of the rental property and lifestyle that comes with it will help capture the attention of potential tenants.

  • Presentation matters

492965490.jpgTo give yourself the best chance at leasing your rental property, it is essential that you focus on the presentation of the property. The house will need to be freshly cleaned, including a carpet steam if necessary.

It might also be worth giving your property a fresh coat of paint, which will hide a multitude of sins and give tenants a good first impression. When deciding on a paint colour, we recommend sticking to neutral tones such as whites or creams, that will not date.

  • Quality fittings and fixtures

474537508It pays to keep your rental property up-to-date and functional with quality fittings and fixings. Aesthetically, stainless steel appliances in the kitchen and bathroom will give your property greater appeal as it appears high quality and more desirable to prospective tenants.

Given the excess of supply in the current rental market, it is important to provide tenants with features that are increasingly becoming must-have items. Air-conditioning is almost a necessity, especially in our climate, and many tenants also look for a dishwasher in their rental property.

  • Consider allowing pets

494373549.jpgIt might be worth tapping into the pool of tenants who are also pet owners if you aren’t seeing enough interest in your rental property. As many rentals are not pet-friendly, targeting this segment of the market could give you an edge over the competition.

 

 

  • Keep good tenants happy

ThinkstockPhotos-474447483Good tenants can be few and far between so if you happen upon one it’s worth doing what you can to keep them happy in their lease. We recommend checking in with them well before the expiration of their lease, to find out if there are any issues that would prevent them from extending their contract.

 

  • Enlist a property manager

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Many tenants feel more comfortable dealing with a third party, such as a reputable property manager, instead of speaking directly with a landlord. A professional property manager will act as an efficient communication link to ensure problems and issues are dealt with properly and legally.

As a landlord, you can save yourself a lot of time and stress by engaging with a reputable property manager who can quickly and efficiently liaise with both you and your tenant, and are experienced in resolving issues that may arise.

Here at Peard Real Estate, each of our offices offer property management services. If you would like to find out more about how we can help you, visit www.peard.com.au today.

 

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The perfect heatwave dessert

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It’s hot in Perth and we’ve been inspired… Rather than complain about the heat, we’re making a chocolate fudge ice cream cake!

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 3/4 cups heavy cream, divided
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for serving
  • Salt
  • 3 pints vanilla ice cream
  • 18 graham crackers
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder

Method

  1. Lightly coat an 8-inch square cake pan with cooking spray; line pan with plastic wrap, leaving a 6-inch overhang on two sides. Freeze pan at least 10 minutes.

  2. In a medium pot, combine corn syrup, 1/4 cup cream, butter, granulated sugar, cocoa, and pinch of salt; bring to a boil, whisking, over medium-high. Remove from heat and let fudge sauce cool. Meanwhile, remove 1 pint ice cream from freezer and let soften, about 15 minutes.

  3. Evenly press softened ice cream into pan. Top with a single layer of graham crackers, breaking to fit. Drizzle with 1/4 cup fudge sauce and freeze 15 minutes. Repeat twice, omitting sauce on final layer. Wrap in plastic and freeze until firm, 8 hours (or up to 3 days). Cover and refrigerate remaining fudge sauce.

  4. To serve, invert pan and run under tepid water to loosen cake. Invert onto a platter and remove plastic. Microwave fudge sauce in 30-second increments until pourable. Pour over cake and freeze to solidify, 5 minutes.

  5. In a large bowl, using a mixer, whip 1 1/2 cups cream and confectioners’ sugar on high until stiff peaks form, 3 to 5 minutes. Dollop cake with whipped cream and dust with cocoa. Serve immediately.

Courtesy of: www.marthastewart.com

 

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Finance rejected? What now?

LOAN REJECTED

With recent changes to lending requirements, it is becoming harder and harder to obtain finance. If you are one of many who’s mortgage application has been declined, don’t panic just yet! The market is diverse with lenders offering an array of different criteria for mortgages, and one setback does not mean that you won’t receive finance through another bank or finical institution.

If your finance has fallen through, there are steps that can assist with getting back on track for an approval the second time around.

  1. Ask why

First things first, you need to understand why your application was rejected. Your lender should be able to tell you the reason for their decision which you can then work on fixing. It may have been as simple as missing a question in the forms or as complicated as a poor credit rating.

  1. Check your credit history

Often, applications are rejected because of a bad credit history. Before you apply again, you will need to solve any outstanding issues with your credit file. Bad credit histories are one of the most common reasons loans get rejected and more often than not, the bad rating has come from something as minor as an unpaid phone bill.

Remember to always pay your bills on time- the more reliable you appear financially, the more you will appeal to lenders.

  1. Explore your options and seek professional assistance

Don’t just apply with the next lender you come across. It’s important to research different home loan options in order to make the most informed decision about which will suit you best. Working with a mortgage broker is a great way of alleviating the work and stress that come along with choosing a lender. A good broker will have access to numerous lenders which they can compare to find the best option for you- and best of all, their services are free!

  1. Debt consolidation

If your existing debt was the reason for the rejection you may want to look at clearing some before applying again. Another option could be debt consolidation or reducing your credit card limits. A mortgage broker can advise on the best direction for you.

  1. Remain realistic

One set back does not mean it’s all over. There are plenty of lender options out there so there is good chance that one will match your needs, but you may need to be more realistic about what you can afford.

If you are rejected for a loan the key is not to panic. Loan rejection isn’t uncommon and it doesn’t mean that you will never be able to secure finance… Talk to one of our brokers today!

 

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Tips for selling a home with pets

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WE LOVE OUR PETS…  However, if you’re selling your home, there’s a good chance your buyers won’t feel the same. Even buyers who are pet owners themselves will have reservations about buying a house from fellow pet owners, particularly if the pet was indoors. But, if you are a pet owner thinking of selling, there simple steps you can take to ensure you furry friend is no turn off.

Relocate temporarily

In a perfect world, you would relocate your pet while your home is on the market. We realise this isn’t as simple as it sounds, so if this is not an option for you, ensure you give your pet limitations around the house and keep on top of cleaning duties daily. When selling a home with pets, at the very least, you should remove them from the property during home open times.

Litter trays and pads

Keep pet mess areas impeccably clean and on home open day, out of sight! Nothing turns a buyer off faster than pet smells.

Pet “stuff”

Whether you are selling a home with pets or not, one of the most inexpensive ways to prepare your home for sale is by de-cluttering.  When a pet is involved, a big part of this is cleaning up their belongings. A pet’s belongings can include their toys, beds, blankets, water bowls, leads etc- if it’s for your pet, store it away for the home open.

Tip: Purchase a large plastic tub that you can easily store away in the garage, shed etc. On the day of the home open, chuck anything that suggests “a pet lives here” in there. Once the home open is over you can easily bring the tub back out. It can at times be frustrating and time consuming but once you sell your home, it would have been well worth it the hassle!

Carpet and floor stains

If you have carpets ensure they are professionally cleaned prior to the home open and that any stains are removed completely. If the staining or odors are impossible to remove, you may need to replace the carpet in the problem areas.

Deep cleaning

Surface cleaning when you own a pet is simply not enough. Doing a through clean which includes behind all furniture, underneath all throw rugs, and inside each cupboard is a must.  Pet hair and dust have a habit of finding their way into those hard to reach areas and you will be surprised what you find when you go looking.  You may also wish to consider having your air ducts professionally cleaned out as pet hair and dust can become trapped and contribute to pet odours around your home.

Furniture

Make sure you give any soft furniture a good vacuum and clean. You may not be selling your couch with the home, but a couch covered in dog or cat hair will be off-putting. If any furniture has been damaged, ensure you repair or remove. Do not allow the buyer to wonder “what else has the pet destroyed?”

Air out your home

Make sure you air your home out daily, and of course, on the day of the home open in particular. It might pay to fragrance your home with a light coconut or vanilla scent to add some freshness. Consider lighting a candle during your home open to send a pleasant aroma throughout your home.

Often we become accustomed to our pets odour, so have a friend or neighbour your trust come over and ask them the big question “can you smell my pet in here?”.

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